I’m sitting in Super Secret Dance Society Original Agent Annaliese Rittershaus’s unmarked vehicle on President’s Day, with three other soon-to-be-indoctrinated SSDS Agents. We’re parked behind the Artists For Humanity Center in South Boston, waiting for the only local operative with keys to the building — Original Agent Double Espresso (civilian name and rank: Nick Rodrigues, MassArt grad) — to arrive. Killing time in the car, Rittershaus (civilian rank: artist) lets it slip that her clandestine organization contemplated “blindfolding and kidnapping the reporter” — that’s, ah, me — but decided against it, agreeing that a staged abduction might be too hostile, even for a Secret Society.
I can’t tell you how I ended up conspiring with the Super Secret Dance Society because, well, it’s a secret. I also can’t tell you how I found out about the SSDS. Nor can I divulge the gripping contents of the orange envelope I was handed by Original Agent Amy Carpenter (civilian avocations: painting and video-blogging at Amycarpenter.com) and then ordered to destroy after reading.
What I can tell you follows. Although the SSDS is headquartered here in Boston, the Secret Society maintains underground chapters in Washington, Texas, Oregon, Germany, London, and even Portugal. It considers itself “a viral plague of joy” — an epidemic that will spread over your town, your neighborhood, and maybe even your favorite bar, real soon. The SSDS wields Michael Jackson like a scythe (especially “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”). But do not confuse SSDS moves with the Macarena or the Electric Slide (choreography is all original and as OA Carpenter clarifies, “We’re not a cover band of dance”).
I can also tell you what happened at last Monday’s second SSDS meeting. After Double Espresso finally arrives, I’m escorted into the building with nine other agent inductees. OA Carpenter tells us to prepare for our undertaking. She disappears to change into a ruffled skirt over jeans, mirrored sunglasses, and a skull-and-bones shirt that reads BANNED IN 49 STATES; nudity, camouflage, and organ-mapping ensues. One brave agent (civilian name: Jeremy) strips down to green wrist-sweatbands, an Izod shirt, and his underpants. One not-so-brave agent (civilian name: Tim) decked out in a dapper suit disguises himself in a Lucha wrestling mask. A female agent (civilian name withheld) in a striped shirt and jeans grabs a roll of pink tape and strategically affixes hot-pink X’s over her chest and crotch — like inverted pasties and a strapless thong. Me, I’m a chicken: I wrap a fuzzy red boa around my neck, don oversize movie-star shades, and hide in the back.
After lining us up, OA Carpenter briefs us on our objective: we’re here to film a veritable training video of “Operation Panther Storm,” a choreographed series of moves that will be secretly performed in public some night, somewhere in this town, at a moment when everybody least expects it. This will be orchestrated Flash Mob–style, with the SSDS emitting a top-secret transmission announcing the time and place of mission execution — somewhere like the Pill at Great Scott. Then at the assigned hour and location, SSDS agents will covertly convene, someone will blow a whistle, and suddenly a seemingly spontaneous, synchronized-dance routine will explode in the middle of everyone, like a scene from a bad musical.