D.C. students surprise downtown passersby with rendition of ‘Thriller’


Savoy Elementary Students drew a crowd of smiling passersby Wednesday with their zombie costumes and their street performance of "Thriller" outside the Old Post Office Pavilion. (Emma Brown/The Washington Post)

Dozens of pint-sized zombies descended on downtown Washington on Wednesday afternoon, drawing a crowd of smiling passersby with their Halloween-appropriate rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Charmaine McDuffie grinned as she walked past the performance on Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of the Old Post Office Pavilion. “They are so cute!” said McDuffie, who works down the street at the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s nice, she said, “to see kids doing some positive stuff.”

The zombies were students at Anacostia’s Savoy Elementary, a long-struggling school in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Principal Patrick Pope is using art as an anchor to transform the school, betting that an infusion of dance, music, theater and visual arts have the power to engage students and lift overall achievement.

The children suited up in costumes and makeup Wednesday and rode the Metro across the Anacostia River for their street performance

Flash-mob dancing is becoming a tradition at Savoy, and one that kids work hard for and anticipate eagerly, said Michael Weems, Savoy’s dance teacher and choreographer. “It’s great to see these kids grab on to something and be excited,” said Weems, who grew up in Southeast Washington and knows where his students are coming from.

Kechelle Settle, wearing one Michael Jackson-esque glove, leads the Thriller performance. (Emma Brown/The Washington Post)

Nine-year-old Kechelle Settle led the Thriller performance, pulling on one Michael Jackson-esque glove and dancing solo before her classmates, lying zombified on the ground, arose to join her.

Her mother, Carla Settle, looked on, capturing the moment on her cellphone. She said the school’s arts focus, including Saturday rehearsals, has been a boon for her daughter, teaching determination and perseverance alongside singing and dancing.

“She loves going to school. She just comes home so enthused ... this is her motivation,” Settle said.

Steps away, Australians Lam Bui and Christina Lim, in town for an engineering conference, stopped to take photographs. “This is fantastic!” said Bui. “A very nice surprise.”

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.

local

education

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local

local

education

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.