Deep in San Francisco


Crowd at a “flash dance” in San Francisco. (Photo by Parjanya Holtz/The Inquirer 2010)

When walking down the streets of San Francisco on a weekend night, chances are good you’ll stumble upon Amandeep Jawa. Chances are even better, that, once you’ve found him, he’ll be wearing sparkly blue spandex disco pants while loosely swinging his hips to a Michael Jackson song a few feet away from his MacBook Pro.

Jawa, who prefers to be called Deep because, as he says, he’s too lazy for three syllables, wears those ridiculous looking pants with such implicitness and pride that it’s hard to imagine anyone ever having the indecency to find his appearance comical.

The 40-year-old amateur street entertainer/DJ, whose parents are Indian but who grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, came to San Francisco in the early 2000s to work for Apple on iTunes as a software engineer, and immediately fell in love with the city and its open-mindedness.

Defining himself as an “eco-lefty,” Jawa never misses an opportunity to let it be known that he is proud to be able to call San Francisco his home. But it wasn’t until the fall of 2005 when he got the idea for his flash dances from a Halloween costume he made for himself – a giant disco ball. He said it was the most fun he’d ever had during any Halloween, because wherever he went people started dancing around him. A few months earlier he had visited Paris, where Jawa had stumbled upon a “free, open-air salsa dance party” on the river Seine.

Both these experiences combined led to him gathering up his courage for his first flash dance event on a Tuesday night, on November 22nd, 2005. Contrary to his fears, his first flash dance was a full on success, and throughout the night about 75 people showed up, according to Jawa. Since that first event, five years have passed, and no end is in sight. Jawa says that his mailing list currently consists of over a thousand people.

Jawa didn’t invent flash dance, which is considered a step up in the evolutionary ladder from the flash mob, a random public gathering event that is widely accepted to have been invented by Bill Wasik, a senior editor of the Harper’s Magazine in 2003. The term ‘flash dance’ describes random street dance gatherings like the one Jawa organizes regularly. He often times manages to get somewhere between 80 to a 100 random strangers to dance to his choice of music simultaneously.

Those who’ve been to one of his flash dances are able to confirm that it is hard to miss Jawa’s love for the past decades of pop music when seeing him choose his next Mariah Carey song in his glittery, sparkling disco outfit that stands in stark contrast to his horn-rimmed glasses, bald head and goatee beard on top of his dark skin. It’s a fascinatingly inspiring look that serves as proof for any theory saying that looks are secondary and self-esteem is all that really matters.


Contact Parjanya Holtz at [email protected]