By Katie Penfield

Every Halloween night for the past eight years, our Principia theater and dance students have participated in the Alton Halloween Parade. In an interview with the current assistant professor of dance, Erin Lane, The Pilot gained some insights into the history of this event and its association with Principia. 

The iconic flashmob was partially set into motion by former Principia theater and dance professor Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen. “[Harper-Wilcoxen] was looking for ways to reach out to the community and walked into Frew’s [Bridal shop in Alton] one day,” said Lane. “She asked to speak with the owner, Erin Frew, and they came up with this idea together. So it’s always been Principia…and Frew’s collaboration with the community.” 

The Halloween event in Alton, Lane explained, has two components. The first involves live models in the windows, “which is an amazing opportunity for a lot of the acting students,” said Lane. “It’s super fun for everybody because they get to dress up [with] professional hair and makeup…and scare people in the windows.” This year, about 13 theater and dance students participated as models in the windows, 10 of which were also in the flash mob dance.  

The second component to the event is the flash mob itself. The dance has always been student-choreographed in the hip hop genre. The first choreographer was Jason Wismann, who was not only a dancer but also a full-time athlete at Principia. This year, the tradition continued and the choreography was done by Jacob Villaman, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and minoring in dance.

Since its humble beginnings almost a decade ago, the event has flourished, attracting new members from the greater Alton and Florissant communities. 

The Principia community, as usual, was invited to participate in the event, either as dancers in the flash mob or as general supporters of the parade. DK Dance Productions, a dance school with locations in both Alton and Florissant, was also involved, although this year marked a difference in their method of participation. The dance school recorded a short video with choreography for Michael Jackson’s classic “Thriller” that was shared with people in the general Alton area; the viewers were welcomed to come and participate in the dance. 

The flash mob took place just before the parade made its way around the corner onto Piasa Street. The mob’s rendition of “Thriller” was a hit, impressing the eager audience. Cheering followed the performance, and the “zombies” danced back into the crowd as the music ended. Another successful flash mob and Halloween spectacular for Alton, Frew’s Bridal, and Principia has been added to the local history.

Image courtesy of Katie Penfield