Cirque In Space

October 7, 2009



You’ve seen the videos on YouTube: In a crowded park or train station, all of a sudden someone begins to dance. Who is that crazy person? And why are they randomly dancing full out in public? Before you know it, a few more people join her, and then a few more, and more.

These “flash mobs” have become the newest dance craze, popping up in public places all over the country. For the past few weeks I’ve been rehearsing for one that’s going to take place tomorrow night. It’s part of a larger event put on by Cirque du Soleil. On September 30th, founder Guy Laliberté celebrated Cirque’s 25th anniversary by launching himself into space from Moscow. He’s staying aboard the international space station for 12 days (and blogging about it here).


But this is no ordinary extraterrestrial vacation: He’s using the trip to promote his One Drop foundation for water access and conservation. On Friday night, artists and activists including rock band U2, former U.S. vice president Al Gore, and Bolshoi Ballet principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze will perform and advocate for water-related issues from 14 different cities around the world in the first-ever social and artistic multimedia event coordinated from outer space.


My “surprise dance performance” is going to be part of the New York component. This is my first time being involved in a project quite like this—and it’s definitely much more detailed and thought-out than I ever would have expected of a flash mob. There are over a hundred dancers involved, but we’ve been rehearsing in small groups of 10 to 12 dancers for the past few weeks so that every dancer’s movement is as clean as possible. The “water-inspired” choreography is fairly simple so that we can achieve Rockette-like exactness—and also for the safety of the crowds of confused strangers as well as other dancers.


We just started rehearsing together as an entire group this week. It was amazing how the energy grew exponentially. I can’t wait to see how it will feel once we’re out in the world, surrounded by pedestrians.


Surprisingly, the most difficult part of rehearsals is figuring out how to mill about beforehand without looking suspicious. The dancing, I’ve (mostly) got down pat. Looking like a normal person, not so much. We each have precise positions throughout the piece, and many of us have to start dancing in between other people who have already begun moving. I’m still trying to figure out the timing so I can look like I’m just a New Yorker without having to stop and set myself up first.


Watch the entire event live on DirecTV channel 101 or online at at 8 pm EST. And if you’re in New York City on Friday night, watch out for sudden explosions of dancing!