NAPLES — First there was one dancer. Then, about 20 more jumped in to shimmy and shake during a Saturday afternoon flash mob in Naples.
Menacing rain clouds drove the group from the original Vanderbilt Beach location into Coastland Center mall around 3 p.m. For a few minutes, shoppers got a "spontaneous" dance performance to a pop medley.
"Once the music started and everybody started coming out, it felt great," said Elizabeth Plaza, who kicked off the choreographed dance with Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual."
Similar flash mobs, which are pre-arranged and are coordinated performances in public places, were supposed to have taken place at the same time in U.S. and Canadian cities to the same songs. It was part of a promotional campaign for a Detroit-based company, Visalus, to establish a "world record" for most simultaneous flash mobs. The multi-level marketing firm relies on networks of sales staff to sell weight loss products.
There is no word on whether any records were broken, though on Facebook, groups from Calgary to California reported similar events Saturday, all tied to the company.
For fact fiends, the international keeper of eccentric feats Guinness World Records lists only the first flash mob in its online records — May 1, 2003.
Sandie Reither, a Collier County resident who works for Visalus, scrambled to find a new venue Saturday morning as overcast skies threatened to waterlog the beach event. Ultimately, she agreed, the mall proved to be a better location.
"It's a little nerve-wracking, but it was fun," Reither said of her first time organizing a flash mob.
Through social media and word of mouth, she and a colleague pulled together the group, which included other sales staff members like Plaza, and their friends.
They met at a community center just an hour before Saturday's event to learn the choreography created by the company. It included current pop hit and workout class favorite "I'm Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO.
One of the keys to flash mobs is catching passersby off-guard, turning them into an impromptu audience. The unsuspecting mid-day crowd at the mall Saturday got a few minutes of unexpected entertainment. Only security staff knew why the large boombox was tucked into a corner next to the children's play area.
"It really captivated everyone's attention," said Sam James, who watched with her nieces and nephews. "I don't have the versatility to do that."