UW News

April 15, 2010

‘Glee’ gathering takes Seattle by storm, UW student helps make it happen

Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering

It sounds a little corny to hear someone organized an event to bring smiles to the faces of all involved, including audience members. But that’s exactly what happened last Saturday, April 10, when UW junior Beth Meberg and Seattle-ites Bobby Bonsey and Egan Orion pulled off three flash mob performances set to music from the hit FOX television show, Glee.

A flash mob is a seemingly spontaneous group dance performance that occurs in a public place. Enter the term on YouTube along with Glee and you’ll find similar events in Rome, Tel Aviv, Madrid and Dublin. The video from Rome was posted three months ago, and has had more than one million views.

Glee is just about the hottest thing in pop culture today, with the cast appearing recently on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and on Oprah last week. The story line tracks a high school glee club full of misfits, cheerleaders, jocks and teachers with issues. There’s a character and a story most everyone could relate to, interspersed with music ranging from Neil Diamond to Journey, Tina Turner, Kanye West and standard show tunes.

How did the show’s popularity and musical diversity resonate with the Seattle flash mob? An estimated 1,000 participants danced at Westlake Center Plaza, Seattle Center and in Pioneer Square. Meberg’s response to the crowds and success is quite humble. “The more public recognition we get, the more opportunities we have to make people smile, essentially,” she said. “And that’s really special.”

The UW student randomly met dancer/choreographer/man of many titles Bonsey in February 2010 through lindy hop dancing at a club in Greenwood. Lindy hop is a type of swing dance with a jazz music focus. As she explained it, once Bonsey learned that she was also a choreographer, “the wheels started turning in his head. He asked me to come and help him out with this Glee project. I was really excited.”

Meberg, a double major in theater and Scandinavian Studies, has worked as a choreographer at the Lakewood Playhouse in Lakewood, Wash., since 2007. Bonsey and Orion previously collaborated on a Michael Jackson flash mob with some 400 people at three locations in Seattle last August.

With Meberg and Bonsey focused on the dance, Orion took care of most of the business aspects — securing rehearsal space at Century Ballroom, a public address system, waivers and permits for the April 10 event. The group took donations to reimburse Orion for any fees incurred, and no one received a salary despite the many hours involved. “It wouldn’t have been as successful if Egan, Bobby or I weren’t there,” said Meberg. “The three of us together really made it something special.”

Neither Bonsey nor Meberg have formal dance training, but you couldn’t tell that from the instructional videos posted online or their performances. Meberg said she learned dance via her theater work. Bonsey said he watches YouTube to learn new moves, and just dances a lot. He’s traveled to Sweden for competitions and recently auditioned in New York City for So You Think You Can Dance, a FOX show akin to American Idol, but a bit more serious and for the dance set.

Meberg said the April 10 event left her with happiness to last a lifetime. Bonsey, the veteran flash mobber, said it matched his expectations and surprised him. “Any time 1,000 people show up to dance with complete strangers at 10 a.m. in the morning, it’s just bananas,” he said.

Instructional video oneGlee flash mob

Instructional video twoGlee flash mob

Official video — April 10 flash mob