Thrill the World

If salt were to zombies as garlic is to vampires, Jacksonville’s first-ever oceanfront homage to Michael Jackson’s iconic dance scene in ‘Thriller’ might be a hard sell. That is not the case. Thrill the World will hit our Atlantic sand at 5 pm on Saturday, October 26, on the beach in front of the Lemon Bar at Town Center with casual aplomb.
Thrill the World is an annual, international dance event in which participants worldwide perform the memorable zombie dance sequence originally made famous by Michael Jackson and his talented ensemble of undead dancers. Zombies from all over the globe will attempt a world record of the most zombies dancing simultaneously to the song in a global mission to unite the world in music, dance and song. Last year, there were over 9,000 dancers in 181 countries in every time zone.
While this is the first attempt at the Beaches, this is the fifth year for the Thrill the World Jacksonville event. The established Thrill the World Jacksonville dancers will join in the beach event after a performance at 2 pm at the Riverside Arts Market. Event coordinator Kathi Beck says, “They invited us to come out and dance with them, but these beach people hardly ever go in town.”
“We are making it a pirate theme, but anyone can come. You don’t have to be a pirate zombie,” says Beck. “In my mind, it’s Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones coming up the beach. This was a pirate coast so it would be kind of fun to be a pirate. I haven’t seen any other group doing it on the beach, so that makes us different and fun.”
Although Beck tried to get the Beaches on board the movement last year, she was unable to secure the Neptune Beach Senior Center in time to use it as a practice space. This year, she set out early to amass an army of 75 pirate zombies to create the shared experience. The group has yet to attempt a dry run on the sand, but Beck isn’t worried about any missteps as long as the tide cooperates.
“We don’t want it to be complicated. I’m not making it that much work,” Beck says. “People can go down to the beach and just do it. Surely, you are going to go there between now and the end of next month.”
Beck first learned of the choreographed musical mission from her son, who participated in an event in Portland, Oregon. He taught the moves to Beck and some of her friends just for kicks, and the ladies used their newfound skills to host their own girls’ night. “We just dance in the living room,” she says. “It’s Michael Jackson. It’s fun.”
Before being infected with the urge to dance with the undead, Beck admits she was never really a rabid Michael Jackson fan. She respected his talent but she never thought she would be performing his dance moves on the beach in her community. “You can’t help but appreciate him, but to me, it’s not about Michael Jackson,” she says. “I don’t care about zombies or any of that. It’s just about dancing and having fun. The more zombies, the merrier.”
The event is free, but any donations will benefit the Hubbard House of Jacksonville. Everyone is invited to learn the six-minute dance. The tutorial and a written guide to the dance steps are available online at under the zombie guide tab. “You can get costume hints and makeup tips at the website,” says Marie Reeder, event manager of Thrill the World Jacksonville. The last practice sessions for beach dancers are held at 7 pm, October 8 and 22, at the Neptune Beach Senior Center. The Facebook page is