An ongoing collection of musings, inquiries, questions and perspectives on using Experimental Performance as a Spritual Practice. This blog draws from the personal reflections of Bandelion Director and CSU East Bay Associate Professor Eric Kupers, in relationship to Bandelion/Dandelion projects, performance research at CSU East Bay and related adventures.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Simultaneous Statewide Dance Flash Mobs to Support Public Education
We are working on organizing simultaneous dance flash mobs across the state of California on October 31st, 2012 at noon, to support public education in the approaching election. Below is the message We've been sending to Dance, Theater, Kinesiology and Creative Arts Professors throughout the state. It includes instructions for setting up a dance flash mob at your campus or community site. Please join us and let the power of the people be felt across the state!
I’m writing to invite you to participate in a major
statewide action in support of public education this fall—being organized in
conjunction with the California Faculty Association’s fall action plans.
My name is Eric
Kupers and I’m an Associate Professor in the CSU East Bay Theatre and Dance
Department. With a number of collaborating colleagues, I am organizing
simultaneous dance flash mobs at each of the 23 CSU campuses to raise awareness
about the November election and the importance of voting yes on Proposition 30
and no on Proposition 32.
I’m looking for at least one person from each CSU campus to
act as a point-person in organizing your local flash mob performance. This
person will attempt to enlist at least 7 other people to participate and will
be a contact person for any communication that needs to happen between
participants at all the sites.
On Oct. 31st (Halloween) at 12 noon, people
throughout the state will perform a simple, accessible dance and theatre piece
in public spaces (based on a set of instructions I am sending out.) We will do
so at the same moment to demonstrate our shared investment in public education,
the strength of our solidarity and our ability to organize creatively. This
will happen the week before the election and will serve as a platform through
which to educate our communities about the importance of voting to support
education and other public services on Nov. 6th. For campuses and communities that
cannot participate on Oct. 31st, please feel free to organize a
dance flash mob at a time that works better for you. And of course feel free to
do both the 31st and other times! The more the merrier!
Would you be willing to be one of the participants and/or
the point-person for your campus’ dance flash mob event? If not, can you
recommend others for us to contact at your university that you think would like
I will be sending out a detailed set of instructions for
organizing the event at your campus. You do not need to have any previous
dance, theatre or flash mob experiences in order to participate in and/or
organize this. All you need is a desire to support public education in
California and a willingness to put in a few hours this fall to get the event
off the ground.
Below this message I am listing links to instructional
video, flash mob choreography instructions and other information for each flash
mob to draw from. My hope is that each campus will infuse the event with your
own campus spirit and personality. Then I will ask all participating groups to
video their event and send the footage to me. Either I or a colleague will
create a montage of dance flash mobs from the 23 CSU campuses and our allies at
other schools, arts organizations and unions. This video will be uploaded to
the internet and used as a tool of empowerment and further education.
Please let me know if you have any questions and/or ideas.
We believe this event can make our voices heard and our presence felt
powerfully across the state!
CSU East Bay
Here is a series of instructional videos for organizing the
dance flash mob at your site:
Below is all of the information we can think of to send for
now, balancing giving a thorough explanation of our plans with not wanting to
overwhelm potential participants. There are holes in these plans—some that can
be filled in by you at your individual campuses, and some that we will address
in future communications.
WORKING WITH WHATEVER
RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU,
MAKE THIS STRUCTURE
Dance Flash Mobs will happen on a day yet to be
confirmed at the end of October, at 12 noon (simultaneously at all 23 CSU campuses and additional sites)
Participants enter the public performance
The basic structure of the dance flash mobs will be everyone
doing the choreographed dance chorus in unison (see #4 below) & chants a
number of times, interspersed with “Education is…” pieces—which will be like
the verses of a song, in between each chorus.
Each “verse” can either be choreographed beforehand or
improvised. Each can include any combination you’d like of dance, theatre,
music, poetry, speeches, or other performance forms.
The requirements for each “Education is…” verse are that:
it start with the words “Education is…,”
it lasts for exactly 64 counts,
it comes directly after and directly before
repetitions of the dance chorus and chants,
it is watched and supported by the rest of the
flash mob participants.
It is up to the point-person and any collaborators to decide
who will perform the “Education is…” verses, what order they will go in, and
therefore how many repetitions of the dance chorus will happen. You should know
the order of performers beforehand, and if possible should practice the whole structure prior to the public
The “Education is…” verses can be as simple or as complex as
you’d like. They are intended as an opportunity for participants to express
personal, campus, community, state and global concerns in whatever way feels
STRUCTURE OF PERFORMANCE:
1)Percussion and other music can start as
people are getting into place—to draw a crowd (the percussion can include
as many musical instruments as you can gather, but at a minimum should have one
person dedicated to keeping clapping or stomping going.)
set up in a formation of either a
rectangular or semi-circle grouping of performers (more confident
participants in front and others spreading behind as far as needed.)
3)Performers enter the performance space
5)Call and Response Chant (done 2 times)
Leader: “Proposition 30?”
Group: “Yes! Yes!”
(raising an arm with each “Yes!” into a big Y shape)
Leader: “Prop. 32?”
Group: “No! No!”
Leader calls "5! 6! 7! 8!"
Both arms reach up along sides (4 counts)
Both arms return by your side (4 counts)
Reach right (2 counts)
reach left (2 counts)
Reach/Go up towards sky (2 counts)
reach/go down towards ground (2 counts)
Turn around to the left (8 counts)
Hitting and holding shapes (8 counts—counts 1,
3, 5, 7 are for everyone to hit and hold any shapes that you want for 2 counts,
then on the “1” everyone goes down as low as possible to hold a shape with
attention focused on center of space)
“Education is…” Dance/Theater piece
accompanied by quieter percussion/music in featured performance space (64 counts)
7)Chants & Chorus
9)Chants & Chorus
as many times as you have “Education is”
pieces prepared to fill the slots
After last “Education is…” piece do Chorus 2 times and then…
Repeat Chanting (4x)
While it is ideal to have as many people participating as
you can gather, this dance flash mob can be performed by a minimum of 8 folks –
and if less if needed. No previous performance or activist experience is
At least one person calling out instructions and doing percussion* (could be
divided into two separate roles if you have enough people)
At least 5 people dancing
At least one person shooting video
Manager: At least one person to handle crowd management and any logistical
issues that come up before and during the performance. It’s important to have
someone who doesn’t have to focus on performing and can instead pay attention
to any potential hazards and obstacles that will affect the event and
I am particularly inspired by live music and percussion for
events such as these. However, each flash mob can have it’s own approach to
musical accompaniment. We ask that you keep the tempo of the music you use
consistent, for greater ease in editing together footage from different
sites. Please use a tempo that is
as close as possible to 100 beats per minute.
Here is one approach to counting a song’s beats per minute:
If you don’t want to use live percussion, or want to augment
it with recorded percussion, try using music with a clear pulse (beat) and/or a
metronome or drum machine of some kind. I have a recording available of a simple drum track and me playing bass over it and leading the chants. Contact me and I can send it to you.
I have also found the iphone app “Funk Box” particularly useful
for this sort of thing.
The point is to have a steady pulse that holds the flash mob
together, but to balance that with being able to clearly hear any text that
performers are speaking. If available, I recommend using a microphone or
megaphone for speakers that don’t already have a very loud voice. Either way,
plan to lower the volume of the percussion/sound during “Education is…” pieces,
and raise it again for the choruses.
HOW TO TEACH CHOREOGRAPHY
I recommend setting up two or three sessions (at different
times) wherein faculty, staff, students and community members can show up to
learn the choreography and structure for the event. Here’s suggestions on how to organize these sessions. If you can't set up sessions before the day, then you might
Have everyone sign a sign-in sheet with phone
and email contact information;
Introduce yourself and have everyone learn each
Give a brief introduction on the way the flash
mob will work and the statewide context for it;
Teach the dance chorus and practice it a few
times to clapping or musical accompaniment;
Give an explanation of the “Education is…”
pieces/verses, and give participants a few minutes to work together and/or
think about something they could try through improvising on the spot.
Teach and practice the beginning and ending
Go over (and perhaps write on a chalkboard) the
order for the flash mob dance.
Practice it as many times as possible.
Ask for volunteers to commit to doing the
“Education is…” verses on the day of the flash mob event and remind everyone of
the logistics for the event on your campus.
Each site should come up with its own plan for costumes for
the flash mobs. You can wear Halloween costumes, “Take Class Action” T-shirts,
your school colors, and/or anything that will raise the energy of the event.
IN PREPARATION FOR THE BIG DAY
We recommend confirming participation with everyone who has
stated that they will be part of the event through email or phone. And I can
almost guarantee that everything will not go exactly as planned. (This is a
large part of the power of live performance—we’re always making the best of
whatever arises on the spot.)
I like to encourage my students and performers in works that
I direct to “fake it ‘til you make it,” both in learning the choreography and
doing the actual dance flash mob. Keep going, even if you feel lost. The great
thing about contemporary dance choreography is that anything goes, so often
so-called mistakes end up being the most exciting moments.
We recommend finding a location for the flash mob that is
both high profile on your campus and safe. Some possible locations include:
in front of the student union
in any central plaza
in front of an administration building
an area that is not on a street, but that can be
seen by passing cars and pedestrians
anywhere that gets a lot of people passing by on
a weekday around noon
Each campus and group should decide how much advance notice
you would like to give to others about the event. We encourage you to publicize
the flash mob widely to ensure lots of participants showing up and to open the
possibility for getting press coverage.
Please send video footage in as high quality as you can
manage and as quick as possible to:
(Ideally you can post footage online at vimeo.com or share
it with us through Dropbox or something similar. I’m trying to get something
edited and up on YouTube by Nov. 3rd. You can also send footage by
c/o CSUEB Department of Theatre and Dance
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.
Hayward, CA 94542
ROLE OF POINT-PERSON The point-person will be in charge of the following:
Primary contact with the central organizing
committee for the statewide event
Leading the organizing of the flash mob at
Making sure there is someone shooting video of the dance
flash mob and that the footage is sent to Eric Kupers as soon as possible after
Each point person can approach this role in whatever way
seems appropriate, given the campus culture and the needs and resources of
dance flash mob participants.
Some point-people might delegate most of the tasks that
need to be completed and some might want to be centrally involved in getting
most of them done.
most basic level, the point-person will make sure that the event happens.
Additional tasks that the point-person should do and/or
picking a public space for the dance flash mob to
organizing preparation sessions before the day of
the event to teach participants the flash mob choreography.
reaching out to faculty, staff, students and
community members to invite them to participate.
making sure there are at least eight people
participating. (See full instructions for a break down of essential personnel
for the flash mob.)