Dozens 'Thrill the World' in Mount Rainier

By Akeya Dickson
Monday, October 26, 2009; 7:41 PM

Some did it for closure. Others for nostalgia's sake. All for their revered King of Pop.

They dutifully came after work and school and on their weekends to rehearsals with their young ones and friends, glassy-eyed and half-dead from a long day's work, running errands and navigating through traffic. After elaborate rehearsals over the span of a couple months, Saturday night arrived, and it was time for one last united homage to Michael Jackson.

Brooke Kidd, executive director of Joe's Movement Emporium, a nonprofit community organization in Mount Rainier, registered the location as one of about 300 official sites in various countries around the globe for "Thrill the World," a synchronized performance of the roughly six-minute "Thriller" dance, which was originally choreographed by Jackson and Michael Peters. Toronto-based choreographer and dance instructor Ines Markelle, 28, spearheaded the annual event in 2006 with 62 dancers. It has since ballooned to thousands of dancers performing in several countries. This was the first time Joe's Movement Emporium participated in the event.

"I'm just so stunned at how well everybody did, people really learned this dance. My heart soared when we all hit every beat and clapped at the same time," said Kidd, who led the performance with eyes outlined in teal makeup and glitter. "It's so inspiring to see that there is this shift to dance again. There are so many different examples and kinds of dances now from "America's Best Dance Crew" to clever Toyota commercials. People are really giving their bodies permission to move."

There was no full moon, but 87 dancers costumed in tattered clothes did their best to invoke the spirits of the zombies and "grizzly ghouls from every tomb" referenced in the song. They staggered back and forth and side to side determinedly to the music, stooped at crooked angles with clawed hands askew, giving up occasional skittish head tics, contorted faces painted white and eyes raccooned with black.

"I actually like Michael Jackson," said Kejuan Westbrook of the District and a studio manager at the organization. "Most of his dances are very intricate, looking at the video makes you want to do it."

Markelle broke down each move in a dance script, which was posted on the walls of the dance studio during rehearsals. As soon as the first ominous beats of the song pulsated from the speakers, the dancers (some experienced and others not so) came alive and executed the "air guitar," "hip n' roar" and "booty bounce," some of the names of the moves that Markelle coined in her online instructional videos.

"I knew the moves a little bit, my mom and I used to watch "Thriller" all the time," said Dasia Jones, 13, of Mitchellville wearing an artfully tattered denim vest and costume makeup fashioned to look like rotting flesh on her cheeks, chin and forehead. "The hardest part was definitely the air guitar though."

Thrill the World set a Guinness Book World Record for the most people simultaneously dancing with 4,719 people participating in 10 countries last year. Dancers in Helsinki, Finland, Ankara, Turkey, Xian Shaanxi, China and Gourin, France among other places contributed to help Markelle reach this year's goal of 1 million participants, especially in the wake of Jackson's death.

"Before he passed away my children had really been listening to his music," said Ivy Thompson, 41, a Mount Rainier City Council member and planner for the Prince George's Parks and Planning Department with pink and electric blue hair pieces and a zombie-painted face. "My son was devastated, so this was a way for closure. This was a good healing for us, to see how many people felt the same away."

Many tried the dance for the first time and made participating in the event a family affair. Belinda Anderson of Waldorf dressed in all black and a ghost mask performed with her two grandchildren, Dayja and Tayten Young of Landover. She stumbled across the announcement for the event while looking on the nonprofit's Web site for a job for her son.

"Our favorite movie is "13 Going on 30" with Jennifer Garner, and she performs this dance in it. We love that movie and would practice off of it," she said. "I was trying to get all my family members involved but we were the only ones who stuck with it, it was absolutely spectacular."

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