First seen at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the dance fusion show Flash Mob, starring dancers from TV reality shows, is now at Sadler’s Wells and there are plans for a UK tour next year.
“A showcase it is not,” says producer Gary Lloyd. “We are challenging the dancers, expanding their vocabulary. We’ve been exploring their talents to see what we can fuse together – and audiences will be able to join in.“ Well, the show’s title is Flash Mob.
Now headlined by Charlie (Charlotte) Bruce, the winner of BBC 1’s So You Think You Can Dance, and American hip hop crew Elektrolytes, the reigning winners of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, Flash Mob continues with the Edinburgh cast of dance groups familiar to TV viewers. These include the boy/girl contemporary duo Alleviate and Irish dance fusion group Brosena.
The deservedly popular Bruce went on to star as Baby Houseman in Dirty Dancing in the West End and she has been dancing commercially ever since. It has to be said that Bruce is that good she would have made it without such intense television exposure.
“Oh it would have been a struggle to start with,” counters the Arts Ed and Laine Theatre Arts trained dancer. “It definitely pushed my career in the right direction because before the show I couldn’t get a job. At the auditions they always said – no. It opened the eyes of choreographers and directors as to what I could do and that I was serious about being in the business. Yes, it would have been a struggle to start with but if you keep trying and trying something is bound to happen.”
What of Flashmob ? She had heard about it through Tommy Franzen, one of the show’s choreographers and an SYTYCD finalist with her. Now she has choreographed her own routines for Flash Mob, with Rachel Kay, something she hasn’t done since her time on SYTYCD.
“I saw it as an opportunity to showcase as a dancer ,“ she says. “I’ve been working steadily but not been featured as just me being me. It’s an opportunity I can’t turn down. I’ve matured as a dancer and as a person. Hopefully that will come across. It will be nice to see Charlie being Charlie.
“I’m learning new things with the Elektrolytes. The things they do with the bodies, wow, the lockin’ and poppin’. It’s just inspired me. I want to learn how to do that. It’s something I haven’t touched on.”
If I have a street crew who can’t all do salsa but two can, I can fuse them with my Latin couple to create a quartet
Gary Lloyd has been choreographing almost from the moment he started training. He was always volunteering to assist, always offering to be dance captain (“It was the only way”). Now he is one of the biggest names in commercial and musical theatre choreography, working on Thriller Live and with Will Young and on Top of the Pops Live. For Flash Mob he has looked at presenting more than a two dimensional showcase. Fans of the reality dance shows will see much more of what their favourite dancers can do.
“It is important to play to the strengths of the dancers,” explains Lloyd. “They specialise in what they do. Alleviate are a contemporary couple, to the public’s eyes, but they also work well with hip hop and commercial dance.
“We’re challenging the Irish dancers to do more American tap. We are bringing the dancers together to create an ensemble of dancers rather than just five acts who specialise in a certain genre. We challenged them for Edinburgh and we’re challenging them even more this time. At Edinburgh it was very much about finding out about what the show was; it wasn’t exactly a workshop but a very creative environment. We realised that there was more to be had with the fusion. The audiences loved seeing their dancers pushed into another area.”
How does he retain the integrity of each style ?
“By playing to that group’s strength. If I have a street crew who can’t all do salsa but two can, I can fuse them with my Latin couple to create a quartet. One of the boys might be a brilliant tapper, so I can fuse him with the Irish to come up with something new, so we cross those two worlds.” Stage readers will recall that Alleviate, in a recent Showpeople interview, expressed a keenness to try salsa.
The final becomes a universal Flash Mob, with all the dancers on stage and audiences up on their feet – yes, all of them. “We teach the audience the steps, each act takes a section,” says Lloyd. ”We finish with an all inclusive routine which involves every style you see in the show and everyone dances together. It’s very high octane, with people throwing out their tricks and bells and whistles.”
How does Lloyd react when he sees it all coming together ? “It’s the same feeling I had when I was a performer, when suddenly I knew it was time to make the transition from performer to choreographer and director. The rewards, the buzz, becomes more about the audience reaction to your work rather than you and your performance. It’s the same feeling, but you’re standing at the back of the auditorium rather than on the stage.”
Flash Mob is at the Peacock Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, to November 4