Whit’s End: Community immersion can be a ‘thrilling’ experience
If you go
Thrill the World
Saturday, 4 p.m. Events will take place simultaneously throughout the world, and you can see the magic of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” without leaving the Roaring Fork Valley. Community members have rehearsed the dance at Coredination and Bonedale Ballet since September, and anyone else who knows the dance is welcome to join in.
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Once upon a time, dance was part of my everyday existence. I’ve never thought of myself as a dancer, exactly, but I spent one year on my high-school dance team and four as a cheerleader. Movement felt good, and it was crucial in letting go of shyness. Those performances helped me learn to be comfortable in front of a crowd.
As a child, I was so shy that I would sooner wet my pants than ask my teacher for permission to use the restroom. I wasn’t a particularly confident teen, either, but I was good at following directions. Teach me a routine, put me in front of an appreciative crowd and I’ll blossom.
It’s been 18 years since that was my norm, but I still reminisce on high-school pep rallies. (I know that’s not cool.) One of my favorites was held Halloween weekend of 1999. The senior council, of which I was part, decided the event’s big performance should be an interpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I didn’t get to participate because I was a cheerleader, relegated to the sidelines and dancing the “Macarena.” But I was one of some 2,000 students to eat up the action, and I helped memorialize it in the school’s yearbook.
Eighteen years later, I’ve finally found my opportunity to break down that iconic dance. Thanks to Thrill the World and Coredination, I’ve spent the past two months revisiting lessons learned during my cheerleading days.
Thrill the World began more than a decade ago, and each year since has encouraged groups worldwide to simultaneously perform to the iconic song. The organization provides choreography, which differs slightly from the music video, and instructions. (Visit thrilltheworld.com to start learning it yourself.)
“We want to bring dance to people all over the world. We want to remind everyone that before you believed you couldn’t [dance] you did. We want to connect the world, in fun, celebration and dance. And to show that it CAN be done. It’s not impossible. It just hasn’t been done yet,” organizers wrote on the website. “We think ‘Thriller’ is the best way to reach the most number of people. As a bonus, on Halloween night parties, you’ll get to feel like a superstar in a movie when suddenly everyone erupts in choreographed dance!”
Like my old cheerleading days, Thrill the World offers a precise series of steps. It doesn’t require expertise or even any great ability. Each week, a number of dancers — ranging in both age and experience — have gathered at Coredination’s Carbondale studio to rehearse, and October has been full of performances.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the album of the same name, and the third year of Carbondale’s participation in the event. The main event Saturday will be the group’s seventh performance, and boy, has it been fun dressing as a zombie and wandering our towns.
Also like my cheerleading days, Thrill the World brings people together. I’m still a Colorado newcomer, and it’s been a way to get out in the community a bit more. Although I’m no longer a terrified 5-year-old, afraid to raise my hand in class, I’m still intimidated by new situations and people. Those walls break down when you’re regularly meeting for dance practice, as well as when you walk into a shop in full zombie makeup. (You should’ve seen us wander Carbondale’s First Friday earlier this month.)
Halloween has long been my least-favorite holiday, but perhaps I should reconsider that. Zombies and one of my favorite musicians of the ’80s have been a thrill, after all.
Carla Jean Whitley has amused, or embarrassed, her friends with high-school cheerleading dances for 18 years. You can reach her at email@example.com.