Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Flash Mob Celebrates Author

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Flash Mob Celebrates Author

Article excerpt

WYCKOFF -- Dressed in black top and pants, Alexa Racioppi was the first to take to the grassy area in front of the band shell at Municipal Field and start dancing.

It was a little past 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and dozens of parents with children in tow were in the park for a fair -- buying funnel cakes, browsing handbags and other wares and bouncing in inflatable rides -- when the music on the sound system suddenly changed to Camille Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre."

Racioppi, a senior at Ramapo High School, was soon joined by her classmate Ian Cooley. Before long, nearly a dozen teenagers, all dressed in dark clothing, had emerged from among the crowd to join Cooley and Racioppi in a choreographed dance routine as part of a "flash mob."

The performance, which lasted less than 10 minutes and ended with the group reciting a verse from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells," was inspired by the author's writings.

It was one part performance art, another part promotion for "Big Read," a Wyckoff Library-sponsored series of lectures and presentations exploring Poe's legacy, which started on Friday and continues through Nov. 9.

The series is funded by a $7,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a matching $7,500 from The Friends of the Wyckoff Library. The library was one of 78 not-for-profit organizations nationwide to receive the NEA award and the first library recipient among those in the Bergen County Cooperative Library System, said library director Mary Witherell.

Witherell said she chose to highlight Poe because his works appeal to a diverse group and the timing -- fall, the season of Halloween -- was a perfect time to honor the 19th-century American writer credited as the progenitor of the modern mystery and horror genres.

"I wanted to do this in October," she said. "By and large, it's the right time of year to read Poe. He's a little spooky, some of his works are ghost stories. It has a kind of Halloween feel to it."

Poe's influence remains profound and still inspires artists from writers to painters, she said.

"He's America's first great author. That's indisputable," she said. …

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