Through my rear view: The ‘Beat It’ Flashmob
This is Vignesh from India, here to share with you my experience of co-organizing the Michael Jackson flashmob ‘Beat It’, held on the 17th of October, 2011 in Tartu, Estonia.
Since childhood, I had been a part of different types of dance performances – competitions, solo performances, even Adaptunes (dancing to music randomly selected and played by the DJ). My passion for dance kept escalating as I continued to explore new territories. Please note that this is my passion I am talking about, not my talent! To be honest, I’m not nearly as great (a dancer) as you think I might be. My enthusiasm towards dance has been preserved under the Estonian cold during my last two years of stay in Tartu, and I hope for it to stay that way!
Moving on, just a few days since my arrival to Tartu, my dance-senses started tingling on the 8th of September 2011 when I heard rumors about a flashmob being organized for the Student Days (scheduled to be held in October). Upon further enquiry, I was told that the song to be danced to was most likely to be a Michael Jackson song. This was enough news for me to get as excited as Krakatoa. I immediately contacted Alexander (aka Lexo from Georgia) who, along with Karee (from the US) was the brain behind this project. Apparently they were going to practice the moves for the first time the following day, and I was asked to join. I immediately flexed my dance-muscles and rehearsed all the routines from Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat It, Smooth Criminal, and Dangerous that night. I could not wait for the next day.
On the 9th of September, we had shortlisted the songs ‘Thriller’ and ‘Beat it’. Upon further discussion over the simplicity of the moves and the time it would take to teach those moves, we decided on ‘Beat It’. The plan was to invite as many interested people as possible to join the Facebook group (created for this event) and Karee and I were to teach them the moves. We had decided to have two practice sessions every week – one for new comers on Saturday evenings and one for everyone on Monday nights. This went on for a month. During this time, I had not only made a lot of friends, but also developed some skills in people-management, group-training, and event-organization. Furthermore, I started recognizing dance as a relaxation-mechanism amidst my hectic schedule of freelance-jobs and studies. (I follow this approach even to this day, when I dance to random dubstep during moments of stress, as it enriches my thought-process to a more creative and dynamic level.)
Towards the end of September, a large number of interested and enthusiastic people were turning up for the practice sessions. The lobby of Raatuse was flooded with both international and local students. It looked like a happy, enthusiastic, and fun mob (duh!). We even had a couple of random passers-by join the group (they were immediately overwhelmed when they saw 70-odd enthusiastic faces moving to the rhythms of ‘Beat It’ in unison!). Approximately 95 members had joined the Facebook group (70 of them are still members of the group. I hope this is because the remaining members chose to reminisce the fun moments and not because they forgot to unregister themselves from the group!).
On the 14th of October, the flashmob-fever had reached its peak and it was time for our final rehearsal, as we were scheduled to perform two days later. The last practice session was held at a car-park behind Raatuse to give it that ‘outdoor’ feel. I had been a part of numerous dance rehearsals, but none felt as special as this one. One could sense the excitement in the air. The flashmob was going to be the first of its kind in Tartu. There were concerns over whether it would turn out to be as good as it was expected to. Lexo and I were concerned about the audibility of the song. It was going to be at Raekoja Plats (the city center, which was an open environment) and we were to be provided with massive speakers. However, we hadn’t gotten the chance to test them beforehand. So the backup plan, in case we couldn’t hear the music, was me singing the song out loud while filming the dance sequence and later editing my voice out to include the original song. (I didn’t know which was going to be worse, our not being able to hear the music or me singing.)
It was the 17th of October, and the Student Days had commenced. Lexo, Karee and I met up at the center during noon and, to our relief, could comfortably hear the songs being played from the massive speakers. The plan was for me to would start off with some random moves exactly when the gong struck 16:00, followed by everyone joining in batches. A lot of familiar faces started showing up by 15:30. As usual, news about the flashmob had been leaked and people started gathering around Raekoja Plats, with their smart-phones in their hands. The shy students who did not want to dance with us chose to remain as spectators. At 16:00, the flashmob started and by 16:02, it was all over! This was the shortest ever performance of all my lives (I’m a Hindu) put together. All the planning, preparation, and excitement built during a month were culminated in those two minutes. The duration, however small as it may seem, still feels long enough for me to reminisce some memorable moments – starting the flashmob with signature Michael Jackson moves, dancing beside a big (well, kind of) group of people at the city center, suddenly landing on Mars (ok, the last one may not be true).
See youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6y6Vt76EnM
To sum up, it did not take a lot of effort to organize the flashmob, it only required goodwill, team spirit, a enthusiastic group of people, and good planning. Personally, I do not think any of this would have been possible had Lexo and Karee not conceived it so well. There have been numerous instances when flashmobs in many other places have gone terribly wrong due to a number of reasons – disinterested crowd, police interruption on grounds of public nuisance, poor organization. Luckily, we did not have to encounter any such situation, mostly due to the fact that our crowd was excited and lively, and we had a lot of support from the organizers of the Student Days in Tartu.
Well, I guess that’s it from my side so far. This was the first interesting experience of my stay in Tartu. Stay tuned for more in future posts…
“I intend not to stay there for more than six months” were my thoughts, as I boarded the cruise towards Estonia on the 23rd of August, 2011. Having spent a considerable part of my life in India and the Middle East (UAE and Yemen), my stay in Sweden, during my first year of master studies, had been such an out-of-the-world experience that I had few, if not any, expectations for Estonia. Little did I know that the second half of my master studies was going to be an enlightening experience.
Fast forward two years, and I would never want to trade the lessons of life (learned) even if I could turn back the hands of time. Most of these lessons were understood during my student-life at the University of Tartu, thanks to my master program – Nordsecmob.
Author: Vignesh Meenakshi Sundaram, India, Nordsecmob