Dancing to UChicago's Tunes

Student flash mob group burns up unconventional dance floors
UChicago has this kind of reputation for ‘Where fun goes to die,’ and I feel like a bunch of students being happy and dancing, being vibrant, doing something seemingly spontaneous is a way to kind of turn that around

In the last scene of the movie Friends with Benefits (2011), Justin Timberlake’s commitment-phobic Dylan arranges a flash mob to surprise Mila Kunis’s Jamie as a grand romantic gesture to tell her how he really feels. And naturally, as in all romantic comedies, it works like a charm.

Beginning this year on campus, a new flash mob group is hoping that their own moves will help other registered student organizations (RSO) romance a different sweetheart that plays hard to get: the UChicago student.

STUD—Surprisingly Talented UChicago Students—is a service-based RSO that uses song and dance to publicize for other RSOs. The idea behind STUD originated earlier this year when first-year Michelle Guo organized a flash mob to promote her fall Student Government campaign.

“In high school I planned a flash mob as a senior prank. And it got a lot of attention from the administration—not always good,” Guo laughed. “So I was like, ‘Hey! Let’s do it again, but this time let’s make it legal!’”

Guo gathered about 30 dormmates from Alper House, her house in Max Palevsky, on the Main Quad to rehearse a dance she had choreographed with friends.

“Tons of people gathered around the quad to watch us dance and they thought we were flash mobbing for another organization, which is how I got the idea to start a flash mob organization to publicize for other RSOs. Flash mobs generate a lot of publicity.”

Along with the RSO’s service goals, Guo also hopes that STUD will just be a fun, energetic presence on campus.

“UChicago has this kind of reputation for ‘Where fun goes to die,’ and I feel like a bunch of students being happy and dancing, being vibrant, doing something seemingly spontaneous is a way to kind of turn that around… There are a lot of tours that go on during spring quarter...We can kind of advertise for the school inadvertently.”

Currently, STUD has around 20 to 30 members, an impressive figure for a new RSO. Part of its large size is a result of the light time commitment for its members.

“I intentionally made the dances really easy, super quick to learn,” Guo explained. “If you can lean to your left and lean to your right, you can be in this RSO.”

But STUD is still looking to expand. Ideally, the RSO would like a large enough member base so that a flash mob can spring up at any given time if a request is made. For Guo, the ultimate aim is to be able to tell people, “There’s an event going on here; how many of you can come? This is the dance we’re going to do. Meet me at this place, at this time. We’re gonna flash mob.”

UChicagoans can expect to be surprised by spontaneous mobs of student dancers in any big space, according to Guo and STUD Vice President, first-year Lawrence Dann-Fenwick.

“We’re helping other RSOs publicize themselves, and in order to do that we’ll go wherever they need. You never know,” Dann-Fenwick added.

“Most of them will be on the Main Quad. We’re going to try to put some in a couple of the dining halls,” Guo said. Other locations with heavy traffic are also prime targets.

While flashmobbing in a more unconventional location--the library--has been done in the past by informal student groups like residents of Shorey House during finals week, STUD has yet to break out in dance in the bookstacks. Guo  noted that it’s a possibility, especially since people already streak through the Regenstein Library. “I feel like a flash mob is at least more PG than streaking.”

Though the flashmobbers promote RSOs rather than individuals, Dann-Fenwick concluded that, if the group has the time and interest, STUD’s future could very well include helping a lucky student capture the heart of his own Mila Kunis through dance.