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Correction:

This story previously linked to last year's So You Think You Can Dance schedule for the flash mob. We will update this story with the 2011 schedule.

Eleanor Holmes Norton fails to grasp concept of flash mob

June 8, 2011 - 06:07 AM
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Eleanor Holmes Norton dances on election night. She probably thinks this is a flash mob, too.

We can call it now, officially: Flash mobs are dead. Or they will be as of July 30, the National Dance Day that Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is hosting on the Mall. In the wake of the recent dance protests at the Jefferson Memorial, Norton issued a press release calling for the Mall to become a place where people can enjoy dancing and jazz and string quartets, beginning with the "flash mob" she's sponsoring for the day.

Her heart is in the right place, but when it comes to her description of National Dance Day's events, Norton is not quite getting the point. Is a flash mob still a flash mob if it's promoted and publicized ahead of time? If it's being hosted by the government? If its government sponsor has procured a permit? No, no and no. Flash mobs are planned but not publicized, because they're supposed to appear spontaneously. Norton's flash mob is also sponsored by the show So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe. Ostensibly, the dancers who show up to flash mob the Mall on the 30th won't surprise or confuse many people, because they'll all be there for the same reason: To participate in a government-sponsored flash mob. It doesn't sound very cool when you put it that way, does it?

According to Norton's press release, "When people go as far as Flash Mob dancing without a permit on the Mall, we should see such a response from the public as a wake-up call to make the Mall more with it," said Norton. "The spontaneous Mall Flash Mobs we have seen are a virtual call for more participatory activities and events on the Mall, but not to worry. We have a permit for National Dance Day on July 30th, including for a Flash Mob dance that people here and all over the country are now practicing for. Everybody will be dancing – legally – on July 30th."

Getting a permit for "Flash Mob dancing" is also defeating the purpose. You're not supposed to be permitted to do whatever you're going to do for your flash mob, whether it's having a pillow fight in Dupont Circle, or caroling in the Metro. And, regarding that last one, TBD should know what makes and kills a flash mob: You might recall that this site took some heat during the holiday season for killing the caroling flash mob by publishing its schedule. Wrote NPR: "'We were pretty much like, forget it,' when [TBD published the schedule], says Melanie Spring, a fellow organizer for the event. With their plan gone public, they lost the element of surprise — key to any successful flash mob."

Another key element of flash mobs are that they are short – disappearing as quickly as they began, leaving onlookers to scratch their heads and wonder what they just saw. Norton's flash mob fails on that front, as well: If it's anything like last year's flash mob, posted on the So You Think You Can Dance site, it could last as long as four back-to-back episodes of the show. Last year's National Dance Day mob took place between 3rd St & 4th St S.W, from 1-5 p.m.

But there's still time to save the flash mob from its government-sponsored death. To do that, we need to flash-mob Norton's flash mob. Come on, internet: Come up with a creative group action to stun and shock these so-called flash-mobbers, to show them how a real flash mob works. Keep it secret. Don't get a permit. The future of the flash mob depends on you.

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