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Night of the Living Thrill

Our writer jumps in on a zombie dance rehearsal for Thrill the World, this Saturday's global tribute to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

By Rula al-Nasrawi

PICTURE THIS: about 30 bodies are lying on the ground somewhere in downtown Santa Cruz on a sunny afternoon. Suddenly they rise as one, dozens of zombies ready to dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." It's not a dream, not a hallucination. This is one of many dance rehearsals for the third annual Thrill the World--a worldwide simultaneous performance of Michael Jackson's beloved creepy dance.

It ain't easy being zombie funkadelic. Dance instructor and local event organizer Quelddy Angelina leads the class through pivots, turns and lurching body twists. Rehearsals begin with a warmup and the stretching of dead bones. Then the dancing begins. The eerie neck twitch and pounding footsteps up and down the cement says this is serious.

Angelina says there are zombies who show up consistently, as well as many new faces each week. This Saturday, thousands of zombies from all over the world will emerge and infest the streets, as they have ever since 2006 when the first Thrill the World happened in Toronto. There will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the countless zombie dancers crowding Cooper Street downtown and possibly even beyond.

"We're closing off Cooper Street, but we may get a bigger crowd than expected," Angelina says, adding that Pacific Avenue would make a thrilling Plan B.

The workshop lasts about an hour and half, and by the end, zombie wannabes of all ages have learned the entire modified version of the dance for Saturday. While none of these dancers is yet in undead attire, that will all change. And the fresh, healthy complexions will be history too; local volunteers from Mariposa's Art will provide face painting throughout the afternoon.

At 5:27pm Angelina and her fellow volunteers will receive a conference call with the official countdown. And then, for the six minutes that follow, the city of Santa Cruz will be ruled by the dancing dead.

Angelina tells me that in 2007, the city of Los Angeles participated in the second annual event and Jackson himself watched from above in a helicopter. This year, with Jackson's untimely death, it is crucial that Jacko fans throw on their red leather jackets and arise from the dead once again. "It is so important to get all kinds of people to dance together and help each other," Angelina says with a laugh. "It's the zombie dance of our time."

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