Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, twitch, twitch. I am doing my best impression of Michael Jackson in the famous 1980s “Thriller” video, along with about a hundred other zombies assembled in Salem State College’s O’Keefe Center gym on Oct. 25.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, twitch, twitch.
I am doing my best impression of Michael Jackson in the famous 1980s “Thriller” video, along with about a hundred other zombies assembled in Salem State College’s O’Keefe Center gym on Oct. 25.
We are joined by zombies in 10 countries around the world, who all share a common mission: To win the world record for having the most people dancing to “Thriller” at one time.
We zombies are an ugly group, grey-faced, grim and all sporting different battle wounds. There is a blonde in a pink prom dress who is gorgeous except for a trail of bloody entrails hanging from her stomach. Two preteen zombies in matching black-and-white striped tights might be on their way to hip-hop class except for the bloody red gashes torn in their cheeks.
Not big fans of gore, my friends and I are going for the mild-mannered zombie look. Sarah is a pale-faced flapper in a black evening gown; Jeannine, an ‘80s Jazzercise zombie in black tights and pink legwarmers; and I’m a grey-faced schoolgirl in a blue plaid skirt and red sweater.
Before the lesson, there was a kind of zombie bonding session in the ladies room. Women lined up along mirrors traded grey face paint along with friendly pointers on how to look as ugly as possible. College girls came in carrying Louis Vuitton handbags and emerged moments later splattered in blood faces ashen, looking as though they’d just survived an attack by Jason or Freddy.
In the gym we spent an hour and a half practicing the zombie dance, led by a team of Salem State College students and faculty. We stiffen our legs and stumble like Frankenstein, shake our pelvises and twitch our heads as though plagued by nervous tics. We slide and wave our arms, repeating nonsense words like “boogey boogey bop” to help us remember what our bodies are doing.
After about an hour, Jeannine sweats off her silver face paint exposing her scandalously white human skin. She is devastated.
I am having trouble keeping up with the routine, but am faking the tough parts pretty well. In general, the crowd is in synch. We’re like the less graceful cousins of the professional zombies in the MTV video, with only a few stray arms and legs lagging behind.
Just when we’re ready to drop, a man with a video camera steps up onto the bleachers to film our part in breaking the world record. It’s show time! A spotlight is flipped on and a fog machine starts pumping out clouds of white fog. We half expect to see Michael walk out of the boys’ locker room in his shiny red jacket. At the sound of the first note, everyone drops to the floor and begins to rise, slowly, as if climbing from open graves.
Vincent Price’s voice echoes “Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand …”
The beat kicks in and we stumble forward and back, twitch and sway. Through the rising fog, the faces of my fellow zombies glow eerily. The preteen zombies are a few steps ahead of everyone, ponytails swinging in perfect time. Before I know it, the dance is over … Five minutes of booty shaking seems a small payoff after our long practice session, but it is worth it.
At the last note, we strike a threatening pose, glare with all our ghastly glory at the camera and grin, knowing at this very moment thousands of other zombies all over the world are doing the exact same thing.
The good kind of broken record
The zombies at Salem State College helped break the Record Holders Republic world record for Largest Simultaneous Thriller Dance. On Oct. 25, a reported 4,179 people in 10 countries — including Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States and Saudi Arabia — participated in the 14-minute dance. No word yet on whether event, called Thrill the World, earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The event also tried to top another world record, for the most people doing a group dance, but they were unable to exceed the current record of about 190,000 people, set by Canadian schoolchildren dancing the “Hokey Pokey,” according to Salem State.
To learn more about the annual Thrill the World dance event, and to look for updates on the Guinness ranking, visit www.thrilltheworld.com.