'Pantsuit Power' flash mob video gets almost two million views

The choreography for the flash mob dance, performed at New York’s Union Square, took about four hours.
The choreography for the flash mob dance, performed at New York’s Union Square, took about four hours.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON• It came together in about a week. First, the idea for a punchy, uplifting dance video that would tell a story about diversity, difference and communal support. Then, 170 dancers, a few hours of rehearsals - and pantsuits. Lots of pantsuits.

The result: the "Pantsuit Power" Flashmob For Hillary dance video, performed at New York's Union Square. It has received nearly two million views on Facebook in a matter of days.

The video, accompanied by Justin Timberlake's contagiously boppy disco-pop song Can't Stop The Feeling, was posted on Facebook and Vimeo this week by Humanity for Hillary, a social media campaign aimed at artists, in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"I wanted to bring some kind of humanity to her campaign, because I think humanity and love and humour tend to get lost when we're in the heat of all of this," says Celia Rowlson-Hall, 32, a New York- based choreographer who has worked on HBO's Girls and other television shows and music videos.

She and her Washington, DC-based friend, hip-hop choreographer Crishon Landers, created the pantsuit dance, and she directed the video with her partner Mia Lidofsky, an independent film producer.

"We just felt the need to do something," Rowlson-Hall says. "We thought, how can we creatively impact this election? So we made the video."

There is nothing like dance to convey enthusiasm and energy, so it is a natural political tool. The fact that it is rarely used to rally voters is what makes this video feel so fresh. That and the clarity of the choreography, the invigorating spirit and skill of the video's massive chorus line, and the catchy tune.

She and Landers choreographed the flash mob scene in about four hours, she says, using simple, clear moves drawn from hip-hop, ballet and modern dance.

Each bears a message: Raised fists signify #BlackLivesMatter, arms and faces tilted to the sky hint at solar energy, circling hips symbolise reproductive rights. Others stand with a hand on their hearts. "This is our right as a democracy to protest or honour the flag as we see fit," says Rowlson-Hall.

She put the word out on Instagram and Facebook seeking dancers. She videotaped herself dancing the steps and texted it to the dancers who replied. Many are professionals. A few came from Broadway's Fiddler On The Roof and the Martha Graham Dance Company. Some came from as far away as Toronto. Assorted "dance enthusiasts" joined in - dentists, other artists and little girls fresh from soccer practice.

They had a few days to learn the moves on their own, then they met in small groups for one-hour sessions with the choreographers. That was when they were fitted for their pantsuits, an homage to Ms Clinton's workwear. A few suits were donated by Topshop. Stylists scoured thrift stores for the rest.

Near the end, you can glimpse the slender, short-haired Rowlson-Hall grooving in a pinstriped suit, her T-shirt emblazoned with "The Future is Female".

For all the ebullient energy of the dancing, the video produced some headaches. The directors did not have a permit to use Union Square for their shoot. "We were terrified we'd get shut down by the cops," says Lidofsky.

They also feared pushback from Timberlake. They reached out to his manager about using his song, she adds, but with no reply, they ploughed ahead, hoping he would not mind. (No word from him yet.)

The only time the whole group rehearsed together was 20 minutes before the taping on Oct 2. "The dancers came knowing the choreography to a T. I've never seen dancers work like that," says Rowlson-Hall. "It was a whirlwind."

So far, Ms Clinton has been silent about the pantsuit dance. "But we're refreshing our e-mail every single minute," says Lidofsky with a laugh. "We really hope she saw this and felt the love."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline ''Pantsuit Power' flash mob video gets almost two million views'. Print Edition | Subscribe