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Hamptons Life

Oct 15, 2012 10:02 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Zombie Flash Mobs Are Coming To The East End

Oct 16, 2012 9:40 AM

Choreographer Adam Baranello clapped his hands. The short staccato note ricocheted off the walls of the Bridgehampton studio where a handful of women were rehearsing, bringing them to a halt.

“Time for blood,” he ordered.

Hushed murmurs rippled from one dancer to the next. They glanced at each other, slightly perplexed.

“Yup, real blood,” he smirked. “This is your initiation.”

They filed out the door and half-skipped into the parking lot, lining up with cupped hands. Adam held a mirror while his wife and partner, Gail Benevente, squeezed gooey artificial blood into the dancers’ palms.

“Can I get some more? I freaking love this,” Alicia Maiuri said, dragging a line of bright red gel up her neck with one hand and smearing her cheekbone with the other, which was already caked in white and black stage makeup.

After applying a second helping of blood, the dancer followed her peers back inside and watched as they stretched their legs on the ballet barres while she pulled her arm, covered in tattoos, across her chest.

“Adam said ‘zombie’ and I was in before I even knew what it was,” Ms. Maiuri said, straight-faced. “I’m obsessed with zombies. I’m a gore, horror movie fan.”

Her face cracked into a smile and she added, “I’m slightly morbid, I guess. A little bit.”

What Mr. Baranello and Ms. Benevente had in mind for their dancers couldn’t have been a better match for Ms. Maiuri: a spattering of zombie flash mobs across the East End shortly before Halloween, which is Ms. Maiuri’s favorite holiday.

“Let’s just say that on October 28, if you’re hanging out in Wainscott and craving some barbecue, you never know, you might bite off more you can chew with a zombie pop-up performance,” Ms. Benevente laughed. “Or, on October 29, if you’re an awesome pumpkin carver and want to join a contest in Bridgehampton, you might also be surprised by some dancing zombies.”

By definition, a flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform briefly and then disperse as quickly as they got started.

“It is appealing because it’s random, you know what I mean?” Mr. Baranello said. “It’s just something out of the ordinary, and if you pull it off, unless it’s a real crab, a grump, for the most part people are going to be like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. It just added something to my day.’”

“And it’s four minutes of your day. It’s not like we’re invading anyone’s privacy for too long,” Ms. Benevente added. “People are going to be, literally, sitting down eating dinner with their families and all of a sudden there’s going to be a bunch of zombies dancing in the middle of the dining room. The owner thinks it’s the greatest idea ever.”

Not only will audiences get a zombified, contemporary performance from A&G Dance Company, they’ll also be in for a concert. The flash mob of seven dancers—who range in age from 29 to 55—is choreographed to “Ruckus,” a fight anthem from Mr. Baranello’s fourth album, “Raise The Flag,” which he will sing live.

“I wrote it a year ago, right around this time. All my music has a point, I guess, and it’s just my brain. It’s how I see things and think,” he explained. “A lot of my songs tend to be stand up and fight, speak up, don’t be afraid of being the underdog kind of thing. They’re not anarchistic or political. It’s just really about encouraging anyone who wants to listen to not be afraid to do what they want to do.”

And that can be just about anything, he mused, from dancing with a flash mob to forming a performance company.

“I was an athlete growing up. I was a hockey player, and I was a really good hockey player,” he recalled. “And everyone thought I was going to be a professional hockey player. And I got into this in college, and that transition was rough. A lot of questions, a lot of people questioning a lot of things about me.”

He laughed and rolled his eyes. “It gives you thick skin, not that I didn’t have one before that, but it gives you thick skin and a viewpoint of not being afraid to stand up and do what you want to do,” he continued. “Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

And neither would his flash mob of dancers. Ms. Maiuri is, perhaps, the most enthusiastic of them all.

“I hope we scare some kids,” she whispered, grinning. “It’s spontaneous. People love spontaneity, out-of-the-blue kind of thing. Some people will get scared. But, hey, on a bad day, what is better than watching people dance around in zombie outfits, you know what I mean? It will put a smile on people’s faces, at the very least.”

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