KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) — Everybody knows ‘Thriller,’ but no one knows it better than the zombie dancers in the original video; one of them paid a visit to a dance studio in Kettering for a special class.
“It’s such a thrill,” appropriately exclaims Vincent Paterson. “I was the assistant choreographer to Michael Peters who choreographed [‘Thriller’]. And I was one of the original dancing zombies.”
Ahead of Halloween, he taught a class at the Funk Lab Dance Center on Stroop Road, breaking down all of the original choreography for a group of kids and adults.
Paterson has a long history working and choreographing with Michael Jackson.
“I worked with Michael Jackson for 17 years because I started as the night fight gang leader in ‘Beat It’,” states Paterson. “I created ‘Smooth Criminal,’ ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ the Super Bowl, the Grammys. I directed and choreographed his first solo tour. You know, he was such an incredible artist.”
“I’m excited to learn the real choreography. I think as a dancer growing up in a studio, I’ve been taught various versions of ‘Thriller.’ So I want to know how it goes from the source.” says Funk Lab Dance Center owner Kelly Dailey.
She capped enrollment for the class at 35 dancers, and she says within one hour, they were sold out.
“My nine-year-old self is just so excited for this. I loved anything Jackson growing up — Janet, Michael, Jackson Five, ‘Thriller,’ ‘Smooth Criminal,’ everything. This is really exciting for me,” says Dailey.
Paterson says ‘Thriller’ is well-known throughout the world and is the most danced piece of choreography in history.
“There’s nothing really, really difficult about ‘Thriller’ if it’s broken down and you learn how to do it. I mean, you don’t have to be an unbelievable technician–there’s no leaps in it; there’s not pirouettes in it,” describes Paterson.
Dancers in the class were encouraged to dress in costume.
“I’m like a zombie ghost,” describes nine-year-old Charlotte Elameto. “I want to look like the people in the ‘Thriller’ dance.”
“My daughter is taking the class, and I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity for them and something that they won’t even realize until they’re older. They might not know how special this is but fast forward to their adult lives and they’re going to think ‘I can’t believe I experienced that.’ that means a lot to me that I can provide the opportunity for them,” says Dailey.
They were able to learn the iconic dance from a dance icon.
“Every time I do it, I can see the room filled with dancers. I can see Michael Jackson dancing beside us, and the energy in that room,” recalls Paterson.
The 72-year-old brings that same energy, passing on the legacy of ‘Thriller’ to the next generation of dancers.