Unsuspecting diners in Frary eagerly looked up from their meals, some stricken with fear, others with anticipation, as the loaded opening chords of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” echoed through the grand dining room. A courageous student rose from his seat at a long table and began staggering rhythmically towards the table of infused waters. Suddenly, other students began to creep up to join him in well-practiced zombie walks. Assembling before students was a zombie “Thriller” flash mob.
The group behind this flash mob performance is one which has been practicing for the Thrill the World charity project. Thrill the World is the largest global dance event, breaking and setting new records each year with a staggering number of staggering participants. Events are held in cities and nations across the globe with each event raising money for the charity of its choosing. The events are timed so as to have all participants dancing the original choreography of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson on what is known as “Thrill Day.” This year, Thrill Day falls on October 29 at 7 pm. Thrill the World will have participants dancing like zombies in one hundred countries on five continents this time around.
Thrill the World was established by Ines Markeljevic and broke its first world record in October 2009 with participants dancing in 33 nations. The project was brought to the Claremont Colleges by Jenna Tico SC ’12, after she was exposed to the project in a dance class in Santa Barbara. Struck by the opportunity to use dance as a means to raise money for charity as well as foster a sense of unity across the globe, Tico decided to bring the project to Claremont.
“The narcissism of the typical self-driven dance class suddenly paled in comparison, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of what dancing is supposed to be about–connection, passion, awareness,” said Tico of her discovery of the event. “It is unique to see people come together through dancing in such a global minute.”
The project heightens a sense of community on global and local levels. The Claremont group alone has an age range of fifteen to fifty-five years. Michael Jackson’s music seems able to surpass boundaries effortlessly.
Tico has chosen Women for Women International as the charity to benefit from Claremont’s Thrill the World event. Women for Women assists women who are survivors of war, civil strife, and other such conflicts in becoming self-sufficient, active citizens by supplying them with the appropriate resources. The organization provides support through financial aid, education in leadership, promoting rights awareness, and job training.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to use dance to so wildly impact people’s lives,” said Tico.
The money is raised through donations from spectators and dancers. Each dancer is also encouraged to find sponsors, similar to a marathon. The sponsorship program will be extended after the event through November.
It is not too late to get involved. The final rehearsal will be held from 10-11am on Saturday, October 29 at the Sally Tiernan Field House. Volunteers, zombies, dancers, and donations are still welcome.
“I was in the Zumba class when [Tico] came in to teach us the dance. I thought it was a great unifying and expressive movement,” said Yasamin Soltanianzadeh SC ’12, who witnessed the flashmob. “It completely caught me off guard when they started dancing in Frary. I’m sure it was difficult for the dancers when the music was cut off and I was very impressed by how well they recovered. I think Thriller is easy to connect with throughout generations and nations and it’s very appropriate in that sense.”
Claremont will celebrate Thrill Day on Jaqua Quad on Scripps’ campus. The dance takes place at 7 pm, but zombies will gather at 5 pm to don the appropriate makeup and costumes as well as refresh themselves with Jamba Juice smoothies that will be sold for $3.