BDN Maine: Flash Mob America Comes to Southern Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — There are angry mobs, violent mobs and underground mobs.

Next Monday a mob will descend on Greater Portland with something totally different in mind.

Staci Lawrence, co-founder of Flash Mob America, is ready “to bring joy” to Maine.

The Los Angeles company that specializes in seemingly spontaneous occurrences where groups of strangers gather in public for a purpose, comes the Pine Tree State for the first time.

Courtesy of Flash Mob America. A flash mob breaks out in downtown Santa Monica, Calif. produced by Flash Mob America.

Courtesy of Flash Mob America. A flash mob breaks out in downtown Santa Monica, Calif. produced by Flash Mob America.

While the location “outside of Portland” is kept under wraps until the mob strikes, we do know that up to 500 people will break out in a dance at 5 p.m. Monday.

“When people see people dancing, it’s very moving. Our whole goal is to change the world around you. You are going through your everyday life, and all of a sudden, you’ve stepped into a magical moment in a musical,” said Lawrence.

Flash mobs started as social experiments, something that breaks up the routine of the day. Some are pranks, but Flash Mob America “wanted to put purpose behind them with the idea of public performance,” said Lawrence.

She found that an impromptu dance party “triggers an emotional response.”

The concept gained international attention after Michael Jackson died and flash mobs broke out around the world to honor the singer. Lawrence and her partner Conroe Brooks produced the first American tribute to the King of Pop in 2009 in Los Angeles.

Shortly after, they were hired to do more.

For Flash Mob America, this is no shoestring “Harlem Shake.”

The average flash mob costs between $15,000 and $40,000 to produce said Lawrence, who customizes each event.

Though planned well in advance, the element of surprise is for bystanders. “It’s really for the people who are witnessing it,” said Lawrence.

Planned flash mobs can range from marketing events for a product launch to marriage proposals or a way to surprise employees. The sponsor of Monday’s mob has not been disclosed.

“You don’t want it to leak out on social media. It would ruin the surprise,” said Lawrence, whose team was hired by the organization to “delight a group of people.”

So far 500 people have signed up at to particpate in the “summer fun” flash mob, but more are welcome.

After registering, participants attend a rehearsal the day before the mob hits where they will be given instructions on what to wear, when to assemble and of course, learn a dance.

“It will look like typical bystanders and then ‘boom,’ smoke cannons will go off, music will start. It will be visually and audio-ly very stimulating,” said Lawrence.

To pull it off, the company has hired 50 professional performers from the region as well as five producers — two from New England, two from New York City and one from Los Angeles.

These hired guns give the performance unity, but the bulk of the participants, like extras in a movie, will mill about and suddenly break into a dance. “We expect that all of the flash mobbers will be locals,” who donate their time to participate said Lawrence,

Monday’s mob is open to “all ages, shapes, sizes, physical capabilities,” she said.

“We want to bring people together. This is on people’s bucket list, so this is your opportunity. Take that leap and have a good time,” said Lawrence.

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