When a group of street clothes-clad students break out in song and dance, don’t be too surprised – it’s a Random Act of Dance.
Imagine you are eating a slice of Maxi’s pizza on Liacouras Walk or basking in the sun on Beury Beach when you notice a mob of people convening from all directions, snapping and chanting “It’s almost good,” in unison. All the sudden, they begin to perform a choreographed dance accompanied by music.
Believe it when you see it because you will have just witnessed a Random Act of Dance. However, these “attacks” are not coincidences. There is a woman behind it all with an exuding passion for bringing sheer joy to communities through movement and music.
“I love the music – I love that it’s something I grew up with,” Rhonda Moore, a master of education candidate in the dance department, said. She has been choreographing and staging RAD attacks since Fall 2009.
Moore choreographed one of her first dances to the song “Almost Good” by David Seville, a record her parents bought her when she was a child.
“It was a 45. It’s not a gun – a 45 RPM, one of those small records,” she said, adding that she recalls listening to the record with her sister when she was 7 years old.
Years later, as she searched for a song to accompany the dance she wanted to choreograph, she rediscovered “Almost Good.”
“This is the music [for my dance],” she recalled saying to herself. “And when I decided, I choreographed that dance in literally 15 minutes. It just flowed.”
Moore described the music as “more anonymous” because not many people are familiar with it, but she said she insists “it’s not any less compelling.”
“It was those steps that remind you of the music you’re listening to,” Moore said. “There’s nothing that goes against the grain. The music just pushes you right into doing it.”
Moore said the steps in the dance are “really recognizable,” because “it just reminds people of a lot of different things.” The wide variety of dance movements she incorporated include the bump and patty-cake, along with “a moment of very jovially recognizing Egypt.
“And it’s got a moment of high kicks,” she added, “almost like Broadway.”
Moore recalled the first performance she did with a section of the Jazz Century class at Temple on Oct. 20. Ever since the first RAD attack, more and more classes in the dance department began working with Moore to stage the attacks, including Colleen Hooper’s Shall We Dance class.
“The department chair was very excited about it,” Hooper said of Moore’s first experience working with Hooper’s Shall We Dance class in Fall 2009. “And it’s kind of mushroomed from there.”
Moore said she thinks of her project as “more important now” because of the recent flash mobs and began to think about her project as a way to combat youth violence.
“It can be used to demonstrate that large numbers of people can meet without committing heinous crimes or acts of violence,” Moore said.
Simultaneously, she said she believes her dance can be used as “a dance of protest in a very peaceful and powerful, and even artistic, way.”
Hooper said Moore is “the type of person that if you ask her what’s going on, she always has something that she’s up to.”
Moore’s next mission is to have members of the Philadelphia Police Department and Mayor Nutter participate in a RAD to convey a message of nonviolence. For Moore, RADs seem to serve as a blank canvas for endless possibilities.
“If this becomes the motor that makes it possible for me to do many different things, then that would be phenomenal,” she said.
Students from Hooper’s class this semester expressed positive feedback to their experiences.
“The thing that stands out in my memory is the unity it brought to our class as a group,” Heather Hyde, a freshman criminal justice major, said.
Fellow student Zoe Jimenez said she agrees it was a unifying experience.
“I did connect to my other classmates … we danced together, high-fived each other, clapped together, snapped together. We sang as a whole together, so the experience really did make us closer as a class.”
Although many of the RAD dancers said the experience is freeing and unifying, several recalled their emotions before learning the dance.
Kimberly Villano, a junior marketing major, said she felt “anxious” before learning the dance, and her classmate, Crystal Wilson, said she remembers feeling “a little uneasy or pressured.”
Moore said she recognizes this change from anxiety to pure enjoyment in every group she works with.
“Everything is very tense in the beginning – nervousness, shyness, fear of not being able to do it – until gradually you can feel as if the room sighs, and it’s sort of like the room just relaxes,” Moore said.
She suggested it might be the direct interaction with others that triggers this change.
“Especially when you get to the point where you have to touch somebody,” Moore added. “When that moment happens, you see it, you internally feel it, but you also feel how the room has changed.”
Moore also discussed how RADs can influence people on individual and spiritual levels.
“People really get a chance to do some inner reflection and, at the same time, watch themselves in contrast and in communion with others,” she said.
Moore’s project has gained global recognition. She said she has received e-mails from all over the world – people in Boston and Brooklyn, New York to people from Beijing and Tokyo have asked her to lead RADs in their cities.
Since the RAD project has been the driving force behind Moore’s aspirations, she said she is confident the program will have “meat on the bones for many years to come.”
Hooper said if she were leading her own RAD attack in one of her classes, “it would be an exercise.” But for Moore, Hooper said, it’s just “her thing.
“It’s a passion,” she added. “It’s what she’s committed to doing.”
“This whole Random Acts of Dance project of mine is about building community within communities,” Moore said. “The dance impacts and starts building relationships between those people that maybe have not existed there before. It’s sort of like this magic serum that starts weaving its way through.”
Gia Lombardi can be reached at email@example.com.