Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to do the 'Thriller' dance, in 51 steps. Just now I was looking for a notepad and came across the one that, a little over three years ago, I had used to write down the dance moves to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. I bought the HIStory DVD expressly for the purpose of learning this dance routine (originally, to humiliate Bo), and I watched the 'Thriller' video obsessively, writing down the moves. Then I taught it to the other Is Not Magazine editors and we performed it at our 2005 Halloween party, "Mmmmmrrhghhghhhhh: Disco Of The Dead".

This is a bittersweet episode in my life. On the one hand, everyone at Is Not Magazine (and some game ring-ins) learned all these steps in two rehearsal sessions, and there was a real satisfaction to acquiring this body knowledge. On the other, we were tricked into doing it again several days later by the dickheads from Express Media (and some professional dancers/acrobats) at a Miami Vice- themed warehouse party dance-off that remains one of the most humiliating moments of my life.

Now I have decided to share these steps with you - although there are already several online teaching resources for this purpose. They are copied exactly from my notes so I'm sorry if they don't make sense. They make a lot more sense if you compare them with the video. You must imagine a count of 8 beats in every bar of the song. Half-beats are denoted by 'and'.

1. Wait 1 bar. Head and shoulder twitch to right side on 1, 5, 7

2. Stretch arms to sides, angle hips to left, jiggling body.

3. Toss head on 3, turn it to left on 4, still jiggling

4. Turn head back to front on 5 6 7 8. Body still turned left. Step forward with right foot on 5, bring left up behind on 7.

5. Breaststroke movement on 1, tossing head straight back and following thru with body. Do two breaststrokes with body facing left, and two with it facing right, which should bring you to beat 8.

6. Jump to right on 1 with right foot out, leaning back to left side with weight on left leg.

7. On 2, roll body and flick head back.

8. On 3, another little skip to right then flip body and head forward on 4.

9. Shift weight onto right leg. Straight left leg bent with the toe pointed. Flick look over left shoulder on 5, back ahead on 6.

10. Bob down from knees, hips facing left and left leg extended to left. Right arm held slightly out, left arm behind body on 7.

11. Rise up with pelvic thrust to left, swing right arm out on 8.

12. Repeat bob and thrust two more times on beats 1 2 3 4.

13, Bob down on 5 then come up on 6 with legs straight and arms straight up. Clap over head.

14. Lunge to left on 7 with shoulders hunched and hands on thighs. Jiggle head. Slowly draw right leg up to meet left foot and rise to standing position. This takes 7 8 1 2. Stomp right foot on 2.

15. Shrug shoulders on 3 and flick head left on 4.

16. Bring arms up again and clap on 5, then lunge on 6 but to right this time. Up on 2, then 3 and 4 shrug and flick in opposite direction.

17. Then run away with palms slightly out at waist level, shaking head in bemusement. For one whole bar. (NB: In rehearsal we referred to this as the "tard run".)

18. Wait two beats, then face right and rock back left while on tiptoe, making claws to right side on 3 then left on 4.

19. Keep body rigid and swing right foot out, then wiggle hips while shifting weight from left to right over 5 6 7 8, leaning slightly forward.

20. On 8-and, rise onto right tippy-toe, punch right arm into air just above shoulder height. Left leg extended.

21. On 1 2 3 4 wiggle from right to left.

22. (What follows is the routine's key sequence. Even if you nail nothing else, this will convince people that you can "do the 'Thriller' dance". I found it helpful to swing my zombie claws in an arc like a pendulum on the direction changes.) On 5 6 7 take three steps to right with claws, lifting feet. Switch claw direction to left on 8 then switch back to right on 1, then left again on 2.

23. On 2 3 4 take three steps in opposite direction.

24. Claws on 5 6.

25. Jump in air on 7, whirl arms around on 8 from left up around head touch ground.

26. Bend down shaking shoulders, come up again x 2 on 1 2 3 4.

27. Shake hips, right arm and head from right to left x 4 on 5 6 7 8.

28. Pivot backwards on left leg and do same thing facing backwards on 1 2 3 4.

29. Pivot back on 5, weight on left leg, right leg extended, right arm above head.

30. Bring right arm down into guitar pose and swivel hips on 6 7 8.

31. Wiggle hips, shifting weight from right to middle on 1 2 3 4.

32. Wave right arm frantically in air, still wiggling hips on 5 6 7 8.

33. Reach out to right on 1, pull arms in and thrust pelvis on 2.

34. Box stupidly to left on 3, then crouch pose on 4, left knee extended, left hand on knee, right leg straight, right shoulder back, right hand on right kidney.

35. Four zombies pose on 5 6 7 8.

36. Using right foot as pivot, step around it on 1 2 3 4 5 6, thrusting left shoulder for emphasis. Arms held slightly out. Should be facing backwards by 6. Look over left shoulder on 7, back on 8.

37. Stomp forward, starting on right foot, on 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2. Swing whole side of body at once, hunching forward.

38. (3 "cos this/4 is 1/Thriller/2...") On 2-and, jump up, land on right foot first, look left then ahead.

39. On 5, shrug shoulders. On 6, swivel whole body left with left foot forward. Weight even between bent legs. Arms bent like Barbie at waist. On 7-and, reach and pull to left, done by 8.

40. Step on right, bring left leg in front quickly, then right extended to right. (1 2) ("save")

41. Step on right ("from"), extend left. Repeat twice with different legs ("beast", "strike"). On last one, bend arms above head with loose fists held together.

42. After "Thriller" (2-and), thrust hips, wiggle arms still held above head (and-4).

43. Skip on left, then right on 5 6, crossing legs and aiming to step on same spot with each foot.

44. On 7, put feet together. On 7-and, jump feet apart, arms above head, then back toether on 8, then crouch down for 1 2 3 4, lifting head on 4.

45. On 5 6 7 8 rise slowly doing zombie claws.

46. Repeat steps 38 and 39 (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8).

47. Do lame zombie pop-locking for 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2.

48. Do steps 43-45 on 5 6 7 8 except drop back down on 8, then rise up again on 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.

49. Repeat steps 19-24, then on the 8, the pose from step 34, then step 36.

50. Step 37, but only for 1 2 3.

51. Turn back around quickly and do lame group zombie pose on 4.

* TA-DAAA! *

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