Wednesday, October 22, 2014


For the last two weeks of October we are working on the dance sequence from Michael Jackson's Thriller. I remembered trying to teach a little bit of it to my middle school students last year — and it occurred to me that, in terms of making my dance program visible, what could possibly be better than a Thriller flashmob in the quad at lunch on Hallowe'en? I put it out to the kids, and had plenty enough enthusiastic responses to go ahead with it.

(Ordinarily I might be a little leery of performing someone else's choreography... but since there is an organization called Thrill the World which teaches steps and organizes simultaneous performances around the world every year, I figure I'm probably okay with this one).

I introduced the dance by reminding students that this is a serious, technical jazz dance, choreographed by a Broadway choreographer in an apparently Fosse-inspired style… and that it wold be difficult, but that we would do the best we can with it (and have fun too). We're currently in the middle of it, and although some of the technical details are going to be beyond my beginning students, some of the dancers are doing quite well with the material — and there are a few who seem to have been studying the video all their lives, and are often one step ahead of me in teaching it!

One thing that was interesting to me about all this was that when I asked my classes how many of them had ever seen the Thriller video at least once, nearly every hand went up. I realized that the video was made more than thirty years ago… When I was in high school, thirty-year-old music was from the big band era of the war years (there, I've just dated myself), and no one but no one was still listening to it — we'd been through the '60s and protest music, after all, and were way too cool for that old stuff! So the idea that kids these days can still appreciate music from the '80s is kind of amazing to me. Michael Jackson certainly has some staying power, at any rate.

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