Flash dance: Community mob performs at Thursday!Fest

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Cory Betts leads the flash mob during Thursday!Fest. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

Flash mobs might be commonplace in New York City and on the big screen, but Montanans don’t have many chances to see the phenomenon live.

So if you were at Thursday!Fest in Kalispell last night, you got a rare treat.

ImagineIF Library in Kalispell teamed up with the Noble Dance Studio to arrange a surprise performance at the popular downtown event. ImagineIF Kalispell Assistant Director Connie Behe said it’s all part of the library’s ongoing efforts to build partnerships within the community.

“Our focus is on relationship building,” Behe said. “With this event ... We just want to bring a smile to people’s faces.”

The flash mob is part of the library’s “In Motion” themed programming, which is going on through August at all the ImagineIF libraries throughout the valley.

“It’s an event for everybody, not just the dancers,” Behe said.

The flash mob dance was choreographed by Cory Betts, a company dancer with the Eugene Ballet Company in Oregon. He was born and raised in Sacramento, California, and has performed as a professional dancer throughout the United States.

Betts is in Kalispell teaching as a guest instructor of contemporary dance at the Noble Dance Studio’s July workshop. He has taught at the studio’s summer workshops for the past two years.

“I am a big fan of Kalispell and Glacier National Park,” Betts said.

Betts said this is his first time being involved with or even seeing a flash mob.

“I’ve really, really really been looking forward to it,” Betts said.

Natalie Molter, director of Noble Dance Studio, said the flash mob is a first for her as well. When the library approached her with the idea, she said she agreed but didn’t quite know what to expect.

“We don’t know how many people to plan for, so in some ways it’s a surprise for us as well,” Molter said. “But that’s just part of being a dancer. You have to be flexible.”

Betts chose to choreograph the dance to the song “Uptown Funk,” the 2015 hit by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. He said he decided to use some of the moves from the song’s music video, both to make learning the dance simple for participants and also to give the audience a familiar point of reference.

Six of the studio’s advanced students and about 10 younger students spent time this past week learning choreography for the flash mob, according to Molter.

One of the advanced students was Elizabeth Sullivan, 18. The 2015 Glacier High School graduate said learning the dance and getting to participate in the flash mob was “just something so fun.”

Sullivan said she had seen similar performances on TV, but always wanted to see one in person. She said the event exceeded her expectations.

“Everyone has smiles on their faces,” Sullivan said.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a flash mob is “a group of people summoned (as by email or text message) to a designated location at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing.”

That’s a complicated way to describe a group of people getting together for the fun of surprising the public with an impromptu performance.

In this case, ImagineIF posted information on its website and created a Facebook event page. But details online were minimal, which heightened the suspense and surprise.

Another participant, Kathy Gerdl, 63, said she heard about the dance opportunity through a fitness meet-up group that she attends.

Gerdl is in the Flathead Valley for the summer, but resides most of the year in Gilbert, Arizona. Now that she’s retired, she’s spent the last two summers here in Montana.

“One of my retirement goals is to do things I’ve never done before,” Gerdl said. “And this was just a lot of fun.”

The flash mob drew a diverse crowd of about 40 dancers total. Children and adults alike came out to participate in the community event.

Kyllian Mahoney, 12, said she was very excited to be a part of the performance.

“I’m afraid I’m going to forget the steps,” Mahoney said before the event. “I get stage fright sometimes ... But tonight I’m going to stay strong because my family will be there watching.”

Thursday!Fest features live music, arts, crafts and food vendors every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. through Aug. 27. The community event takes place in downtown Kalispell on Second Avenue East between First and Second Streets East in the courtyard of the Museum at Central School. For more information about Thursday!Fest, visit www.downtownkalispell.com.

For more information about ImagineIF, visit www.imagineiflibraries.org or call 406-758-5820. For more information about Noble Dance Studio, visit www.nobledance.org or call 406-212-0293.

Entertainment Editor Stefanie Thompson can be reached at 758-4439 or ThisWeek@dailyinterlake.com.

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