For more than 12 years, Finland held the Guinness World Record for the Largest Game of Musical Statues/Freeze Dance thanks to 1,079 participants who gathered at the annual child fair in Helsinki and played the popular classroom game until every player but one was eliminated after they moved or fell out of their pose when the music was paused.
But the record was broken when 1,308 players gathered on May 16 at the Las Olas Intracoastal Promenade Park in Fort Lauderdale to defeat the Finnish, playing what is now considered the largest game of freeze dance in the world, according to Guinness World Records judges, who certified the results last week.
Unfortunately for the Finnish, these weren't regular competitors but senior athletes (and their families) in town for the 2022 biennial National Senior Games
— considered the largest qualified multisport event in the world, with more than 11,000 athletes aged 50 to 103 competing in 21 sports, including pickleball, power walking, and shuffleboard. The adult gathering outdid the tykes by 229 players.
"They're competitive in everything they do, so they took it extremely seriously. They never do anything in half measures," says John DeNovi, a manager for the National Senior Games Association and emcee of the freeze dance game. "They were very intent on freezing every time the music stopped."
This was the first world record attempt by the National Senior Games Association, a nonprofit affiliate organization council member of the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee. It was organized to promote this year's game partner Pacira BioSciences and its cryoanalgesic treatment, Iovera, which applies freezing temperatures to the site of pain to provide relief, especially among people with knee pain.
"Since their product is cold therapy, we wanted to play on the concept of 'freeze' or 'cold,'" DeNovi explains. "We looked for world records related to those words and settled on the freeze dance."
The record-breaking game lasted 20 minutes.
Photo by Albert Manduca/AP Images for Pacira BioSciences, Inc. via National Senior Games Association
According to the rule of freeze dance, players dance until the music stops and must hold their pose until the music resumes. Anyone who keeps dancing, moving, or fails to hold their pose when the music pauses is eliminated, until one person is crowned the winner.
On Monday, May 16, at the Las Olas Promenade Park, the 1,308 players danced as if in sync to a stereo with a faulty Bluetooth connection as a Guinness World Records judge monitored the event and DeNovi hollered out poses such as "face the ocean" and "balance on your right foot."
"They took it extremely seriously. They were very intent on freezing every time the music stopped."
It took 20 minutes for all contestants but one to be eliminated: 25-year-old Jesse Lee Falling from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who was attending the Senior Games to support his mother, a track and field competitor.
"The dance coincided with the celebration of the athletes, which brings in family members who supported them," DeNovi notes. "It was very appropriate a family member came out on top."
Though a 25-year-old ended up winning the record-breaking dance-off, don't discount the more mature athletes, who competed at the National Senior Games from May 10 to May 23, and can easily put their grandchildren to shame in their respective sports.
Though Falling was the official winner, all 1,308 participants are considered record holders.