Face-dancing fad lands Edmonds duo in Dutch museum

Scott Amy and Joel Marshall demonstrate face dancing at Seaview Park for Dutch cinematographer Dikla Ziedler.
Scott Amy and Joel Marshall come together in July 2015 to demonstrate face dancing at Edmonds’ Seaview Park for Dutch cinematographer Dikla Ziedler. (Photos courtesy of Scott Amy and Joel Marshall)

During a baseball game at Seaview Park in 1983, two Edmonds teens decided to lay face down in right field. Little did they know that 32 years later, such a random act would earn them a place in the Dutch Museum of The Image, a starring role in a documentary, and a mention in the Washington Post.

Amy and Marshall, where it all began in 1983.
Amy and Marshall, where it all began in 1983.

The story begins when Scott Amy and Joel Marshall, both 16 and attending Woodway High School, happened upon a youth baseball game at Seaview Park. Amy, who still lives in Edmonds with his wife and 11-year-old twins, said he and Marshall don’t remember why they were there. But the two were bored, and they stretched out — face down — in the baseball field.

“No one really responded to us,” Amy said. “But we started doing it at school dances, weddings, things like that.” And people began joining in.

“The attraction is that it absolutely makes no sense,” he said. “There is no reason that somebody should be doing this.”

They called it face dancing.

“None of this was photographed because no one had cell phones back then,” Amy said. “It was just a spur-of-the-moment activity.” However, the two were photographed face dancing for the 1985 Woodway High School yearbook, Sinn Fein, which would provide valuable documentation.

More on that later in the story.

Amy and Marshall, who had been friends since early childhood, graduated from Woodway in June 1985. The summer following graduation, Amy went with his high school German class to Germany. While at a Berlin disco, he face danced. “That’s when it really took off,” Amy said, noting that soon after, photos of Germans face dancing appeared in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

Amy and other American students face dance at a Berlin disco. The German students' reaction? "Completely confused," Amy said.
Amy and other American students face dance in Germany in 1985. The German students’ reaction? “Completely confused,” Amy said.

Amy went on to attend Pacific Lutheran University, where he majored in biology, while Marshall studied drama at the University of Washington. Amy recalls continuing to face dance through college, at public parks, at ski lodges, in bars. “I’ve had girls in high heels dancing on my back,” he said. His wife, Michele (Boning) Amy, who also attended Woodway, “has done her share of face dancing,” he added.

Amy, who graduated from college in 1990, admits he outgrew the face-dancing craze in his early 20s, but the practice continued on. “All of a sudden, friends would say, ‘There are people on TV doing face dancing but they are calling it planking,'” he said.

And that is where the Dutch Museum of The Image and documentary filmmaker Bahram Sadeghi come in.

Last spring, Amy received a phone call on a Saturday morning. “I thought it was a solicitor, and then he said something about face dancing,” Amy recalled. “Turns out it’s the curator for MOTI (Museum of The Image) in the Netherlands, and he wants to come out to interview us.”

Amy called Marshall, a Los Angeles filmmaker and performer. “His response was, ‘It’s about time,’” Amy noted. After coordinating schedules with Amy and Marshall, who flew to Edmonds from California, Sadeghi and cinematographer Dikla Ziedler arrived the second week in July. The pair spent three days with Sadeghi making the film, which was shot at Seaview Park. Amy’s 11-year-old son and daughter also appear at the end of the documentary, titled “The story of Planking.”

The film is part of the MOTI exhibition Planet Hype. According to the MOTI website, the exhibit, which opened Oct. 3, presents a contemporary phenomenon: the hype. In a world that increasingly revolves around media, sharing images, spreading news and browsing the internet for the next scoop, hypes can suddenly emerge. Hypes are capable of instantly dominating the world’s attention.” Among the other “hypes” included in the exhibit: The Ice Bucket Challenge, Je suis Charlie and the Harlem Shake.

Sadeghi, described in the Washington Post article as “the man who prank-called the NSA”, found Amy and Marshall after searching for the origins of planking, which took the world by storm as an “Internet fad” in 2011, according to this CNN article. The article also explained that planking “takes its name from how players mimic a wooden board by lying rigid — preferably in a public place or on an unusual spot, such as a washing machine, a sign or a railing.”

Wikipedia cites Amy and Marshall as initiators of the planking fad, although other websites have pointed to later founders, including two Englishmen who claim to have invented it as the “Laying Down Game” in 1997.

But Sadeghi told the Post that it was the 1985 Woodway yearbook photo that convinced him that Amy and Marshall are the originators of the quirky practice.

This Woodway High School yearbook photo documents face dancing in 1985.
This Woodway High School yearbook photo documents face dancing in 1985.

Amy, now 48 and working at Pacific Vascular near Swedish Edmonds Hospital, said that he and Marshall have done some occasional face dancing in their later years, including at their 30-year Woodway High school class reunion last summer, where other class members joined in.

And he recalled the time that he was on his way to Mexico with friends and met Marshall in a bar in Los Angeles, where they decided to try face dancing for old times’ sake. “The bouncers dragged us out by our feet,” Amy said.

Amy’s parents, Edmonds residents Bruce and Verna Amy, were less than enthralled with their son’s face dancing pastime and are “shocked” by the recent recognition, Amy said. “They can’t believe it.”

His children, though, “thought it was pretty cool. They are doing it (face dancing) now,” he noted. “The next generation.”

As for seeing the MOTI exhibit in person, Amy said that he and his wife were already planning a trip to Europe with the twins next summer, but unfortunately will miss Planet Hype as it ends in March.

“Maybe the new Edmonds art museum would like to bring it here?” Amy asked hopefully.

The Woodway Class of 1985 took the opportunity to face dance at its 30th reunion last summer at the Nile Golf Course.
The Woodway Class of 1985 took the opportunity to face dance at its 30th reunion last summer at the Nile Golf Course.

— By Teresa Wippel

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