What is possible when two very old, very respected organizations get together and work on transforming for the benefit of our community?
On April 13, I fulfilled a promise to give a talk at the Cincinnatus Association (established 1920) dinner meeting about the changing role of the Fine Arts Fund (established 1927). I asked myself – how can we SHOW the change? I knew it would be especially hard to do in the University Club (established 1879) setting where dinner is served.
You’d be surprised what a little dancing can do for these two groups.
We asked Pones, Inc. -- movement based performance art group – to create a surprise flash mob dance to interrupt my talk. And we recruited members of Cincinnatus to shock their dinner tables by jumping up to join the routine. The dancing reminded everyone that these organiations are changing in ways that will benefit all of us!
Everyone I invited to help out was game and the following members formed the Cincinnatus dance line:
All of these dancers snuck out of dinner for a few minutes to practice the routine before the talk. You can watch the secret practice session on our YouTube page.
We’ve been waiting for a special moment to share this Behind the Scenes video with you.
This is the time because….
We’re nearing the end of our annual community campaign for the arts and we’ve been sharing the Splash Dance video with everyone during the campaign because it is such a great way to share our story.
This new video shows all the hard work, fun, and joy of hundreds of people from across the region who came together to create this surprise dance.
Here’s how it happened.
Last summer, Aaron Betsky of the art museum shared a YouTube video from Belgium with Victoria Morgan of the ballet. The video showed a surprise dance event in a train station to the song "Do Re Mi".
Shortly after that, Victoria told me she’d seen a video beautifully illustrating the way the arts bring people together and make places vibrant and exciting.
I asked her to send me the video and had an immediate reaction: We have to do this in Cincinnati!
Only, rather than using professionals, we could recruit volunteers from all over the region to participate.
Victoria agreed and together we approached about six other people working in arts organizations to form a team of organizers. Early on, we included reps from Lightborne (as our directors and producers of the video) and MidPoint Music Festival since we wanted to perform the dance on our public square during the kickoff for the festival.
We all sent notes to people at other arts organizations, friends, and family, inviting them to be part of a surprise. We didn’t tell them much – and we made them promise to keep the secret if they wanted to participate.
Over 300 people signed up using an online form hidden from the public. Later we told the volunteers they would be dancing – but not where.
Cincinnati Arts Association donated rehearsal space in the Aronoff and Know Theatre gave us time in their theater and rehearsal rooms. Five local bands donated the music. And two awesome teachers from the ballet’s Rhythm and Motion series choreographed the dance. Sixteen local dancers donated their time to teach the routine to everyone.
We assigned each of the volunteers to one of eight teams and provided numerous rehearsal times over a 3-week period leading up to the dress rehearsal. We also posted a breakdown of the routine on a password-protected website for all of the dancers to use at home.
We used social media to provide clues and energize our team.
The night of the dress rehearsal – in donated space at the Music Hall Ballroom - everyone submitted a release form, picked up a “ta-da” lapel button, and got ready to dance.
When all of the volunteers performed the whole dance together for the first time – many of us were in tears. It was incredibly moving to see all of these people come together for our community – people of all ages, backgrounds, neighborhoods, and experience.
The next day, we surprised everyone on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square – in the pouring rain. We always planned to dance no matter what the weather and despite the deluge, everyone came! For about three minutes, the rain slowed. And we all danced together to show off our city.
Since then, the community has embraced the video – sharing wonderful reactions and asking if we’d please do it again. The dancers did repeat the fun in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon at Findlay Market and Newport on the Levee. Later, a few of the dancers surprised us at the ArtAlive celebration kicking off our community campaign. Nearly 100,000 people have viewed the video on YouTube and CityBeat readers voted Splash Dance one of the year’s best new things, while the editors gave us an award for Best Arts Promo of 2009.
You can watch the Splash Dance video here. You’ll see that it makes our city look vibrant and alive. That’s what we love.
To celebrate the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, we bring back our biggest hit of the year: the Cincinnati Splash Dance! The Splash Dance is a great example of the way the arts connect us all and make our city such a vibrant, fun place to live, work, play, and stay!
Happy New Year to all!
We encouraged the singers who came from all over the region to stay in the neighborhood after the surprise and explore all the great holiday events in the central business district. Many of the carolers did so and here’s the report back from one of the participants.
We like to organize people for singing and dancing together – and love that they enjoy the sights and sounds of our wonderful neighborhoods at the same time!
"Last Saturday, as I was walking downtown, it felt …all was right with the world! The sun was shining, the air was brisk and there was hustle and bustle everywhere I looked. There were skaters on Fountain Square, carolers singing at many, many spots, the carriages and trolleys were all decked out for Christmas, parents were bringing their children by the droves to see the trains and all the sights and sounds of the season. THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all who have worked over the years to reinvigorate our downtown and make it a wondrous place for families to come and make Christmas memories. Those impressions of downtown at Christmas will be with me forever."
Carol O'Toole, Anderson
Cincinnatians surprised visitors when they burst into song at the 64th annual Duke Energy holiday train display on the afternoon of Saturday, December 12. Hundreds of people, coordinated by the Fine Arts Fund staff and friends, joined in singing songs of the season.
Similar to Cincinnati’s Splash Dance in September, a few people shared an interest in singing together as a surprise. We invited friends, family, and volunteers to share the joy of the season and the vibrancy of our regional holiday events.
Participants were invited by email to help with the Fine Arts Fund annual campaign for the arts by participating in a surprise community event nicknamed the "Do-Re-Mi". They pledged to keep the secret via an online sign-up form. With no more information than the date and time of the event, over 150 people agreed to participate.
Later, these volunteers and readers of the My.Arts.Blog on the Fine Arts Fund website were invited to vote on their favorite holiday song to sing. Just days before the event, participants received a few details: meet at 4th and Main Streets in Cincinnati and be familiar with the lyrics of the two songs that received the most votes online: Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland.
On the day of the event, carolers erupted in song filling the lobby of the Duke Energy train display with sounds of the season. Families waiting in line to see the trains joined in for a few moments before returning to holiday activities.