What do you get when you combine a school music program in opera and creative parents? At P.S. 10 in Park Slope, the result was a musical flash mob.
Over 800 unsuspecting students were doing their usual morning lineup in the schoolyard on Tuesday, June 19, when, at 8:40 a.m., over 100 of their parents, teachers and school administrators began streaming out of doorways and around corners, letting loose a 10 minute long song and dance number set to an excerpt from the famous aria from the opera ‘”Carmen,” Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock.”
“Two parents came to me with the idea and I thought it would be fabulous,” said Principal Laura Scott, who joined in on the festivities alongside Assistant Principal Denise Watson, both decked out in red feather boas. “One, it would show that the parents could be involved in any way they wanted to be. Two, I thought it would be a nice surprise to see parents and staff working together to establish something meaningful and fun and just great.”
The idea came about after mom Kathleen Hackett heard about a similar flash mob event that took place at a Manhattan school and decided there was no reason why it couldn’t happen in Park Slope. Once she mentioned it to fellow mom Kristi Spessard, who is a dancer and has choreographed large scale works around the world, the ball got rolling.
“We had four sessions that we actually had to code name Adult Exercise Group because kids kept walking in,” laughed Spessard. “We had a little tech run the night before in the courtyard. It went really quickly and felt like it was a really wonderful collaborative event.”
There was even a video made of one of the rehearsals for parents who couldn’t attend any of the 8 a.m. practice sessions. “On the day, several parents came for the first time and knew the choreography,” said Spessard, impressed.
“We have such an interesting school; I feel like a lot of the parents are middle income artists, teachers and workers in the community,” she explained. “A lot of people have dance in their background or wanted something unique and fun that doesn’t have to do with fundraising. With worries about standardized testing, this was about bringing joy and freaking our kids out.”
The flash mob was performed in stages, and ended in a free for-all with parents grabbing their children and dancing. Student reactions ranged from mouths hanging open, faces buried in hands, and squeals of delight. There was even an impromptu conga line. According to Spessard, her youngest son, Gregor, who is in kindergarten, “looked like a deer in headlights and didn’t know what to do,” while her older son, Alexei, who is in third grade, was simply excited that she used his iPod to play the music.
As four-year-old Violet said after it was all done, “That popped my brain out of my head!”
Opera was among the music chosen because P.S. 10 has a partnership with the Metropolitan Opera Guild, during which students from pre-K through fifth grade are involved with learning elements of story and creating their own operas. The program includes field trips to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden.
“That was a reason why parents wanted to show the transition from opera to something the kids are more familiar with like hip hop and blues and rhythm,” explained Scott. “We’re always talking about integrating art with physical education and music and dance.”
All those involved said that when the new school year starts in September, they hope to have such inter-generational collaboration on a more regular basis.