More than a dozen people broke into a dance before the fountain at Chapel Hill Mall late Thursday, part of a global flash mob to celebrate the 15th anniversary of V-Day with a message to end violence against women and girls.
“To see women standing together is an incredibly powerful thing,” Julie Norman of Akron said moments before she and 11-year-old daughter Elle demonstrated the moves they’d been practicing all week.
The group, dancing a four-minute routine to Break the Chain, was nearly 60 strong earlier in the day when they took their message to the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville.
There, the flash mob wanted to support a 16-year-old rape victim, allegedly assaulted by members of the high school football team.
“We wanted to show compassion for the community. We wanted to break the illusion that this kind of thing happens to someone else. Everyone is affected by it,” said Deb Lemire, organizer of V-Day Akron.
In Steubenville, her dancers — most of them from Summit County — were joined by members of Anonymous, a group that worked to uncover evidence of the rape.
Lemire, of Cuyahoga Falls, has been involved with local V-Day activities since the start, and efforts have ranged from fundraisers for the Rape Crises Center to festivals that build awareness.
This year, the event took on the message of One Billion Rising, a global activist movement born from a study that suggests one in three women are beaten or raped in their lifetime.
Flash mobs were among many options suggested to local V-Day chapters. Participants could practice the same dance, choreographed by Broadway icon Debbie Allen, using a video posted at www.vday.org . It was up to local chapters to arrange the music and location.
With the belief that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, Lemire said they didn’t notify the mall of their intentions.
But they weren’t disturbed or evicted and carried the brief dance off smoothly before dozens of shoppers who stopped to take photos and videos.
The youngest Chapel Hill mobster was 4-year-old Isabella Seasor, whose mom said she hadn’t practiced the dance but wasn’t shy about trying.
Michelle Riley, who designs and installs gardens, said she learned about the flash mob plans at an entrepreneurship meeting on Sunday. She rehearsed the dance just one day before the event.
“It’s wonderful to be a part of it. It’s a celebration of our energy,” Riley, of Akron, said.
V-Day was founded by playwright Eve Ensler, best known for writing The Vagina Monologues. To date, the non-profit has raised more than $90 million, including financial support for more than 14,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses.