ADRIAN - When William Kurutz was 8 years old, he tried to mimic the moves of Michael Jackson as the entertainer pumped up his pop-culture persona with the "Thriller" music video.
Today, as the Adrian resident and millions of people around the globe mourn the death of the "King of Pop," Mr. Kurutz is organizing a Thriller dance event in this Lenawee County community as part of the annual Thrill the World record-setting attempt.
Last year, fewer than 5,000 Thrill the World participants danced to "Thriller" on the same day at the same time in 10 countries, but organizers predict more than 200,000 will this year.
"I have the feeling because of Michael's passing, it will be much bigger than last year," said Mr. Kurutz, who said he's part of a five-member team heading up the Adrian area event. Organizers have met Thrill the World requirements and are on schedule for registering dancers, he said.
With the Thrill the World instruction video to guide him, the 33-year-old computer technician is rehearsing choreography that includes moves such as "jump reach air guitar to the right, tick tock tick tock, rock on, rock on."
Indeed, the popularity of Michael Jackson continues to rock on. Thrill the World still has a global appeal because of the market presence of the "Thriller" album - it was a best-seller worldwide, said Jeremy Wallach, associate professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University.
The album and video were part of an "emerging planetary consciousness," and the "sense that the whole world listens to this," Mr. Wallach said.
At the height of his star power, Jackson was a well-known figure throughout the world, a key reason behind the global appeal of Thrill the World, he said. People in China, India, Nigeria, and more obscure places on the planet know the dance, he noted.
When "Thriller" debuted on MTV, Mr. Wallach said, it was a media event, blending media technology with popular music and creating a culture that has encircled the globe.
The "Thriller" video, Mr. Wallach said, caused a buzz of excitement because of the massive, and expensive, choreographed dances. Nothing on that scale had been done before, he said. It created the idea of mass movement that ties in with Thrill the World: "Anyone can do this dance and the more people, the better," Mr. Wallach said.
You don't have to know shuffle from a back hop to participate. "We will take anybody," Mr. Kurutz said. Rehearsals are expected to be held once or twice a week at a yet-to-be-announced location to prepare for Thrill the World, which is scheduled, depending on time zone, on Oct. 24 or Oct. 25.
Mr. Kurutz plans to encourage Thrill seekers to do more than just dance. "I am thinking we might go all-out this time and get dressed up as zombies," the wickedly costumed characters who scared a generation of kids when the video was released more than two decades ago.
Adrian's proximity to Motown, he said, should be an asset. "There has got to be an unbelievable amount of people who want to be a part of this," he said, and then asked, "Who wouldn't want to be part of a world record?"
Mr. Kurutz said he was devastated when he heard about Jackson's death. "There has been bad news about him with trials and all, but we've always loved Michael for the musician he was," he said.
Thrill the World global events have occurred since 2007, the 25th anniversary of the "Thriller" album which, according to the project's Web site, "crosses boundaries of language, culture, and geography," largely because of the choreography.
The popularity of the video, of course, is primarily tied to Michael Jackson. Other than that, according to the Web site, zombies and dance always have been and always will be cool. And once you learn the dance, you can show off at Halloween parties.
The goal is to get 270,000 participants to break the Guinness World Record for the world's largest simultaneous dance, a title held by 197,569 elementary school students who put their right hand in, their right hand out, and did the hokey pokey in 681 locations across Canada in 2002.
People interested in dancing during the October event can e-mail Mr. Kurutz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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