Last weekend I saw my first flashmob*. It wasn’t a political statement, or a piss-take – not that there’s anything wrong with them. It was people dancing because they love it – for the sheer joy of clapping and twirling and clacking along with others who get as much of a kick out of it as they do. That mass of energy and endorphins is a powerful force.
On the penultimate day of the Bienal de Flamenco here in Seville, a major festival of the music and dance form which takes place every other September, a group of dancers - professionals and amateurs alike – were due to tac-a-tac their heels on the stone floor of Plaza Nueva at 1pm. Free for allcomers to watch. The weather here in Andalucia last week was not clement (with dire consequences for some) so the venue was changed to Santa Justa train station, whose large concourse was ideal; but it was a very prosaic setting, compared to the other performances which took place around Europe and beyond.
I had arranged to meet a friend at Santa Justa, to watch (one look at the steps on YouTube and we both knew where our place would be – in the audience) the flamenco flashmob. My daughter and I made our way there on public transport, despite the fact that there are several large car parks nearby, but our eco plans were scuppered by one part of the journey with no trains when we needed them (timetable, Fiona?), and we had to resort to a taxi.
As I finally managed to flag down a taxi at 12.49, with 11 minutes to spare, my daughter was oblivious to her mother’s hyperventilation next to her in the back seat, aghast at the thought of missing the flashmob. In the event, we arrived with one minute to spare and just caught it, though from a not-great vantage point. Since it was obviously going to be videoed, I concentrated (as much as I could, holding my daughter in one arm, so she could see, and the camera in the other) on taking some photos.
As is often the case, I was so busy trying to get some photos – the results aren’t great, but I think they capture the mood – that I didn’t really get a chance to just watch the dancing and enjoy it for what it was. What I can tell you is that the buzz in the audience – which was as numerous as the performers – was tangible, and the smiles of delight and achievement and camaraderie among the dancers at the end were infectious.
During the performance, which didn’t last more than about five or six minutes – they did it twice – my eye was drawn to a tall lady with long blonde hair, who looked distinctly English, and an older lady in a red jacket, who was the grande dame of the piece. The flashmob had everyone – men, women; young, old; Spanish and non-Spanish; the talented and the enthusiastic. Every time I play the video, seeing all those people dancing together just blows me away – what it is that’s so wonderful about a group of people moving together in time to music? In my case, I think it takes me back to the genius of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.
This choreography (referred to simply as Bienal) was performed simultaneously in Valencia, Rome , Milan, Padua, Bologna , Turin , London (smallest), Stockholm, Aguacalientes , Mexico, Buenos Aires (most colourful), Shanghai, and Lubljana , Slovenia; the Rome mob has way more videos on Youtube than the original here in Seville. I had no idea the Italians were such aficionados; or maybe there are just lots of Spanish living in Italy.
I can’t wait for the next flamenco flashmob, where I’ll be sure to watch carefully and catch the vibe, as well as documenting it. You can see the video of the Seville performance here.
* Defined as a group of people who gather together in a public place to put on a rehearsed performance.