Kalamazoo attempts to break world record with most zombies dancing to Thriller

Oct 22, 2012

The 2011 Thrill the World event in Kalamazoo
Credit Thrill the World Kalamazoo

Around the world, thousands of people dressed as zombies will dance to Michael Jackson’s song Thriller on Saturday. Kalamazoo is participating in the attempt to set a world record for the most people dancing to the song at the same time. 

On Sunday, eight people gathered at Jazzercise in Portage for a dance workshop. It was one of four workshops to teach the choreography from Thriller. In the iconic scene from that 1984 video Jackson leads zombies in a dance routine. None of the dance steps are difficult, but there are a lot of moves in the six-minute routine, so repetition and spoken cues were the name of the game.

Elise Camps and Julie Frederick led the participants, which included one teenage boy, two pre-teen girls, and three grown women. As rehearsal started they all seemed to be feeling a bit self-conscious, but after many takes-both with and without the music-they started to look like a real dance troupe, if a dance troupe were made up of zombies.

This won’t be the only zombie event this month. Downtown Kalamazoo was host to almost 4,000 zombies last Saturday night, in an attempt to break the world record for Most Zombies Gathered. A record of 4,093 was set in Asbury Park, New Jersey in October 2010. Kalamazoo was just 107 zombies short of breaking that record last week, and another attempt is expected to be made next year.

Thrill the World Kalamazoo is a much smaller event. Last year 29 local dancers did the Thriller routine in front of the downtown Kalamazoo Radisson, but worldwide 29 countries and more than 12,000 dancers participated. What is the point of it all?

Local coordinator Julie Frederick says, “First of all, we do dance for a world record, internationally, so we are dancing at the same time as all the other dancers in the world. And the time for that, in our time zone, is at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, October 27.”

But there’s more to it than setting a world record. Frederick says each participating community is raising money for a local charity.

“The international organization encourages local organizations, such as ours, Thrill the World Kalamazoo, to raise money for a charity," says Fredrick. "So, our dance is raising money for the LADY Program. LADY is an acronym for Learn About Defending Yourself, and that organization teaches women to defend themselves, rape prevention, self-defense, that type of thing.”

One of the dancers at Sunday’s workshop, participating with her young daughter, has a theory about why zombies seem to be extremely popular these days and why so many people are inspired to dress and act the part.

“It might have something with connecting with that base, animal part of yourself, that wants and doesn’t worry about why, perhaps,” she says.

Some of the zombies at Sunday’s workshop seemed discouraged by their lack of dancing prowess. But, as Julie Frederick says:

“We’re zombies, who cares if it’s not perfect? We’re not professional dancers. We’re here, we do the choreography, we have fun.”

Thrill The World Kalamazoo will take place Saturday at 3pm at the Girl Scout Heart of Michigan building on Maple Street in Kalamazoo.