You’ve seen the viral TikTok’s - it’s a quiet day in a public space, when unsuspecting passersby are suddenly surprised by a group of flash mob dancers, their energetic moves most likely being captured by hidden cameras nearby. You might be curious who the dancers are in these surprise performances, and how an event like this actually gets organized. Normally promoting a brand, cause, or celebrating a special moment in someone’s life, most professional flash mobs are organized by entertainment groups, such as Club Mob in London, which work with clients to create original surprise performances in public places. These events are becoming more and more frequent as companies recognize the opportunity to bring viral attention - both in person and online - to their brands through these shock-and-awe-style performances. Their growing popularity also gives dancers the opportunity to perform consistently, earn money for their dance abilities, and build useful skills that can support their success in other dance industry jobs.
Charlie Kingston, a professional dancer who works with Club Mob, has firsthand experience with how flash mob dancing can be both a lucrative side hustle and growth opportunity for dancers. First joining the company as a dancer in 2017, she has since worked with Club Mob as a choreographer, dance captain, gig manager, and is now their social media manager, monitoring their increasingly viral success on TikTok. A versatile and accomplished professional dancer who trained extensively in both Los Angeles and London, her other professional credits include Ariana Grande, Bebe Rexha, and Jax Jones.
For Kingston, the skills she’s gained from performing in flash mobs have only contributed to her success in her other professional dance work. “Being a choreographer and dance captain for the company has taught me a lot about thinking quickly and rising to any challenge fast,” she says, “This has helped me within the industry on other jobs. I'm quick to think on my feet, quite literally, which has allowed me to be a very helpful asset when a choreographer may need my assistance on set or stage.”
Staying present and adaptable are some of the most important skills for any professional dancer to have, and can be uniquely built through flash mob performances. “We had one really special performance for a proposal where the bride-to- be had no idea the whole performance was for her and tried to walk away,” she remembers, “Dancers literally had to reverse the choreography and think quickly to change their directions to face her without letting the audience know anything was wrong. This again is so great for performers as anything really can happen on stage, working with artists and live TV.”
While these performances are live and very much in the moment, due to the viral possibilities of flash mob performances, dancers have to get very comfortable with cameras in their faces - usually from both the client and the unsuspecting audience members. “A lot of the jobs are filmed and give the perfect opportunity to find and work the camera when dancing without it being the pressure of an industry job,” Kingston says.
Flash mob dancers also face a very unique challenge in their performances - lack of control over their audience. “A lot of the work we do involves us dancing in public spaces where people would not expect a dance to break out. This can cause issues such as members of the public getting in the way or thinking they're funny trying to join in,” Kingston says, “Of course when this happens, us as dancers face issues such as not forgetting the choreography, changing our direction to face a whole new way, or simply trying not to trip over a stranger.”
Besides the ever-changing nature of the performance itself, each individual client will work with these entertainment groups to create a piece tailored to their goals, making flash mobs a great side hustle for versatile dancers. “When hiring new dancers, we look for talent, variation in styles and technique, and phenomenal performance quality,” Kingston says, “Acting ability, along with tricking, lifting, and partnering skills is always a bonus due to the nature of a lot of the work we do. Picking up choreography fast is also a key factor we look out for.” A company like Club Mob will also take the time to train dancers in new styles as needed, “which expands their movement vocabulary to the best it can be,” she adds.
Staying present and adaptable are [...] important skills [that] can be uniquely built through flash mob performances - Kingston
The variety of performances Kingston gets to do through Club Mob has been one of the most exciting parts of her experience dancing with the company. Having consistent work that keeps her inspired and creatively challenged, while still continuing to practice her professional performance skills means that she feels continuously fulfilled as a dancer. “The venue, location, client, music and choreography all vary so much from gig to gig, keeping everything interesting and of course challenging in the best way,” she says.
As a social media manager for the company as well, she’s been able to see just how much the dancing they do in these performances has a positive, oftentimes moving effect on the strangers they surprise. For instance, a Tiktok video she posted for Club Mob of a ‘proposal flash mob’ recently went viral and is currently at 13.3 million views, amassing hundreds of comments from people excited to see such a public heartfelt celebration.
“I love when this happens because so many people get to experience the work we do and feel a glimpse of what it is we make people feel when performing, all in those few seconds of the online content they see,” she says. “I was also a dancer on this same gig and it includes my choreography, so it's really cool to have so many people see this and enjoy what we do. Proposal gigs are one of my favorite jobs as they are very emotional and rewarding on both a professional and personal level.”