Presenting Bob’s Dance Shop, the Premier Expert of Vibes on a Global Scale.

If you lived in the early 2000s, the term “flash mob” might give you a vague sense of dread. This seemingly spontaneous gathering, often accompanied by some kind of performance, started out as a cool kid phenomenon and evolved into a corporate marketing tool with disappointing speed. By the end of the decade, there was an eerie sense of something being sold when witnessing rioters and mob videos.

Then, a few years later, and a little bit of a mood change, Flash Bob came along. Like their older cousins, Flash Bob involves fake impromptu gatherings in public. But as led by Bob’s Dance Shop, a group of five performers that founder Vince Coconato describes as an “immersive dance crew,” the mob is silly, colorful, and hilarious. Featuring routines with stunningly simple choreography to the classics of the wedding playlist and performed by a diverse crowd of mostly untrained dancers, the inclusive spirit of the viral dance challenge is a breath of fresh air. Group-shared video footage of each event has since returned online.

Those strolling Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade a few days ago may have wandered into the latest Flash Bob. A mob of 80 people in colorful costumes gathered on the cobblestones and played disco-inspired tunes to a remix of Chic’s “Le Freak.” The climax was pop star Paula Abdul’s appearance, dancing with the crowd and then hugging everyone within reach. Abdul, who started his career as a dancer, said in an email that he considers himself Bob’s “liver.” (She befriended Bob and the others while waiting in line at the airport.) “I’ve always been a big fan of dancers and choreography,” she wrote. “But this group represents more than just movement.”

Over the last few years, Bob’s Dance Shop has built a devoted following around the cathartic power of dance–his party energy. “There’s a selflessness there,” said dancer Sarah McLeaner, known as Smack, who has joined Flashbob twice since connecting with the group on Instagram. “Everyone there has the same purpose, no matter who they are: to have fun.” Fun is still a priority. But in recent months, Bob’s Dance Shop has also begun labeling its events as protests.

Of the five major bobs — Coconut, Jacob Garcia, a performer known as Lito, dancer and choreographer Lucas Hive, musician Kameron with a K, and dancer and choreographer Maria Baker–everyone except Baker is queer. Flash Bob is gaining traction as conservative politicians across the country push for laws targeting LGBTQ rights. Appearing “boldly and strangely in public” is part of Bob’s mission, as he captioned a recent video.

“I just want to flood the area with as much joy as possible,” Coconato said. And in need of more joy is the fierce commercial dance industry. Bob’s Dance Shop initially existed largely outside the framework of mainstream professional dance, with most of the members, mobs, and fans from non-dance origins. It’s now a favorite among pros looking for a more relaxed, upbeat approach to performance. Baker, whose credits included dancing in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and choreographing “So You Think You Can Dance,” said he felt “disheartened.” Before joining Bob’s, I was frustrated with the competitive nature of professional dance.

Smack, who competed in both “So You Think” and “Dancing With Myself,” described Flash Bob’s workshop as “a stress-free environment that is fundamentally unprecedented for professional dancers.” Next month, four out of five Bobs will move from Los Angeles to New York. They hope that moving their merry band east will further solidify its reputation as a force for good, both musically and socially.

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