“People really have fun getting dressed up as zombies,” said Larisa Hall, one of Thriller SD’s dance teachers, who offers free Thriller classes at her Pacific Beach dance studio, Tap Fever. “You can make a zombie outfit out of pretty much any costume — you can be a zombie bride, a zombie nurse, a zombie cheerleader, anything. People always have fun and get creative with it, even during class.”
Thriller SD has more than half a dozen instructors teaching wannabe-zombie-dancers the moves to Jackson’s most iconic dance. The classes are free, with a suggested $5 donation, and take place all over San Diego, from Pacific Beach to Coronado and La Mesa to Balboa Park. Another teacher, Christopher Olson, even teaches classes in his overly-sized driveway in El Cajon.
“I’m a hairstylist by day, and a special effects zombie make-up artist and dancer by night,” said Olson who has been a part of Thriller SD for seven years. “I had no idea this was going to blow up and become almost like a full-time job on the side, but it’s so fun and I love it.”
Another Thriller SD teacher, Denise Pocholski, added: “Growing up, my fantasy was to be able to perform Thriller. A lot of other people in San Diego must share that fantasy because every year we have new people, young and old, join Thriller SD to learn the dance.”
The group also hosts classes at San Diego’s downtown library, where they teach the Thriller dance to school kids and those at the youth center who are homeless.
“It gives them something to look forward to and lets them know that you can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be,” said Olson. “It opens up their world.”
While classes can be as large as 20 students, Thriller SD has seen its biggest growth in the dance groups’ monthly, and sometimes weekly, Thriller events ranging from zombie dances at the UTC offices and private parties, to performances at community gatherings like October’s Monster Movies for Music and Pacific BeachFest.
Thriller SD will host a Zombie Walk at Pacific BeachFest Oct. 5 starting at the corner of Garnet and Ingraham. The group will also have a wagon in tow, with a boombox playing Halloween music. At 5 p.m., Thriller SD will also be performing the Thriller dance at Pacific BeachFest’s main stage.
“Every year, people just get so excited about it,” said Hall. “They’ll run up to us even if they don’t know all the moves and will try to dance along. It’s fun. It’s ‘thrilling.’”
But with over 1,000 spectators and more than 200 dancers, Thriller SD’s biggest event of the year is the annual Old Town Thriller. On Oct. 19, the group of undead dancers will be performing in Old Town for the eighth year in a row at Heritage Park.
“Despite the news and the documentaries that have come out about Michael Jackson, people still love the dance and this music,” said Hall. “It’s never not going to be iconic and there’s still something to appreciate about a dance that gets people excited to put on a crazy costume and dance with total strangers.”
To sign up for classes, register for events or make a donation, visit Thriller San Diego’s Facebook page or go to tapfever.com/thriller.
Thiller San Diego
What: Zombie Walk on Oct. 5 starting at the corner of Garnet and Ingraham. Thriller dance at Pacific Beachfest’s main stage at 5 p.m. On Oct. 19, the group of undead dancers will be performing in Old Town.