Struck by Lightning!

LIGHTSiStock_000008180191_LargeBefore pulling up my “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans” and putting on the flowy, red top from my “all-boho-chic-all-the-time” collection, I placed Kineseo-Tape up each side of my left knee cap, slapped seven Salonpas patches on various parts of my body, stuck a ThermaCare 8-hour Heatwrap on my left hip, and tightened my back brace. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.

We were finally going to do a Flashmob!

According to Wikipedia, the Internet’s most trusted source for accurate information*, “A Flashmob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, (to) perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, before quickly dispersing.”

Unusual? Maybe. Pointless? Hardly.

And let’s not forget the element of surprise.

After binge-watching a video of more than 20,000 audience members surprising Oprah Winfrey in the streets of Chicago by performing a Flashmob while The Black Eyed Peas sang “I Gotta Feeling,” I was struck by the feeling that someday, somehow, I had to find a way to be a part of a Flashmob.

But how? Since Flashmobs are by nature surprise performances, you don’t find many ads in the paper or on your favorite radio station.

So, I asked, pleaded, and begged my friends and family to help me stage a Flashmob at Highland Park’s upcoming Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony two years ago.

Richard, begrudgingly agreed to take part in my latest goofy idea. He sat and watched my friend, Carolyn, and me choreographing, and said, in the nicest possible way, “That’s going to be too hard for people to do.”

He then explained the way he’d do it, and before you could say, “jazz hands,” we elected him to be the official choreographer for our Flashmob to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Out came the clipboard and whistle from his years as an assistant director at Camp Kawaga. Being in a position of power is one of his favorite hobbies.

Rehearsals took place weekly in our family room. We ended up with a group of about 20 people, enough to be considered a “mob,” not that I know the precise number of people it takes to be called a “mob.”

After one last rehearsal in the lower-level parking garage at Port Clinton Square, as Bob Fosse says throughout the movie All That Jazz, it was “show time!” We emerged from the parking lot, ready to fulfill our destiny in front of the throngs of people gathered at The Square.

Only there were no throngs of people in The Square. There was nary a throng. Not even a “thro.”

The lighting ceremony had already taken place and everyone had left. Beautiful, colorful lights reflected off the Public Works Trucks as they hauled off Santa’s throne.

Across the street, pre-teen ballerinas were pirouetting behind the windows of the Uncle Dan’s store, as their parents video-taped them.

I couldn’t, I wouldn’t steal their thunder. I was not about to step on anybody’s toe-shoes. After all, I had once been a ballerina whose family came to watch her dance.

But my family laughed so much at my feeble attempts to pirouette and finish in an upright position that any videos of me dancing look like they were taken during an earthquake.

We watched the ballerinas take their last bows in the windows across the street, and then ran to take our places in The Square. But, by that time, The Square was dark, empty, and cold.

We had a choice: we could go big or go home.

You know the saying, “Dance like no one’s watching?” Well, we did.

Flashmob-forward two years:

I received the phone call I’d been waiting for since first seeing the Oprah Flashmob in 2009. Would I resurrect “The Routine” for Highland Park’s Holiday 2014 Tree Lighting Ceremony? Code word: Lightning.

You betcha, especially because this time we had the assistance of The City who had contacted the groups who would already be on the Plaza performing for the occasion, and ended up with nearly 100 people who wanted to participate.

Bryce Johnson, and Karen Berardi, of The City of Highland Park, became my “Mission Control.” If I had a question, they had the answer. First order of business: one of the dance studios asked if we could stop by to demonstrate the routine.

Richard, my friend Roberta, and I went to the North Shore School of Dance, owned and operated by my friend, Lisa Gold, to demonstrate the dance steps for 40 dancers of all ages. As they entered the studio, with grace and perfect posture, I appreciated a few impromptu Arabesques and Grand Jeté’s.

So, it was hard not to giggle when Richard asked the group, “Does anyone know the G-R-A-P-E-V-I-N-E step?”

Richard, Roberta, and I demonstrated the steps, which the dancers picked up after one run-through. When Richard announced the name of the song, some of the dancers screamed, “that’s my favorite song!”

Even though they had already memorized and begun to put their own spin on the routine, they asked us to stay and practice with them several more times. And then they got down on their knees with their arms overhead, and bowed to the Lord of the Dance that is Richard.

It was at that point(e) that I began to refer to him as, “Mr. Fosse,” and sometimes, “Bob.”

In an e mail to Karen and Bryce afterward, I said, “We have created a monster, albeit one with jazz hands.”

When the Lake Forest Country Day School Chorus wanted to learn the dance, Mr. Fosse leapt at the chance to teach them, too.

Roberta’s husband, Warren filmed us in what is by far “the worst instructional video ever made.” The quality of the video was fine, but the contents were embarrassing. We decided it worked, and that’s what mattered, so I sent it via a super-secret You Tube link to all the groups to use for their own rehearsals.

On Wednesday, Roberta got a cortisone shot in her shoulder. The next day I got cortisone shots in my left hip and knee. Since Mr. Fosse had things well under control, all Roberta and I had to do was pack ourselves on ice, like shrimp cocktails, and rest for two days.

After putting on my flowy, red top, I slathered on matching red lipstick, and placed a Santa hat on my head. Richard and I drove to Port Clinton, parked in the underground garage, and emerged onto The Square where throngs of people were watching brilliant dance and chorus productions.

Little did they know what we had in store for them. And little did I know how nervous I would get. I was quite relieved that the Flashmob was in the capable feet of the dancers and Mr. Fosse.

I danced in the Flashmob, just as I’d always wanted to, but off to the side where no one would see me. Mission accomplished.

All I can say is, “Bravo,” to The City of Highland Park, North Shore School of Dance, Lake Forest Country Day’s Chorus, and everyone else who showed us how to really put on a show. The best part was that it looked like the dancers were having a great time which, for me, is the best reason to do anything.

On our way home, a triumphant Mr. Fosse quoted my father’s famous line, “Dancing is my life!” While the night was young for the dancers, who would probably head out to dinner, or a movie, we walked into the house, set down our Santa hats, and fell asleep.

RK,me,Roberta&Warren
Bob, Me, Roberta, Warren (photo credit: Rosa Machabanski)

*Fact not established as fact, but chosen by the author because she thinks it’s funny.

5 Replies to “Struck by Lightning!”

  1. Hey, when I was in 8th grade at Elm Place School in Highland Park, we had ballroom dancing on Friday nights and I was apparently good enough that I was selected to dance with a group before the Highland Park Women’s Club. It was all downhill from there!

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