The Mannequin Challenge is a viral Internet video trend where people remain frozen in action like mannequins while a video is recorded. According to Wikipedia, the phenomenon was started by students in Jacksonville, FL, and their initial posting inspired works by many other groups, including professional athletic teams, celebrities, music groups, and even political campaigns. Lately the videos posted have become increasingly more complex and elaborate.
In 2008, Improv Everywhere performed "Frozen Grand Central," a precursor of the mannequin challenge involving hundreds of people in a flash mob style in New York City's Grand Central Terminal. Other similar acts around the world preceded that, and the entire idea of posing as mannequins dates back to Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s third cousin, twice removed -- at her request).
He conceived the idea in the late-1800s, and wrote about it in his now-classic poem “A little room of mannequins” (below on the left). His poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem “A little road not made of man” (below on the right).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
A little room of mannequins,
Deceiver of the eyes,
Assembled here to thrill and be
On YouTube for surprise.
If views it have, beyond itself,
'Tis viral I can say
I only wait – until the next
Fad carries me away.
By Emily Dickinson:
A little road not made of man,
Enabled of the eye,
Accessible to thill of bee,
Or cart of butterfly.
If town it have, beyond itself,
'Tis that I cannot say;
I only sigh – no vehicle
Bears me along that way.
Dickinson’s ground-breaking work with this type of performance art led to the development of Tableau Vivant, a silent and motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident. Tableau Vivant was all the rage in the later-1880s, and many groups created poses representing poems by Emmett Lee and Emily Dickinson.
Below: Two groups in the 1800s create Tableau Vivant depictions of poems by Emily Dickinson. On the left, "I taste a liquor never brewed," and on the right, "Because I could not stop for Death."