Notes from Boston's Silent Dance Experiment

It was born in New York City. But since then, the flash mob whatshamacallit has spread -- so that now these things are just about everywhere. Yes, it seems like with each passing week, another group of people randomly drop their pants while riding public transportation, or engage in a giant city-wide pillow fight or -- and this is my personal favorite -- freeze for a few minutes in some public place. Case in point: in this excellent video from a few days ago, a large group of Brits freeze in the middle of Trafalgar Square in London. If any of these things could be considered art, it’s this one. Have a look at the couple frozen mid-kiss and then the woman taking a picture with a phone, gasping at something in the distance with her hand over her mouth.

All of this, of course, is to lend some context to the event that occurred at Faneuil Hall just a few hours ago -- the Silent Dance Experiment, as it's being called. This event required a little more legwork from participants than other events I’ve witnessed/taken part in. In order to participate, you had to download a 15 minute or so mp3 put together by the good folks at Banditos Misteriosos (with some help from DJ JR -- Jonathan Rubinger), the group responsible for the event. The mp3, which you can download off the group’s website here if you'd like, came complete with instructions for the dancers and - surprise! - dance music. This, as far as I know, is a brand new concept when it comes to these sorts of things. Usually, folks taking part simply have all downloaded the same song prior to the event.

The plan was to show up, iPod in pocket, at Faneuil Hall before one (the official starting time) in front of the Sam Adams statue. I got there way early, sat down in a DD and began reading the James Parker-approved Enter Naomi (an excellent read thus far and trust me when I say that you don’t have to be a Black Flag fan to enjoy). Eventually, I ventured over and circled the Hall, eyeing all of the folks by the statue with headphones and the tourists looking on without any clue as to what was in store for them. A mother with her daughter walked over to me and asked if I knew what was going on. I shook my head. At the risk of sounding hopelessly lame, I like to think of every event as a sort of mission to throw off the public--err, civilians, I should say. These people who came to Boston to snap photos of themselves in front of the odd statue and the replica Cheers bar.

I’m not sure how it all got started, whether there was an individual who called out something, but it did. And once it did, it began very tentatively. There were plenty of people -- though far fewer than the event's Facebook page would have you think (I'm sure the weather played a role in that) -- but many looked hesitant to get into it. I don’t know if it was self-consciousness or nerves or the mp3 giving the dancers instructions to pace themselves. Eventually though, the dance party began to come to life. Taking orders from some unseen and unheard source, they engaged in all number of cheesy, bar mitzvah party-inspired moves. I recognized Ethan who is part of Banditos Misteriosos, dressed in a fake beard and ridiculous outfit. He once or twice held up what appeared to be a piece of cardboard for his fellow dancers to see. The entire thing commenced with a giant conga line. For a YouTube of it, click here. 

Last night, in the midst of reading up on the event, I came across the Yelp page for the event and on it an interesting comment. Someone had mentioned that “It'd be nice if we did some stuff in Boston that wasn't simply an imitation of what another city has already done!”. In response, Ethan of the Misteriosos wrote to this Yelper that his group did indeed have more original ideas in the works. I, myself, am very excited to see what else they can do.

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