SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – If you’ve seen large groups of people suddenly break out in synchronized dancing on Bay Area streets, chances are a talented teacher is at the head of the pack. And it may look like the the dancers are professional, but they aren’t. Take David Mabalatan.
“You surprise yourself,” Mabalatan said with a broad smile. “Doing it in front of a crowd, it’s awesome.”
With Julien Rey as their teacher and choreographer, dance students are learning a Lady Gaga routine. The group is the Bay Area Flash Mob. Its dancers dazzle audiences in public plazas and step up for nonprofit fundraisers.
“You don’t have to be a professional or a great dancer to do it,” Rey explained. “You can try to learn it, join, and see what happens.”
For Rey, the thrill of teaching dance started at his first flash mob experience: a tribute to Michael Jackson. It was called “Thrill the World.” Flash mobs around the globe performed the same routine simultaneously in 2009, to honor the late King of Pop.
Rey had such a great time dancing, he and four other participants co-founded the Bay Area Flash Mob that same year.
“We just wanted to share that love with as many people as we can,” he said.
Every three months, Rey leads a new street performance. The group also donates its time dancing in fundraisers that benefit charities like Bay Area children’s shelters, youth music programs, and the American Cancer Society.
“The biggest reward is to see people smile during the class and during the actual flash mob,” said Rey.
When he’s not working full-time as a software engineer, Rey is usually leading two-hour flash mob classes twice a week for free at the Levy Studios in San Francisco’s South of Market area.
In videos and in class, he breaks down the routine into manageable steps for some 1,500 flash mob members. Many of the performers are first-time dance students, like Reena Patel.
“He’s amazing,” Patel exclaimed. “He puts a lot of his life into it and time.”
Rey says he once had an overly-critical teacher who crushed his spirit, so he tries to be a compassionate coach.
Bay Area Flash Mob co-founder Jennifer Arbuckle says he definitely sets the tempo.
“The enthusiasm, the energy, just makes everyone really happy!” Arbuckle said with a laugh.
So for tirelessly sharing his passion for dancing, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Julien Rey.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)