Day of the Living Dead

By Matthew Nelson

The streets of an Aberdeenshire town were alive with the living dead last Sunday as over 60 local residents performed a mass version of the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ dance. Not even torrential downpours and flooding could dampen the spirits of onlookers and participants as the event proved to be the climax of Huntly’s Hairst Halloween Festival.

Event organiser Catrin Jeans described the festival as a “great day” and a positive way to promote “community participation”. Indeed it seems that a broad range of Huntly residents were willing to play dead and re-enact the famous zombie dance. Jeans said that “there was a mix of young and old, and not only girls took part.”

The logistics of organising a dance routine on such a vast scale were dealt with by resourceful festival organisers. “We employed a choreographer who held open workshops. We also contacted a lot of community groups and sent our choreographer to them.”

The idea was conceived when Jeans and a friend were watching the popular Youtube clip of Fillipino prisoners performing the dance. Jeans described the clip as “hilarious and amazing” and it occurred to her “how funny it would be to do it in Huntly.”

According to Jeans, Jackson remains a popular figure in the quiet town: “He appeals to so many people in the town and the event was a really good way to celebrate his talent and his tunes.”

Jackson’s routines popularity is not just limited to Huntly though, it does quite literally enjoy universal appeal. ‘Thrill the World’ is an annual simultaneous dance of the ‘Thriller’ routine. This year over 22,000 people participated in more than 30 countries.

The Youtube phenomenon also continues to grow. The Filipino inmates who first found notoriety with their prison yard rendition can also be watched performing dance routines to hits as diverse as ‘Ice, Ice, Baby’ and ‘In the Navy’. It doesn’t stop there though. The Thriller dance is becoming something of a staple as a wedding performance in America. Choreographed ghouls have been replaced by grooms, and corpse brides have been substituted for living ones.

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Huntly resident stut their stuff. Photo courtesy of C. Jeans