Over 200 Ghoulish figures gathered downtown to dance as part of the Thrill the World event, which boasted 30,000 participants worldwide. Photo by Isaac Miller.
Over 200 ghoulish figures gathered downtown to dance as part of the Thrill the World event, which boasted 30,000 participants worldwide. Photo by Isaac Miller.

Hundreds of “zombies” congregated at Cooper St. and Pacific Ave. to Thrill the World on Oct. 24. Bloodstained and boiled dancers of all ages simultaneously got down to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” at exactly 5:30 pm, synchronizing with thousands of dancers from 34 countries and 250 cities worldwide.

“That was pretty much the most amazing thing ever,” said one of the hundreds of spectators, lined up on Cooper St. watching the spectacle.

This is the third year of the Thrill the World event, founded by Canadian dance instructor Ines Markelle, and the second time the dance has been organized in the Santa Cruz area. Last year, the international event set a world record for the Largest Thriller Dance with 4,179 dancers.

This year, a global entourage of over 30,000 thriller dancers shattered the previous worldwide record.

The sudden increase in participants was apparent at the local level as well. While there were only 10 participants for last year’s Santa Cruz event, 250 people attended this year, according to local event organizer, Quelddy Culver. In addition to hundreds of participiants, hundreds of spectators lined the streets to watch.

“Part of [the increase in participants] has to do with Jackson’s passing and the resurgence of his popularity,” Culver said. “But also, dancing is a language we can all speak.”

This message was clear to those who danced, and served as an inspiration to many.

“I’ll do anything for Michael Jackson,” said dancer Tiffany Worthington. “It is an awesome way to remember him. [This] is what he wanted, for us to connect everyone.”

The Thrill the World organization encouraged each local ensemble to collect money and contribute it to a local charity. The proceeds of Santa Cruz’s Thrill the World were donated to Mariposa’s Art, a local non-profit organization that focuses on art and education.

Culver, who has been organizing this event since June, felt donating to Mariposa’s Art was a worthy cause.

“With all of the funding they lost from state budget cuts, I thought [this event] was a perfect fit,” Culver said.

The $600 in proceeds, collected from participants and a makeup booth run by Mariposa, will help them run afterschool programs centered on the arts, music and leadership skills for K-12 students.

Jen Barker, a Mariposa volunteer who helped apply blood, guts and stitches to the ghouls and dancing dead, noted that the organization hoped to provide more than just thrills.

“Mariposa’s mission was to promote a healthy lifestyle, a good body image and big dreams,” Barker said.

Founded 11 years ago in Santa Cruz, Mariposa’s Art runs afterschool art, music and leadership development programs in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties for low-income elementary, middle and high school students.

Rachel Barron, development director for Mariposa’s Art and a 1998 graduate of UC Santa Cruz, explained that the money raised from this event will help fund the organization’s Art and Guitar Teach program.

“This program will instruct 30 high school students on how to teach music and art to elementary and middle school children,” Barron said. “For high school students it is an opportunity for a career-building internship, while the younger students get a positive role model; for both age groups it is an opportunity to use art as a tool to teach life.”

Both dancers and organizers were very satisfied with the event and the cause it will benefit.

“I had a great time,” Culver said. “It’s a perfect way to get people to dance while helping a charity.”