It starts with the "zombie march." Then the "march booty swim," followed by the "shuffle ha slide" and the "hip n' roar."
Remember those phrases and you're on your way to becoming part of "Thrill the World," one woman's effort to get people around the globe to simultaneously perform the "Thriller" dance from the iconic Michael Jackson music video.
Dance instructor Ines Markeljevic is the mastermind behind the event slated to take place October 27 and 28, and she's hoping to draw enough participants to set a record worthy of Guinness. So far there are 84 officially registered events in 80 cities around the world. She will lead a group in Toronto, where the "Thrill the World" precursor--"Thrill Toronto"--was held last year. Besides Canada and the U.S., participating countries include: Croatia, Honduras, New Zealand, the Philippines and Sierra Leone.
Yes, she is looking to set a record, but her larger aim is simple: She wants to unite the world in dance.
Most people have discovered "Thrill the World" through the official Web site and YouTube, where Markeljevic has posted instructional videos. Instead of teaching the dance through counts, she uses words that describe the moves. Remember the word sequence and would-be zombies can learn the dance, says Markeljevic.
Why "Thriller"? Dance transcends any language or cultural barriers that may exist, Markeljevic said Monday. And "Thriller" in particular seems to have a hold on people. "Regardless of where people are in the world, they love 'Thriller,' they want to do the dance," she said.
My friend Suzi Asmus, who's hosting "Thrill the World" rehearsals at her house in Portland, Ore., would agree. It all started in grade school. Her best friend would call her whenever MTV aired a Michael Jackson music video. She remembers running down the street and over the railroad tracks to her friend's house just to watch the videos and learn the choreography. Most Gen-Xers could recount similar tales. (Suzi has a "Billie Jean" routine that has wowed people in at least six countries and eight states.)
Directed by John Landis, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video was more like a short film. It was expensive, it was long (14 minutes) and it was totally captivating. There are some children of the '80s who would say they were never moved to mimic the choreography--most of them would be lying.
Since its debut in 1983, the video has been the subject of tributes and parodies (a sure sign of its longevity): from episodes of The Simpsons and South Park to the Jennifer Garner film 13 Going on 30 to a re-enactment using Lego figures (posted on YouTube, natch).
Wouldn't be caught dead doing it, you say? Let us now turn things over to Vincent Price (insert evil laugh where appropriate): "And whosoever shall be found / without the soul for getting down / must stand and face the hounds of hell / and rot inside a corpse's shell..."