Published: Oct 28, 2009 02:00 AM
Modified: Oct 26, 2009 10:47 PM
Angela Escamilla lay sprawled out on Durham Central Park pavilion's smooth, concrete floor.
The 11-year-old's nerves were getting to her as she waited to dance her way into the Guinness Book of World Records.
"What if I mess up? What if I mess up?" she said she was thinking.
The opening footsteps and creaking of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" suddenly cut the silence on the dark, chilly Saturday night. Angela and the other "zombies" -- many in white faces, tattered clothes, and at least one red jacket -- crept and crawled to a stand amid the opening howl.
Afterward, Angela said she felt transformed.
"I was completely going into this musical world," she said. "I have no idea; I just felt the beat."
A diverse group of 42 people from all over the Triangle gathered in downtown Durham to dance to "Thriller." They were among an estimated 23,000 other people in 32 countrieswho brokelast year'sworld record for largest simultaneous dance, according to organizers of the international event.
The event, "Thrill the World," has increased exponentially since it began in 2007 with 62 dancers in Canada. Last year, 4,179 people participated, according to organizers.
Durham's contribution was organized by commercial real estate attorney Susie Bird, 41, of Durham. She and her daughter Bella Cude, 8, learned the "Thriller" dance together after Jackson's death in June.
"She didn't have any idea who he was," Bird said. "It was just a fun summer project."
Then the two found out about "Thrill the World." They thought about going to Atlanta, but the venue there required participants to be at least 18.
"So it spiraled," Bird said, and they decided, "Well, we should do it here."
The downtown crowd ranged from kids who had just learned about the iconic Jackson to a 50-year-old engineer who wanted to memorialize the man he grew up listening and dancing to.
Regardless of their age or occupation, at 8:29 p.m. all dancers were lying on the pavilion floor. Many had arrived hours earlier to rehearse, or attended practice sessions last week. Posters taped to the wall reminded everyone the dance started with the "zombie march," followed by the "march booty swim" and the "shoulder step."
The dancers slid, shuffled, crawled, "turned, looked and stared," before an audience of about 40.
After the final, "stomp," ending "scare," and actor Vincent Price's frightening laughter that ends the tune, the zombies celebrated with high fives and group pictures.
"It was exasperating," Angela said.