Mostly, Parisians on the platform of the Paris Métro have to fight with their fellow commuters for a hardbacked seat. But an unusual protest against an advertising stunt on the underground has left them with a very different proposition: a battle for a place on a sofa with a troupe of dancers bouncing on the cushions.
The scene was the result of what demonstrators called a “choreographic attack” on an Ikea advertising campaign over the weekend. The Swedish brand had turned the platforms of four central Parisian Métro stations into mini-showrooms as part of a two-week publicity campaign. Passengers arrived to find brightly coloured sofas and armchairs instead of the usual hard steel and plastic seats. Designer lamps were placed between the sofas whileposters behind them showed trompe-l’oeilbookcases and wardrobes, or displayed Ikea slogans
However, while many commuters welcomed the chance to put their feet up for a few moments between trains, nearly 30 Parisians staged a five-minute dancing flashmob last Sunday to protest against the campaign. To the rhythm of a drumbeat, the dancers whirled and posed around the sofas while others dressed as homeless people lay in sleeping bags around them.
The participants, a mix ofprofessional dancers and French students and teachers, were led by 26-year-old Sandra Abouav. The choreographer had posted a video of 17 dance movements online, including “the ventilator”, “the moustache” and “the fly-catcher”.
The attack was also a protest against advertising on the Métro. Co-organiser Vincent Cespedes is a philosopher and author of several vehement antiadvertising essays. “I want to make advertising tacky,” he said. “People should want to vomit rather than look at it.”
The dancers were also protesting on behalf of the many homeless people who attempt to shelter in the Parisian Métro each night. The usual platform seats are specially designed to be uncomfortable to lie down on, with curved sides and metal armrests. During the Ikea campaign security guards were posted to remove any homeless people attempting to sleep on the sofas.
Ms Abouav saw the sofas as a striking symbol of society’s two-faced approach to comfort. “The labels on the sofas give the price and references, allowing users to go and order their sofas online straight away, while the homeless people can’t even lie on them,” she said, explaining that the dancers bouncing joyfully on the sofas represented the rich people in contrast to the powerless homeless lying beneath.
Mr Cespedes said the action channelled the spirit of the May 1968 student movement, because it brought philosophy “on to the streets”. But the lively scene was far removed from the violent riots of the Sixties. Confused security guards briefly attempted to intervene but decided they could only ask the dancers to stop bouncing.
Métro passengers seemed more bemused than politically motivated. “People were wide-eyed, surprised, there were many smiles,” said Ms Abouav. After five minutes the dancers dispersed, leaving no trace but a video posted online which has intrigued and entertained the French media.