My Flashmob at Birmingham Weekender 2015
In September 2015 I organised a Flashmob dance in which I also lead and performed, in Birmingham City Centre, as part of Birmingham Weekender: Birmingham's largest free arts festival.
I was commissioned by Culture Central to organise the ambitious live event in July 2015, and my mission was to network and find local professional and non-professional dancers, both Deaf and hearing, to take part.
A flashmob is a live performance in which dancers come together in a busy public space and begin dancing without warning, to the surprise and entertainment of onlookers. This was the first time I had ever took part in one, let alone organised and choreographed one.
This event was one of the most difficult challenges I have ever undertaken as a dancer. It was not because of leading and choreographing a 5-minute performance which included hearing professionals (though there were communication challenges).
The difficulty with this project was finding the dancers to take part. I had to convince people in my local dance network, mainly hearing people and strangers I’d never met before, to perform live to music alongside myself, a Deaf person, in a busy public space - specifically, the large space right outside Birmingham Town Hall.
Naturally, there were doubts and reservations from other professionals who hadn’t worked with me before, as I have a hearing loss, and this event depended on dancing in sync with the music.
As expected, many professionals turned down my request, some with their own reasons of not being available, though some with doubts as to how this could possibly work, which of course is something I prepare myself for beforehand. This was all more difficult due to the event being voluntary - which meant inevitably, some dancers would not be willing to take part without a fee.
There was also the promoting of the event across social media over the course of two months, my requests to dancers and performers to take part, and I even made requests at the end of dance classes I attended at DanceXchange. Despite my contacting dozens of my friends and fellow professionals, reaching out in local dance networks and groups online, I did not receive a response in most cases and those that did get back to me, had to to turn down the offer.
All was not in vain though. In the end, I finally managed to get together a group of around six people - a mixture of professionals and non-professionals, Deaf and hearing, and we started rehearsals in the dance studio. With the support of Rachael Veazey interpreting, I was able to teach the choreography I created, based on Madonna’s Vogue music video (and using the Vogue music track), we worked together over the summer preparing and polishing up a group performance ready in time for Birmingham Weekender on the last weekend of September.
By the time the festival came round, we were confident and prepared, but sadly, two of the dancers involved dropped out at the last minute. I had prepared for this possibility from my previous work with groups before.
On the day of the event, I had one last challenging task to take: distributing flyers to as many people as possible at the event. The flyers informed people about the flashmob that was due to happen that day, and invited them to take part.
Bearing in mind the festival took place across the whole of Birmingham City Centre, where thousands of people attended. With Rachael’s help, we handed out flyers to hundreds of passers by.
This was one of the most difficult challenges I have ever undertaken as a dancer. Not difficult because of the performance itself, but because of trying to find local mainstream dancers to teach the routine and perform it with me.
The moment finally arrived, my flashmob was about to begin. At a packed Victoria Square, I was given the cue by the technical teams who began to blast ‘Vogue’ from the enormous speakers situated around the square, and we took our positions between curious bystanders. And then the beat kicked in, and we began our dance routine.
The performance was received by a large audience who watched and enjoyed the show, nodding and clapping along. Although it was not exactly how I envisaged the flash go would go - I had hoped for dozens of people taking part. But, it was better than nothing. The small group of us that performed, danced well and with confidence, It was in sync and the choreography was faultlessly delivered.
Read more about Birmingham Weekender festival here.