The hardest part of learning the moves in Michael Jackson’s legendary “Thriller” music video isn’t the fancy footwork or the hip swivels. It’s the iconic “claw swing.”
“You show your claws to the left, then swing down, show your claws to the right, and go back and forth. People get caught up on that a lot,” says choreographer and dance instructor Ines Markeljevic.
In 2006, after setting the first Guinness world record for largest “Thriller” dance -- Toronto, 62 people -- Markeljevic went global. Taking the flash mob phenomenon to a new level, she began organizing Thrill the World last year, marshaling dancers around the globe to simultaneously perform the steps from the zombie-filled video directed by John Landis. Since premiering on MTV in December 1983, it’s been referenced in films, TV shows, video games and many other venues.
In fact, Markeljevic was in the throes of planning when the inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines thrilled the YouTube world with their version. “I was like, ‘Oh, they beat me to it.’ But I took it as a sign that there are other people out there with this same global ‘Thriller’ consciousness,” Markeljevic says.
In 2007, Thrill the World included 1,722 dancers in 52 cities on five continents, setting a Guinness world record for largest worldwide simultaneous “Thriller” dance. Today, she wants to break that record, with 95 cities, including Berlin, Shanghai and Brisbane, Australia. For the first time, Los Angeles will be one of them, at the Hollywood & Highland complex at 11 a.m. today.
No experience is necessary, either as a dancer or a zombie, though you need to learn the dance in advance. “A year ago I was watching YouTube videos of people doing the ‘Thriller’ dance,” says Mahdroo McCaleb, who co-organized the L.A. event with Amanda Ayres. After learning from Markeljevic’s online videos, he led other dancers last year in San Diego. “I taught a Catholic priest to do the dance. He was walking down the sidewalk and asked what we were doing. We told him and asked, ‘Do you want to do it?’ He said yes, so we put a little fake blood on his head. He already had the outfit.”
The L.A. event will be led by teen dance phenom Adam Sevani, and last-minute participants are welcome. “This project is made for beginners with limited to no dance experience,” says Markeljevic, who will be at Hollywood & Highland. “If you can say it, you can do it. That’s my motto.”
Becoming a zombie in 5 easy steps:
1. Pale skin
2. Circles under the eyes
3. Ripped clothes
4. Blood around the mouth
5. Bruises and lacerations
Shatkin is a Times staff writer.