Photo Credit: Phil Wayes

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Discovering "Thriller:" Houston's Tribute to Michael Jackson

The Setting: Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston; 6pm on a Thursday in July.

The Cast: Several members of a local contemporary dance company, plus over five hundred members of the community who are here to honor a certain Mister M. Jackson.

The action: Both the stage and the lawn at Discovery Green, packed solid with people: some in workout clothes, some in street clothes, and some dressed (rather appropriately) as zombies.

Our company director takes the mic and introduces herself, the instructor (the fabulous LP), and tells the story of how this event came about: LP, who was slated to teach the "Thriller" dance to her summer students, went on Facebook and asked if any of her fellow dancers would like to learn "Thriller" as well. During ther last week in June, she taught "Thriller" to her students on Monday and Tuesday. Two days later, a Mister M. Jackson was pronounced dead. LP and our company director put their heads together, and...well, the rest is history. One week later, over FIVE HUNDRED Houston residents gathered downtown to learn how to "Thriller."

All walks of life have come here to Thrill and Be Thrilled: all ages-- children as young as five and as old as let's-won't-discuss-that; all races, dancers from all levels and genres; people who have never danced a step but have loved Jackson's material from the word "go."

LP is a very gifted instructor. She breaks down Michael Peters' choreography in a way that is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or dance experience. The crowd is super-enthusiastic: they break into cheers and applause after learning every phrase and after every run-through. The vibe is energetic and overwhemingly positive. Photographers and videographers are everywhere, weaving through the crows and across the stage; a news helicopter even flies overhead.

Within and hour and a half, all five-hundred-plus dancers have successfully learned "Thriller." We run through the dance several times; dancers alternating between dancing and watching the others dance. There are many breaks for water, since Dance Houston and Whole Food Market came together to donate water for the event (Thanks, Dance Houston and Whole Foods!).

"Thriller" is danced, photos are snapped, videos are taken, and "Thriller" is danced some more. The evening concludes with a playing of favorite Jackson tunes and an "open stage"-- anyone and everyone who feels compelled to takes the stage and dances their hearts out. Dance Houston collects mailing-list information from anyone who "wants to be informed of upcoming dance events;" many people come up to us asking "Where can I sign up to hear about more dance performances?" They ask questions about our company, what we do, and where and when we perform. This is an exciting and uplifiting evening for our dance scene: Not only did we pay (massive) homage to a major pop icon; but we got the rest of the community involved as well.*

Rest in peace, Mr. Jackson. Have a spiffy eternity.

(You can see both photos and a video of the event at Houston Chronicle's website.)

(*Edited to add: Shortly after I hit "publish," I turned on The Simpsons to see their Michael Jackson episode from 1991, "Stark Raving Dad." It's a particularly well-done episode, and MJ voiced himself and was later credited under a different name. Neat!
And now, here's your moment of Zen:
"Please drink Jesus Juice in memory of deceased vocalist Jackson."

1 comment:

Dance Houston said...

great post! thanks for the coverage and sharing your memories.