Thirty-one sixth graders with ghostly face paint, colored hair or gray wigs and gory-looking t-shirts or blue Beasley spirit shirts moved to “Thriller” on Saturday and joined with a number of people – still to be determined – all over the world in a concerted effort to “Thrill the World,” an event in which “zombies” from all over the world simultaneously dance to Jackson’s hit.
“Thrill the World” is in its third year and it now takes on more significance to fans, young and old, after Jackson’s June 25 death. Saturday also marked what would have been his 51st birthday.
Beasley music teacher Debbie Myre said this is her students’ second tribute to Jackson since the school year began.
“When we first came back to school, Michael Jackson had passed away and the kids are young so they didn’t really know much about him, so we (sang) ‘Will You Be There’ from ‘Free Willy’ and the kids loved that,” Myre said.
Someone suggested that the sixth graders perform the “Thriller” dance and Myre thought it would be perfect for the school’s upcoming October assembly.
But it would be a little more challenging than she thought at first. Reviewing the dance moves on a video, Myre knew it would be a complicated task to teach the kids and turned to the Internet for extra guidance, where she ran across “Thrill the World.”
“I have to tell you it was super easy the way Ines Markelle (creator of “Thrill the World”) breaks it down,” she said. “She puts little phrases with it (to help kids remember the steps) and they do the script for you. ‘Thrill the World’ made all the difference.”
The kids devoted two days of practice a week in their music class getting the moves just right.
Erika Meszaros said her son, Julius, 11, never was much of a dancer but when his music teacher announced his chorus class would take part in the “Thrill the World” effort and dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, something sparked and he began showing his routine to his family in his own kitchen.
“It would be right before dinner,” Erika said. “My daughter’s a cheerleader so it would be a dance hall between the two of them and they’d say, ‘I want to show you my routine,’ ‘No, I want to show you my routine!’ ”
Julius said he was nervous and began to “freak out” when he realized there were people watching his performance on Saturday.
“I’m glad I got through it,” he said. “I was very excited. It was amazing.”
For Mikeena Anderson, 12, who said she’s been dancing since she was 3 and has taken classes, it was “normal.”
“It felt a little difference because I saw all the people around us (for the final performance),” Anderson said. “It took a while to learn the steps but it was pretty easy. … Some of the steps were pretty hard to master and it was hard to memorize the whole thing.”
“Thrill the World” this year is seeking a record count for the Guinness Book of World Records. In October 2008, the count from Record Holders Republic was 4,179 people from 10 nations who simultaneously performed “Thriller.” Thrill Toronto currently holds the record for “Largest Thriller Dance” in one location, with 62 zombies participating.
Every group that participates must have an official witness to document its number of participants. For Beasley, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini was there to count all 31 students and four Beasley staff members, including Principal Susan Kehoe.
“They worked very hard and did an awesome job,” said Kehoe, who also wore face paint and dedicated a couple of practices with the kids. “I did the best I could.”
Kehoe said Beasley is privileged to Myre on staff to teach the kids about music and the meaning of Jackson’s place in the history of pop culture.
“It’s great to be a part of possible history with the Guinness Book of World Records,” she added.”
Myre said her students will perform “Thriller” for the schoolwide assembly on Thursday at 10:10 a.m. with special effects, including blacklights and fog.
“I love the fact that when they come into my room, they just want to be there,” Myre said. “There’s a need for music in our school district and I’m so happy Washoe County School District has a strong music program because when they come into my classroom, even if they’re having a bad day, they leave with a smile on their face. And it just makes teaching all the worthwhile for me.”