Occupy Black Friday: Dance Over Dollars at Westlake Center

Written by Victoria Jacobs
Dancers perform in the Occupy Black Friday Flash Mob.
The day after Thanksgiving, countless families of shoppers poured into the stores in downtown Seattle in the pre-Christmas orgiastic spending event that has come to be called “Black Friday”. What they didn’t expect to find was a tightly rehearsed group of forty dancers pounding the streets and shopping mall floors with their feet, dancing in pure joy. Shoppers stopped in their tracks, their faces lighting up with delight, and watched as the dancers performed a dance-team style unison routine to Jessie J’s “Pricetag,” Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” and Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”—songs that spoke to the message the dancers wanted to share. (Sample lyric: We don’t need your money; we just want to make the world dance.) Brynne Flidais, the Flash Mob choreographer explained that the goal of the event was to “wake people up” and “provide an alternative to shopping.”

The Occupy Black Friday Flash Mob happened in conjunction with Occupy Seattle’s other alternatives to Black Friday: choral performances by The Raging Grannies, a meditation spiral, and a Free Stuff tent. The first 7-minute mob took place in Westlake Park, where an event permit was help. Two different news channels caught the Mobs on tape.

During the second performance at Pacific Place, a security guard approached the dancers in the first ten seconds. One flash mobber, Amy Weaver, played the soundtrack on a boombox held over her head while the first team of dancers, “Team Awesome,” jumped into their routine. The security guard stood right next to Flidais and said, “Please move along.” “We’re dancing here, sir,” she said, and they danced their piece through to the end.

Occupy Black Friday performers and friends.
In the third performance, a thrill of excitement ran through Westlake Mall, and all three levels of shops were filled with onlookers peering over the balconies to enjoy the performance on the ground floor. Rumor has it that the security guards were conveniently “called to the third floor” for the duration of the performance, returning only at the end of dance to tell the flash mobbers they’d have to stop. As the performers packed up to go, the guard told Flidais that if they ever came back, they’d be arrested. “I’m banned for life from Westlake Mall,” she laughs.

Flash Mobs make free dance available for the public, and the rehearsals and step-by-step instructional videos make it possible for all those interested to perform publically, and have a fun time doing it. There is a standing Flash Mob group in Seattle that does a 1,000-person annual ”Glee” Flash Mob, as well as smaller monthly mobs that any aspiring dancer can get involved with and enjoy dancing year round.

The Occupy Black Friday Flash Mob is unique because it was a protest; they didn’t have permits for two of their locations, and their dancing came with a message: “Maybe we should re-evaluate the ways that we get joy in our society—going shopping with your kids? Or seeing a chorus of raging grannies?” says Flidais. “Am I buying art or spending more money to get more stuff?” For 7 minutes, the dancers stopped the Black Friday shopping crowds in their tracks and got them to enjoy something other than just spending money, which is a sweet gift.

More information about local Flash Mobs is available at www.mobtheworld.com.

Videos of the Occupy Black Friday Flash Mob here: