Ballroom Dancing ‘Zombies’ Re-create Michael Jackson’s Thriller For Halloween

Sources: Columbia Dispatch – Allison Ward | All Things Michael

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Hunched over, Alan Marcinonis pretended to eat his wife’s right arm while Gloria Marcinonis picked imaginary bugs out of his hair.

They tried not to laugh; after all, stoic zombielike stares were required.

Video: Thriller dancers

The routine definitely wasn’t a ballroom-dancing number, the type that the Northwest Side couple is accustomed to learning at Danceville U.S.A.

Instead of the cha-cha or rumba, the two have spent eight weeks at the Short North studio perfecting their dead-person dance moves and channeling their inner King of Pop in the Thriller Music Video Choreography 101 classes.

“We’re big Michael Jackson fans,” said Mrs. Marcinonis, 52. “It sounded like a blast, and Halloween is my favorite time of year.”

The couple, along with eight classmates and a few instructors, plan to show off their Thriller steps — and their carefully constructed zombie costumes — on Friday evening in a performance akin to a flash mob.

The entertainment will play out on the lawn of Bollinger Tower, a nearby apartment complex on N. High Street.

Studio owner Keith Denlinger decided to offer the class last fall, largely because of the success he’d had with a similar course at a studio where he previously taught.

“It’s so iconic,” he said. “Everyone wants to learn Thriller.”

Plus, the 1982 song puts students of all ages in the Halloween spirit.

The class, open to the public, was limited this year to 10 dancers — about 60 people were involved last year, Denlinger said — because instructors learned that a city permit would be required with more participants. (Still, other curious students and instructors sometimes drop in on studio rehearsals to watch or learn a few steps.)

The Thriller dance isn’t technically difficult, said Kylie Kochert, one of two course instructors; the challenge is in making it look authentic.

“It’s difficult in the fact that Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson,” Kochert said. “He could move like no one else could. There’s tricky timing as well, and he had a little bit of a tic that’s difficult to replicate.”

Before the session last year, she spent several weeks with Tatiana Gonzalez, the other teacher, learning the dance and determining the exact counts for each move.

The students, who are asked to attend at least one of the two weekly sessions, learned the basic steps in September. The instructors unveiled several eight-count sequences each Wednesday night, then reviewed them during the Saturday lesson.

“The teachers, they take their time as we go through it,” said Mr. Marcinonis, 54. “Nobody is left behind.”

This month, more pizazz has been added to the routine.

“That’s where we nitpick and say: ‘Michael Jackson’s really doing more of a head bob there. When you’re dancing, try to incorporate a head tic,’  ” Kochert said.

Students have also received tips on constructing a proper zombie costume.

Oversize clothing, Denlinger said, gives the appearance of an emaciated corpse — the more shredded, the better.

Frizzy hair, maybe with a few leaves, is a must.

And, to achieve a just-out-of-the-grave look, Kochert recommends soaking the clothes in wet coffee grounds.

“Or run them over with a car,” Denlinger said with a laugh.

A makeup artist will visit the studio on Friday evening to add finishing touches to the dancing zombies.

Tamie Rietenbach, 60, needed little help with her get-up: She revived the dead ballerina she wore to her zombie-themed Halloween party last year and added a red letter jacket with “Thriller” across the back.

The resident of the Short North is thrilled to be learning the steps to a music video she recalls watching with friends on the day of its premiere.

For the veteran ballroom dancer, the class offers a distinct way to express herself through movement.

“You can do things crooked and bad, and it looks great,” she said. “You can mess up and make it better.”

Indeed, Gonzalez stressed that notion during a rehearsal in the studio — decorated with bats, cobwebs and gravestones.

“Remember: There are no rules to being a zombie,” she said. “Make it your own. If you feel cool, you’re cool.”

Throughout the 45-minute lesson, she reminded the students to flash ugly faces during the creepy, side-to-side Thriller walk with their hands in the air.

The students should have mastered the moves by Friday for their two-minute performance, to be delivered several times for passers-by — including many who will undoubtedly have their smartphones out to record the spectacle.

The studio plans to host the class again next fall — with the proper permit to open the class to more enthusiasts.

“Thriller has been around so long,” Gonzalez said. “It’s from the 1980s, and it’s 2015 — and we still play it every time we go into October.”


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2 thoughts on “Ballroom Dancing ‘Zombies’ Re-create Michael Jackson’s Thriller For Halloween

  1. You know I love this story because I love the dance and TTW.

    Also love this:
    “It’s difficult in the fact that Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson,” Kochert said. “He could move like no one else could. There’s tricky timing as well, and he had a little bit of a tic that’s difficult to replicate.”

    It’s all difficult for mere mortals. 🙂

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