WHEN local dance tutor Hannah Paice approached The Trafford Centre late last year, it was with an audacious idea.
She wanted to create an enormous flashmob, as a challenge to her students at Salford City College.
And she wanted to show another side to the region’s young people, after the terrible riots in the northwest last year.
“I knew I wanted to tell the other side of the story for local youth,” she said. “To show the talented, friendly young people I work with every day.”
The two of us stood on the giant ship in The Orient food court, and planned how to squeeze in 400 dancing students, during opening hours, in a way that wouldn’t scare shoppers, or halt trade for our 60 restaurants and cafes.
It seems the more “spontaneous” you want a flashmob to be, the more planning has to go into it.
As a famous tourist destination, The Trafford Centre could not hold a large-scale event of this type without rehearsal, or a proper risk assessment. It’s the only safe, legal way to run a flashmob of this kind when you are The Trafford Centre.
A few people on YouTube have criticised the fact that The Trafford Centre knew about this event – we did know about it, because every step of the flashmob had been pre-planned, and rehearsed. We know this isn’t traditional for flashmobs, but it’s just the way we have to roll!
We had 12 cameras focused on the dance – and we needed to rehearse all those camera angles.
We had thousands of shoppers in the Centre at the time, both very young and rather older - and we didn’t want to trap them amongst hundreds of dancers.
And because the flashmob was so huge, taking over two floors of The Trafford Centre, plus escalators, elevators, stairways and balconies – many of the participants couldn’t actually see the other dancers. And so that had to be rehearsed down to the second too.
For this reason, we held a secret midnight rehearsal some weeks before the flashmob, to reduce the risks of anything going wrong, and also because as performing arts students, it was important that the dancers felt prepared for what they were about to do.
In all honesty, I was worried something would go wrong – that the music wouldn’t start, or our “trigger” dancers would slip, or the cameramen would be facing the wrong way. I need not have worried! Every bit of planning paid off, as these amazing young people dominated the space with their energy and enthusiasm – and weeks and weeks of dance rehearsal.
Flashmobs are fantastic fun, and the original flashmobs were unplanned and completely spur-of-the-moment, it’s true.
But ours was choreographed, filmed and held in a unique and busy space. That’s why our YouTube video looks so impressive – because even the apparent simple things can take a lot of work behind the scenes.
So many managers at The Trafford Centre have approached me to say that this flashmob (or whatever you like to call it) was one of the most impressive events we've ever held. And for that, we have to thank the brilliant students at Salford City College's Pendleton site - and the lady who came up with the whole idea, Hannah Paice.