Whatever the draw, a Boise-based branch of Thrill the World is set to break the World Record, yet again, for the largest simultaneous dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” along with groups in thousands of other cities at the exact same time—in Boise’s case, 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Boise Spectrum.
This isn’t the first time Thrill the World Boise has gathered undead members of the community. In fact, this is its ninth year running.
Janelle Wilson, who founded the Boise branch of the event, said, “I saw the talent here, and the possibility here. It wasn’t quite coming to fruition. This was a project for me, to ask, ‘How can I offer more? How can I be a part of the solution?’ I’m super proud that it’s lasted this long.”
While working for the Boise City Department of Arts & History, Wilson was on the lookout for a community event that everyone could participate in, no matter their age, financial situation or ability level.
“I wanted to open up this opportunity to do something that was movement-oriented, performance-oriented, community-oriented—something that everyone could participate in even if they weren’t a dancer in their minds,” Wilson said.
However scary it was to start the flash mob off the cuff, its first performance brought in 79 zombies, and that number jumped to 164 zombies on its most successful year.
“It’s amazing to me that people continue to show up to it. They look forward to it. They invite their friends. They like the spectacle of it. It’s a perpetuating beast of zombies that can’t be killed,” Wilson said.
Some of the supporters include Idaho Press reporter Jeanne Huff, who eventually became a co-producer along with her husband Bob Neal. Unfortunately, Neal passed away in 2015. This year, to commemorate his passing, all donations and proceeds from Thrill the World Boise will go to f*ckcancer.org.
“A lot of people have been and are affected by health care issues. If we can help with that, we’re happy to do so. If we can raise any money at all for people in this situation right now, I can’t think of a better thing to do,” Wilson said.
Zombies of all ages backgrounds come out to dance. Some are as young as 4, and others as old as 74.
“There’s something about “Thriller,” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video specifically, that is very enticing to people. The movements are very complex but accessible to people. It’s something that people get excited about—even if they’re not in the dance community,” said Wilson, who is also a dancer.
For wannabe brain-eaters, it’s not too late to get involved. The final record-breaking count isn’t conducted until the final performance on Oct. 27, and if dancers can’t make that, additional performances are scheduled for be Friday, Oct. 26, the Old Idaho Penitentiary’s Frightened Felons event and the downtown Boise YMCA’s Halloween Carnival.
“I never know what’s going to happen until it happens. It could be 5 people. It could be 500 people. That’s terrifying, but it’s also part of the fun of it,” Wilson said.
Even if you’re not interested in being a dancing zombie, audience members are appreciated.
“It’s not about the performance. It’s about being a part of the community,” she said.
That community is anchored by performers who return each year. For some, it’s a reason to dance again despite their busy lifestyles, for others it’s a chance to share a lasting experience with their families.
“One woman told me she personally had a challenging year with her family and that she brought her daughters to the practices. Afterwards, she sent me a note saying that her family had been going through a hard time,” Wilson said. “Going to this, it was the first time she had seen her daughter [happy and] alive in a year.”
The undead dancing community has no plans to stop its celebrations, and Wilson admitted she’s already thinking about next year’s 10-year anniversary. For now though, she and her cohort are preparing to celebrate something beautiful created from a gruesome holiday.