Those who lived through the ’80s can probably picture it in their heads on command; that’s how ingrained it is in the collective consciousness. It’s the “Thriller” dance, and it begins 8 minutes and 28 seconds into what was, at the time, the longest, most expensive music video ever made, right after Michael Jackson’s girlfriend (in the video) turns around to see that Michael has become a zombie.
In fact, some of you might be picturing it as you read this: Zombie Michael, in his tattered red jacket, twitches as the beat comes back up. Then his right shoulder shrugs three times. He turns to his left and extends his arms in opposite directions, the other zombies fall in step with him, and one of the most famous group dances in history begins.
The video, over 13 minutes long and directed by John Landis (of “Blues Brothers” and “American Werewolf in London” fame), caused a sensation back in 1983, but it’s the dance the video begat that has really lived on and, in its own small way, helped foster understanding and bring about positive change.
It’ll have the opportunity to do so again on Oct. 26, at precisely 4 p.m., when dancers around the world will twitch, shrug thrice, turn, extend their arms and take part in “Thrill the World,” an international event that tries to get as many zombie-costumed people as possible doing the “Thriller” dance at the same time.
“This is our fifth year participating with the other internationally registered groups around the world that partake,” said Alexandra Jerkunica, co-owner of Carbondale’s Coredination studio and director of Bonedale Flashmob. “We’re celebrating community and unity and the positive benefits of bringing people together through dance.”
The record for the most people doing “Thriller” at once was set in 2009, when 13,597 zombies danced in the streets of Mexico City. The Bonedale Flashmob contingent won’t be quite as large – Jerkunica expects 25-30 dancers to be on hand at Carbondale’s 4th Street Plaza – but what it lacks in size, it’ll make up for in execution.
The troupe, which has existed in some form for the last five years, coalesced as an official entity about six months ago, when Bonedale Flashmob got a logo and Jerkunica, along with her husband, Anthony, started offering flashmob classes on Fridays (as well as junior flashmob classes on Wednesdays).
“We decided that this was a substantial thing we can offer, and we had enough traction and participation to really make it go,” said Anthony.
The two former professional dancers, who also run Bonedale Ballet and offer classes in yoga, pilates, movement and tap, found a willing crowd of flashmobbers of all ages (the youngest is “around 5,” according to Anthony), and they’ve been honing their routine over the last month with pop-up performances at places like Whole Foods, Mezzaluna Willits and the Carbondale Clay Center.
“You never know where we’ll show up,” said Anthony, “and we’ve been well received. Once they see us, people are like, ‘How do I get involved?’”
The Jerkunicas encourage the public to come out on Saturday to watch the 6-minute performance, but unless you know how to do the dance, you can’t participate this time around. If you do know how to do the “Thriller,” however, show up early and sign an official registration form to be among the tens of thousands of people dancing as one around the globe.
Carbondale’s dancers will be joined by a group in Colorado Springs, as well as more than two dozen others in 14 states, five in Canada (where “Thrill the World” is based) and, at last count, one each in Austria, Brazil, England, Mexico, New Zealand and Russia. There’s a chance even more groups could sign on before Saturday.
“There’s a pretty strong following,” said Alexandra, who was happy to note that her hometown of Graz, Austria, will be participating. “The list always starts small, but as we get closer to the event, it grows within the U.S. and internationally. It just brings people together. Dance makes you feel good, and dressing up as zombies is always fun too.”
Bonedale Flashmob will be accepting donations at the “Thrill the World” event, with all proceeds going to the Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork Schools. Alpine Bank will also be sponsoring the event. Spectators are encouraged to dress in costume to get in on the fun.