Hundreds turn out for Sen. Raskin's birthday flash mob -- Gazette.Net


All state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring wanted for his 50th birthday was a flash mob.

So when The Contours’ 1962 hit "Do You Love Me" started blasting through the stereo speakers out onto Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring at 4:40 p.m. on Saturday, the crowd standing in the plaza came alive.

About 150 dancers showed up to commemorate the politicians birthday, including a number of dancers from the Maryland Youth Ballet — a nonprofit dance institution that overlooks Ellsworth and trains more than 1,600 students as young as two.

Raskin said he reached out to the nonprofit's Executive Director Alyce Jenkins to see if her dancers could make it happen.

"It's actually hard to find people who are not terrified to put this together," Raskin said. "The big joke is that I can't dance."

Jenkins said MYB worked hard to put a dance together that non-dancers could easily follow. She said she was really pleased with the turnout.

"We've never done anything like this before," Jenkins said. "We're a classical ballet school."

She said she tried to get Raskin to dance front and center, but to no avail.

Jenkins said Raskin has been very supportive of the school since they moved to Silver Spring from Bethesda in 2006. Raskin, along with Del. Sheila Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring and Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, helped with the school's $200,000 capital construction bond bill to help with the renovations for the now state-of-the-art facility that overlooks Silver Plaza on Ellsworth.

When Raskin called, Jenkins spoke to the school's more advanced dancers who thought the idea was "cool." She said the group took some time out of their rehearsal for one of their largest shows each year, The Nutcracker — which opens later this month — to choreograph, learn and tape the flash mob dance, which was posted on YouTube for Raskin and his supporters to learn.

Raskin said his political fundraising event that followed the flash mob at the Silver Spring Civic Building a block away from the dancing sold out. Many of those 600 people, including Tebabu Assefa of Takoma Park, participated in the flash mob.

"It went very well. You can see the excitement on everybody's face," Assefa said. "It's a relationship-forging moment."

Norah Neale of Takoma Park said she watched the video for three nights and practiced with some other dancers earlier in the day Saturday to prepare for the flash mob.

"It was too short, I wanted to keep dancing," she said, laughing. "I'm just so happy for Jamie."

When the music started, about five dancers from MYB, including 16-year-old Nathaniel Remez of Washington, D.C., kicked off the dancing.

"A lot of people were here, so I think that's a success," Remez said. "It was really crowded out here."

Emilie Forest, 17, of Columbia has been a student for four years at MYB. She said she was also surprised by how many people turned out for the event.

"I thought it was amazing," Forest said. "It's very rare that you get to come out and do something that's not ballet, so I thought it was fun."

Sandi Kagen, 71, of Potomac is in adult ballet and Broadway jazz classes at MYB, and said she's ready for round two.

"I think it went great. I would like to have done it again," Kagen said. "The atmosphere is really up, really exciting, and we love Jamie Raskin because he's been instrumental in helping us at the state, so it was good to do it for him."