It all started three years ago for Billie Jordan. She had been living in the Garden City for just five weeks when the large Christchurch earthquake happened.
At first, the communications and marketing specialist struggled through the scary, ongoing aftershocks but eventually she decided “enough was enough”.
“I wanted to move as far away from where concrete could fall on me and that’s why I chose to move to Waiheke Island,” she explains.
Shifting to the majestic jewel of Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf and needing a project to throw herself into, Billie came up with the idea of the world’s oldest flash mob.
“I was still pretty traumatised by the earthquake and knew I had to find some way to connect with people. I didn’t know a soul in the small community and I knew it could be seen as a bit strange,” grins Billie, wryly. “I was in a black van, driving around the island and accosting anyone with white or grey hair because I had to try and get as many people as I could in a short amount of time.”
It wasn’t long before she’d gathered together a group of 80-strong elderly residents who are now known as the world’s first, oldest and most popular hip hop dance crew. They go by the name Hip Hop-eration.
“These are elderly people who had lived varied and often amazing lives. They were attracted to moving to Waiheke Island because they were individuals – they didn’t belong in the suburbs.”
After twice-weekly rehearsals at the local community hall, the flash mob was filmed in August 2012 and went viral on YouTube.
Buoyed by the group’s achievement and seeing how much joy they got out of dancing, their can-do Kiwi coach had the idea to turn them into a hip hop dance crew and film their journey.
“I came up with the idea in September but I didn’t tell them until January because I decided if I was going to take them on this adventure, I wanted their family and grandchildren to have it. I had no idea what I was doing but I pitched it to lots of film producers and eventually Incubator ran with it.
“I thought it was just going to be a bit of a video that we could play for an hour on a Sunday. I had no way it would turn out to be a film like this.”
Charting the group’s journey from their initial rehearsals in January to their incredible performance at the 2013 World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas six months later, the local film is called Hip Hop-eration and it’s a heart-warming New Zealand doco that showcases the spirit of Waiheke Island.
“What I love about the film is that they don’t show the gleaming white beaches – they show the moods of Waiheke – and the little baches,” says Billie. “It’s all about our quintessential Kiwi can-do attitudes and being the underdog.”
Now the group have their sights set on another star turn on the world stage. In November, they will be the invited international guest performers at Seniors On Broadway in Taiwan. Go Kiwis!
To check out Billie’s top tips for what to do on Waiheke Island, click here.
By Kylie Bailey