A recent Saturday afternoon of shopping at the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing began as expected - passersby browsed storefronts, kiosk workers sold the latest in cell phone accessories and shoppers took breaks to grab lunch.
However, just minutes after
1 p.m., a group of nearly 25 people of all ages morphed from ordinary mall-goers into participants in one of the area's first dance flash mobs. "Rock That Body" by the Black Eyed Peas blasted in the Sears end of the mall, as heads turned to watch dancers casually appear from the sidelines.
The group effort, coordinated by local zumba instructor Joelle Motley, was organized to raise awareness about the importance of staying fit, with the idea of having fun while doing it.
"My goal is to bring some cheer, have some fun, and to inspire other people to step outside of the box and take better care of themselves," Motley, 28, said.
The Egg Harbor Township resident, who teaches adult and kid zumba classes at Linwood's Body in Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness Center, intended for the dance to coincide with the National Day of Service, a day in which Americans are called to help serve others.
"This is a call to get my community healthy and fit," she said.
Motley, who recently began the wellness website motfit.com as a free resource to help others get healthy, arranged for the dance flash mob to be an additional workout for those participating in her Presidential Challenge, a nationwide initiative to get in shape.
Her participants that day ranged from members of her zumba class to fellow dance and fitness enthusiasts. A week of rehearsals beforehand took place at Body in Balance, Motley said.
"The participants in her classes are growing," Body in Balance owner Ellie Hagan said. "I think (the dance flash mob) is a wonderful idea, and Joelle was wise to chose the National Day of Service as a step towards a healthier lifestyle."
One flash mob dancer, Linwood resident Deanna Gatanis, 26, knew Motley as a Facebook friend. The professional dancer and dance teacher, also an advocate for good health, was excited to be involved.
"I've never done a flash mob," Gatanis said minutes before the surprise performance. "I perform all the time, and I've always wanted to do it, so Joelle contacted me, and I was really excited just to try it."
For Motley, the experience also served as a part of her mission: to inspire others through her story and to brighten up South Jersey following Hurricane Sandy.
Just a few years ago, working a 9-to-5 job in sales, Motley found herself overweight and discouraged.
"I was one of the people who had a gym membership and never went," she said.
Now, Motley hopes to motivate others to make some of the same healthy changes she made in order to exercise and eat right.
"I really do know what it's like to be out of shape and overweight and run down," she said. "If I can do it, everybody can do it. And I really feel like a new person … with a second chance."
Motley said she hopes the first dance flash mob is the first of many.
"What's better than some loud music and some dance moves to encourage everybody? No matter what we are going through or what we have going on we still have to take care of ourselves," she said. "This was just too much fun."
Motley teaches Adult Zumba at Body In Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness Center Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and Kid Zumba, for boys and girls ages 4 to 10, on Tuesday and Saturday. Classes are $5. For more information, visit motfit.com or call Body in Balance at (609) 365-8499.
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