“Mob” Strikes Union Station
by Allan Appel | Mar 7, 2011 10:24 am
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment
Sara Ohly was one of 40 mostly amateurperformers of every age and background who turned Union Station into “the New Haven we dream of,” if only for three minutes
At exactly noon on Saturday, as 40 cell phone alarms went off, the dance and mime performance of “New Moves New Haven” unfolded in front of the Amtrak office at the station.
If you had been waiting for a train yourself, you might have been sitting next to a quite normal looking woman such as Joan Stone, who then rose and began to mime.
What was going on?
Answer: It was part of the “flash mob” phenomenon whereby people from all walks of life come together for spontaneous art happenings.
The Arts Council of Greater New Haven’s community programs organizer Shola Cole was the mover and shaker behind the event, which is the start of something bigger coming to town.
Saturday’s flash mob performance is launching New Moves New Haven, Cole said. It will have a place on the social network site Meetup.com. by the beginning of next week, she added.
It was a big deal for Stone who, along with Ohly, belongs to Vintage Voices, a group of sixty and over folks who convene at the Neighborhood Music School.
“You can be arthritic and tone deaf and still have a good time,” Stone said.
A full complement of people from her group were among the performers of New Moves New Haven. Stone herself had never before performed anything in public.
She said she had awakened this morning nervous about remembering the moves. She was also was into her character well before the performance began and graciously let a reporter blow her cover.
“I’m excited,” she added.
Five students from Quinnipiac University’s film department were on hand to take video footage for a public service announcement to publicize the effort.
Cole’s vision is that 30 young New Haven moms might spontaneously decide to meet up and roll their strollers across the Green. Just for the heck of it. Now they’ll have a way to do it. Just for the fun, the art, the neighborliness of the gesture.
But it started Saturday with dance and mime, under the auspices of the Arts Council, and with the permission of William Kilpatrick of the parking authority.
Accordingly when Ohly mimed an exaggerated admirer of the cavernous space of the station or Stone someone looking for help and then joined their colleagues back-stepping into a one large human knot in front of the Amtrak office, not a single arrest was made.
“I’m really interested in people feeling capable, no matter what level of artist they are. [They should feel] part of a city literally using creative movement to bring about change, awareness, unity,” Cole said.
“Also, New Haven is divided and segregated, and I had a selfish dream of getting a really wide array of people in one space doing creative movement,” she said.
To gather the town’s first art-minded mob, Cole summoned people in her own personal email bursts. Then she recruited Sharece Sellem and Shari Caldwell. Caldwell has her own dance group and in the past has conducted Arts Council-inspired performances on CT Transit buses. She did the choreography and Sellem was in charge of the drama and miming.
And by the look of smiling faces observing the performance, it was a success.
One instantaneous audience member was Sherene Campbell of West Haven. She was at the station waiting for a friend train arriving near noon.
When the surprise movement began, she said, “Whoa. Do you take a step back or closer?”
That is, was something bad going on or what?
“Then I heard the drum and it was okay to watch.”
She followed as the dancers separated into two and threes acting out in exaggerated fashion asking for the time, or getting people’s attention by pulling on their sleeves. Then at the sound of another drum roll, they returned to their knot together by Amtrak.
Campbell pronounced the show amazing. “A good way to start the weekend,” she ended her review. She then went off, the station having returned to normal, to find her friend.
“You got to move the community,” Cole said, conscious of her pun.
Sellem said she was very pleased at the way the event unfolded. Her only disappointment she reserved for her boyfriend. Despite her mentoring, he insisted on miming that he was canoeing or mowing the lawn, neither activity being appropriate for a train station.
More events are planned, although Cole wouldn’t reveal what or where, surprise being an essential element.
Asked what in her view the knot meant, Cole said: “It showed touching and togetherness of apparent strangers. It’s the New Haven we dream of.”
Post a Comment
posted by: Anna on March 7, 2011 3:56pm
You’ll enjoy this flash mob at Big Ben in London. It made my daughters and me laugh! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3q_74fezZU Enjoy
I would love to applaud this, but it’s only interesting because work-a-day life is so regimented and boring. Good old-fashioned social movements seem more productive than flash mobs of retirees. I too would be a dancing mime if I had at least six weeks (or an eternity) of vacation and social security. That I don’t, this just breeds resentment.
I have more modest goals: As the song goes, please save me weekends and evenings.