Writing in the nineteen-twenties, Siegfried Kracauer pointed to one such spectacular crowd formation that he referred to as the mass ornament (1995). What he had in mind, in particular, was a popular style of performance that became epitomized by the Tiller Girls, a group of young women dancers who dressed and moved identically in linear formations. Kracauer was fascinated by the mass ornament as an empty form or end in itself and how it reflected the limits or irrationality of capitalist reason. He wrote:- Cayley Sorochan, "The Common in the Crowd"It is the rational and empty form of the cult, devoid of any explicit meaning, that appears in the mass ornament. As such, it proves to be a relapse into mythology of an order so great that one can hardly imagine its being exceeded, a relapse which, in turn, again betrays the degree to which capitalist Ratio is closed off from reason. (1995: 84)What is interesting in Kracauer’s reflections is that the irrationality and the empty meaninglessness of the mass ornament is derived from capitalist rationality itself. Following Weber’s critique of technocratic rationality, and anticipating Horkheimer and Adorno’s writings on the dialectic of enlightenment, Kracauer locates mythology in the spectacular fetishization of form. The mass of performers, mirrored in the mass audience, does not become irrational or dangerous due to its being swayed by emotion (which is clearly lacking in the shallow, repetitive performances) nor in the influence of a great leader (since the spectacle is multitudinous there is no central figure that rises above the crowd). It is the emphasis on form for its own sake, deprived of ends or meaning, that becomes the vehicle for destruction. The consequences of this irrational drive of capitalist reason is not property destruction and street brawls, but rather, property itself and the diffuse symbolic violence that is produced in the form of social inequality.
Today, entertainment that draws its appeal from the spectacular repetitive and abstract movement of crowds can be found on a smaller and more participatory scale in flash mob performances. In flash mobs, social networking sites are used to gather large groups who surprise bystanders by performing a repetitive action in synchrony. Alongside these gatherings that emphasize the synchronicity of movement are crowds that are satisfied with a synchronicity of presence. I include here deviations from the classic flash mob that are geared towards greater social interaction such as metro parties, silent raves, zombie walks, and the apéro géant. The last of these are huge gatherings, popular in France, in which thousands and even tens of thousands of people converge on a public park or square, sit on checkered blankets, and partake in the French late-afternoon tradition of l’aperitif (the consumption of alcohol). The apéro géants are notable in that they are conceived by participants as a competition between cities to see who can gather the most people. The drive towards scale pushes the meaning of the event away from social interaction towards the simple knowledge of an enormous co-presence.
The group (The Rockettes) was founded in St. Louis by Russell Markert in 1925, originally performing as the "Missouri Rockets". Markert had been inspired by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, and was convinced, "If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks... they'd knock your socks off!" The group was brought to New York City by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theatre and renamed the "Roxyettes". When Rothafel left the Roxy Theatre to open Radio City Music Hall, the dance troupe followed and later became known as the Rockettes. The group performed as part of opening night at Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932. That same year, they performed in the first Christmas Spectacular performed at Radio City Music Hall and have performed in consecutive annual productions of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since then. Two numbers from the original production are still performed to this day.-Wikipedia, "The Rockettes"