Olivia Pace’s jaw dropped at the thought that children, her own age 25 years ago, sat glued to their televisions awaiting the world premier of Michael Jackson’s landmark “Thriller” video on MTV.
“It must have been a really big deal,” said Pace, 12 — one of nearly 2,000 people around the globe who participated Saturday in a record setting dance to Jackson’s biggest hit ever. “I never even knew who Michael Jackson was until my grandpa, who’s really into different types of music, told me about him one day.”
To Pace and the rest of her classmates at Mill Creek’s Applause Studio, Jackson is a golden oldie — much like the Beach Boys and Elvis rank with those who remember celebrating the release of “Thriller” in 1982.
“My grandpa and I were watching TV, and they were talking about this video,” Pace explained. “I asked my grandpa, ‘What’s that? I really like it.’ And, that’s when he told me all about ‘Thriller’ and Michael Jackson.”
Pace was bound and determined to dance the lead part when she found out her choreography class was going to learn and perform the “Thriller” routine this year.
“I didn’t end up doing that, but it’s not big a deal,” she said with a shrug. “It’s been fun just being a zombie.”
Her instructor, Alison Young-Herron, had already planned the routine for her class, when a colleague mentioned “Thrill the World,” an attempt — until Saturday — to bust the world record for the largest simultaneous dance.
“I decided to teach the routine after I saw a video on YouTube of a bunch of inmates at a Philippine prison dancing to ‘Thriller,’” Young-Herron said. “When I saw those guys in their orange jumpsuits, I laughed and cried just seeing what dance had done for them.”
She gathered her students around a computer monitor and showed them Jackson’s video. “Almost in unison, they said, ‘he used to be really cute.’”
It wasn’t but a month ago she informed her students they’d be participating in simultaneous dance for the “Guinness Book of World Records.”
In teams as small as 30 and as large as 100, dancers from all over the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries took to the streets Saturday and Sunday, depending on the time zone, in full zombie make-up and costume.
Days before the event, Young-Herron’s students could barely contain themselves.
“This is Michael Jackson. I mean we’re talking about a classic,” 12-year-old Erin Smith said of Jackson’s work. “This is so cool, because we’re going to be in the record books.”
Once the decision was made to participate in the event, Young-Herron and other studio employees started handing out fliers to get community members to join in the fun.
That’s how 13-year-old Sara Jordan and her 42-year-old mother, Emily Jordan, became involved.
“It was something fun I could do with my daughter,” Emily Jordan said. “When your teenager actually says she wants to do something with you, you don’t question it, you do it.”
Sara gets to listen to Jackson all the time, “whether I want to or not.”
She admits, however, she too has become a fan of the “King of Pop.”
“He’s an amazing dancer,” Sara said. “It makes you think of the ’80s, and that was such a happy time. I think it was, anyway.”
Saturday’s event was the beginning of a new tradition for Applause Studio.
“They do it every year to break the previous record,” Young-Herron said. “From now on, I hope we’ll be participating as well.”