Dance mob to strike Rittenhouse


The Philadelphia Fringe and Live Arts Festival has always been a platform for redefinition — whether it is a dance style, the concept of a performance venue or anything in between. This year, Sara Schuenemann is looking to take a negative event often gracing Philadelphia’s latest news headlines and spin it. 

“I used to work at Beau Monde [624 S. Sixth St.] and I’ve experienced two actual flash mobs. They are obviously very scary and intimidating,” Schuenemann, who recently moved out of her Queen Village apartment on the 700 block of South Fourth Street, said. “In part of this thinking about it and looking back on the decision to do [a flash dance mob], I like being a part of something that has the same kind of name, but definitely with a positive spin on what’s been happening the past two years.”

Schuenemann and her two partners, Devin Rowlands and Elizabeth DiPasquale, conceived of their Fringe piece as an all-inclusive “dance mob” that will take place in Rittenhouse Square 2 p.m. Sept. 10. The dance will be open to all public participants that visit the group’s Facebook page and then follow instructions to learn the dance by viewing online videos. 

“On the day of the event, we’ll have a public rehearsal two hours beforehand,” Schuenemann said. “One of the sections of the performance is going to have all these ribbons so we’ll practice in a nearby park and give everyone one of the ribbons and section everybody off. Then we’ll all go over.” 

The dancing mobs — that are commonly referred to on sites such as YouTube as a flash mob — came into widespread popularity over the last couple years. Participants dress in plain clothes and then uniformly breakout into a massive choreographed number, surprising and delighting unsuspecting passersby. 

“I always wanted to be a part of one, but never figured out how to be a part without committing a huge amount of time and really investing,” the 30-year-old said. “I wanted to create an event where people can participate, be a dancer or performer or already be something that would lend to the Fringe Fest.”

With a little help from a sponsor, or a do-it-yourself version that Schuenemann and boyfriend, Rich Levering, a musician, rig themselves, Rittenhouse will be blasted with the “Dog Days” by Florence and the Machine Sept. 10. 

“It’s an awesome song, so that is certainly part of [why we chose it], but she is also a creative inspiration, and noting that it will be in the middle of September, we thought it fit the time — the end of the hot summer dog days and weather-wise and spirit-wise for the city.”

The dance moves have been finalized and the video has been taped. Now the final pieces of the puzzle will need to fall into place: Recruiting people to be part of the dance troupe. 

“This is the kind of thing people don’t need to know a month in advance,” Schuenemann said. “We’re pushing it and posting it and getting on the social media and stuff.”

Growing up in Bluebell, Schuenemann studied abroad in Bolivia at age 19, moved to Boston to attend Northeastern University and then settled in Arizona at Prescott College to finish out her undergraduate career. She eventually graduated with a degree in ecotourism and art. 

“I came back to Philly for a couple reasons: One, because I grew up here and I wanted to be a little closer to my family. I also moved back because the rent was affordable and there is a great art scene here. 

“I started to design jewelry at the time and it was a chance to get my roots in jewelry design in an area with such a strong artists’ scene. That was really what drew me back. The east coat has a certain feel about it, but when I was living on the west, it was great. Then I started longing for the dirty-city vibe that Philly has.”

Upon her return, Schuenemann set up Burning Sphere, her jewelry design company that focuses on glass bead designs that she creates in a portable studio from her home. For steady income, she has been a server at many area hotspots, including the now-closed Ansill, Third and Bainbridge streets, and Rouge in Rittenhouse Square. The upcoming performance is a new venture for the amateur dancer. 

“I also really enjoy dancing. I’ve taken a couple dance classes at my gym, casual dance classes, nothing serious. I tried it but I wasn’t really that good at it,” Schuenemann, who is house-sitting for a few months in Fairmount Park before moving with Levering to 13th and Tasker streets, said. “I like it, it’s just the feeling that I love, the movement. You can just have fun with it. It’s kind of just a hobby, but I like going out dancing with my friends and I have been looking to take part in the Fringe Festival so I would peruse craigslist over the past years.” 

Though she never found anything fitting on, where Schuenemann said occasional Fringe pieces will post open casting calls, the self-created piece is a chance for Schuenemann to participate as well give endless opportunities for other just like her.

“They are simple dance moves. They’ve been done before and we’ll use that as a guide,” she said. “We designed our performance so the public will be able to come and be a part and enjoy it without having to be a part of rehearsals.” SPR

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