At 11:45 a.m. Friday, Upper Sproul was relatively empty, and organizers looked nervous as they fiddled with audio connections in a corner.
By 11:50 a.m., a few awkward stragglers had started wandering in, though a visiting middle school group easily outnumbered potential dancers.
But by noon, hundreds of students had formed a crescent surrounding the steps outside of Sproul Hall, and when Sather Tower rang its first midday bell, Mario, Luigi, Toad and a shoddily dressed Batman took center stage.
International K-pop sensation song Gangnam Style erupted over the Mario Savio steps, and when the chorus finally hit, more than 100 students rushed to the top step and started dancing. A Gangnam Style flash mob had invaded.
“It’s beautiful to watch random people trust in an event,” said campus sophomore Patrick Hong, who helped choreograph the event. “People can get so caught up in, ‘Oh, will it be fun? Will people show up?’ Instead, a community of random people came together and made something incredible happen.”
The idea for the flash mob came from a similar one orchestrated at Cornell University, according to Jenna Yi, a campus sophomore responsible for kick-starting the project. The project, Yi said, was designed to give students a break from the daily grind — an opportunity to come together as a community and have a good time.
“It was a nice break from reading, that’s for sure,” said sophomore Olivia Button. “It was a great event that really brought the campus together.”
When the song was over, the plaza had erupted in cheers.
“It’s just so nice to get the campus dancing,” said campus sophomore Mat Pang, who helped Yi and Hong organize the event. “It’s a pretty nice break from the midterm season.”
An observer standing separate from the mob seemed determined to resist the jubilation, but by the second chorus, she too had unfolded her arms and joined the melee.
“I feel like we achieved something beyond what we ever expected,” Hong said after the mob dispersed. “I hope people look back and realize how important it is to be involved in something like this is — things outside of yourself.”
The Gangnam Style video has garnered more than 440 million views on YouTube, and according to the Guinness World Records website, it is now the most-liked YouTube video ever, with more than 3.9 million likes.
While the flash mob does not have any serious undertones, its organizers say, relief from midterm stress is certainly a worthy goal.
“It really took on another set of energy,” Hong said. “I just can’t stop smiling. People in the crowd couldn’t stop smiling. Berkeley isn’t just about protesting and serious thought. We can have fun too.”
Here is the official video from the organizers of the flash mob:
Contact D.J. Sellarole at [email protected].