About 100 students at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School lay across the gym floor, covered in “blood” with distorted limbs.
One crept across the floor, facing them, and raised his hands. Zombies emerged from the floor and followed the direction of eigth-grader Malik Jones — the lead zombie.
The mob of zombies danced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and once they expended all their undead energy, they crawled toward the audience to possibly infect them with the zombie disease.
Friday’s Zombie Day was part of Spirit Week for the school and physical education teacher Luke Adams taught more than 200 students the moves to “Thriller” along with guest student helpers Danica Paguio and Angela Endicott, both seniors at Juneau-Douglas High School.
This coordinated dance is believed to be the largest and first of its kind at the school. Adams said students had been asking for more activities in gym class — specifically dance.
“Teaching PE, there are always kids in the class who are always looking for that thing they want to do,” Adams said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in skills and sports. Some of my best students were looking for something else.”
In the past, Adams has taught some similar coordinated moves through cheerleading, but not any dances.
“Sometimes we’ll have a dance Friday where we turn on music and the kids just dance,” Adams said. “There’s never been anything coordinated to this level.”
The idea was initially met with skepticism from students. Jackson’s “Thriller” — released in 1984 — isn’t exactly new for today’s young minds and the thought of performing in front of the entire school is another chill factor.
“All my classes started doing it, and they were having fun,” Adams said. “We decided let’s do it, let’s do it before an assembly. ... At first there was some question that it was so old. But at the same time they’ve heard it. Everyone’s heard it.”
Adams said they also talked about different aspects of the song and how the video changed music videos.
Adams believes the part that won students over was they were performing it so close to Halloween — they started learning it the first week of October — and because they got to be zombies.
Thriller, Adams said, was chosen because of its uniqueness and because “it wasn’t the ‘Electric Slide.’”
Next year the group of teachers involved with Spirit Week wants to start out the year with an assembly like this to help get students energized and connect with each other.
Adams said it could be difficult to get a large group involved in another dance right away in the school year, but believes it’s possible since there are many who have now done it.
The school tries to have Spirit Week every quarter at transitions, Adams said, which involves getting students and staff to dress up in themes like “twins day” or “monochromatic day.”
DZ is split up into “houses” (Aurora, Midnight Sun, Shooting Star) and each competes for the most participation. The winner is chosen at the end of the week and their house’s insignia is put into a trophy for display.
“Before last year we hadn’t had an assembly in three years,” Adams said, adding his inspiration came from the school spirit at JDHS. “Now, overall there is a more positive feel around the school because the kids are more connected, as you can see with the teachers dressing up.
“It’s a good way to create a lot of those positive relations with kids. You don’t have to be the best student to participate in this week. It gives kids a chance to be involved, gives them a chance to relax and have fun.”
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.