On Sunday I belly danced on London’s Southbank. The plan was to have a belly dance flash mob–a flash mob is a group of people who have prearranged to arrive at a place at a certain time and do something (have a pillow fight, lip synch to “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music, play dead…) without publicizing the event to the people who are not participating in it. However, when we arrived, the Thames Festival was in full swing and the Southbank was absolutely mobbed with people. People shuffling slowly from booth to booth, people painting on the sidewalk, people in costume, people doing death-defying feats of gravity on giant silver wheels, people in day-glo costumes with pointy hats… and the spot we’d chosen for our flash mob was occupied by a sleight-of-hand artist.
No problem. We moved over about ten feet and started dancing anyway, accompanied by some tabla players. Almost immediately we drew a crowd of well over a hundred people. A couple people jumped in and started dancing with us, though we couldn’t tempt many. We danced for, oh, about twenty minutes, maybe a little longer…and then Security showed up.
We got shut down by the fuzz.
Normally Southbank is full of buskers and pavement artists anyway, but because of the festival they couldn’t have any extra acts and we were really blocking traffic. So we stopped. But security got quite ferociously booed by the crowd. And before they booted us off one of them said, “I’m really sorry to shut you guys down, and I’m really sorry I missed it!”
But my favorite part of the story was before we started dancing, arriving at Waterloo station and changing into our costumes in the public bathroom there. Wriggling into my brand-new baladi dress purchased from my friend Lorna, I felt a little bit like Clark Kent in the proverbial telephone box. After changing we waited under the clock to see if anyone else would show up. We were surprised at how few stares we got from people walking by. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or concerned that our performance later wouldn’t draw any interest–though obviously I needn’t have been. (What I should have worried about, which I didn’t realize until later, was the fact that my costume would ride up until the leg slits were practically at my waist because my hips are larger than Lorna’s…I spent most of my time dancing trying to unobtrusively tug it back down!)
And if you want to see what a belly dance flash mob looks like, you can check out the photos by Kristina West. (Unfortunately there aren’t any full-on photos of my fabulous new costume, but if you look hard you’ll see me in the background of a couple photos…I’m like the stealthy ninja belly dancer…)
Lots more to report about my trip to London…stay tuned.