DULLES, Va. – Carl Hemmer had never participated in a flash mob — much less heard of what they were — before he started grooving to the music at Dulles Town Center mall on Friday.
But the Ashby Ponds resident, who just turned 80, was the oldest of a group of 25 from the retirement community who surprised crowds at noon with choreographed moves to the hit dance song “Tonight is the Night” by Outasight.
“The best part?” he says with a smile. “The end.”
Hemmer, along his wife Pat, who also participated, are residents at Ashby Ponds retirement community in Ashburn, Va., where the flash mobbers all live. The group, ages 66 to 80, have spent the last two months rehearsing at least once a week for the surprise show, which they all said went off with great success.
Jessica McKay, public affairs manager at Ashby Ponds, said none of Friday’s participants had been in a flash mob before, nor had they much of an idea what one was.
“I definitely had to show them some examples on YouTube,” she says.
Plans for dance mob first began late last year with some discussions, she says. And by late January, the community had partnered with Arthur Murray Dance Studio who sent a choreographer to work with the group regularly.
Dan Dunne, director of communications with Erickson Living, which operates Ashby Ponds, says the participants were committed from the beginning.
“They’ve been faithfully rehearsing for a couple of months now,” he says. “Dozens and dozens of their neighbors came out to watch. It’s a really neat community, they find life so enjoyable there.”
More than a few dozen witnessed the event. Aside from friends, family and neighbors who came, the group surprised a good deal of mall shoppers, as well.
After the performance, four women who took part gathered to talk to each other about how it went.
“You get all piped up for something like this,” one says.
The woman standing next to her laughed, “It’s really exciting when you turn around and you see you’re going the wrong way.”
“I know exactly how you feel,” another joined in. “And we thought the men were going to be a problem.”
The women all laughed, then explained the group was mostly women with four men who agreed after some recruiting.
As for what’s next, McKay says they’ll start something new soon, but she’s not sure what yet.
“We’re going to give them some time to recuperate, and maybe we’ll do another flash mob and surprise people somewhere else.”