’Cause this is ‘Thriller’ class, and you’re gonna need to look alive to keep up.
SOON AFTER THE “Thriller” dance class started, and we booty-bounced and swam our arms and sassed our way across the studio floor, I was proud, telling myself I had this dialed.
How hard could it be? There are “Thriller” flash mobs. I’ve seen the music video. I’ve watched the “Thriller” scene in the movie “13 Going on 30” more times than I can count.
But as teacher Suzanne Simmons showed more steps, from roar turns to air guitar, I could feel confidence in my zombie dancing skills fade. I looked at my friend Olivia, who joined me for class, and we shook our heads. We would be lucky to get to the end of the hour.
Seattle Parks and Recreation
I found the four-week “Thriller” class at Northgate Community Center through the City of Seattle’s Lifelong Recreation program. Before I went, I wondered why they needed four classes to learn one dance. I showed up for the fourth class, where I soon learned.
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At first, I loved getting instruction on the moves, especially the stiff zombie walk and the quintessential Michael Jackson pose, one hip jutting out, one arm extended and flapping my hand as I bounced one hip. It took a few rounds to get the Shuffle Ha Slide, and the timing for when to slide and when to look left. Luckily, you repeat it several times.
But soon enough, I was confused about when and how to do the fast roar turns (lifting one knee and clawing the air with both hands), along with when to hold my upper arms versus zombielike tick tocks of my head and upper body.
For the previous three weeks, Simmons had been teaching chunks of the dance, completing all the choreography by the third class. She sped through the steps in the fourth class, and it still took her 30 minutes.
She told us we were ready for the full six-minute song, though she eased us in with a super-slow version with cues in voice-over with the lyrics, supplemented with Simmons calling out additional cues.
At the end, my head spun. I got my booty bounce, but I missed a lot of other steps or lagged behind. Six minutes is a long time. When Simmons asked whether we wanted to bump up to the slow version, I was happy when other students chimed in for another round of super-slow. I wasn’t sure I could do it at tempo.
The second round of super-slow was an improvement. I got a few more Shuffle Ha Slides, though I still missed the roar turns. I figured out the air guitar to tick-tock move, and did my zombie stare ’n’ glare.
We moved to the slow version, which by then sounded fast. I tried to stay on top of it. After this round, Simmons reminded the class, “If you mess up, why doesn’t it matter?” Someone answered, “Zombies don’t care.”
Finally, it was time. We were here for full-speed “Thriller,” though Simmons played a version that still had dance cues. I got one set of roar turns, and a few more tick tocks. I remembered to hold my scary zombie pose at the end all the way through the Vincent Price laughter. I wished I had been in costume.
I might try the dance again on my own, though it would be tough. The good thing about “Thriller” is you can practice it in your living room. Then you, too, can join a flash mob and be out there on Halloween, doing your best impression of a zombie.