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Valerie Webber (right) teaches
Zombie dancers, including Shanice Brown, 9, practice the 'Thriller' dance for a flash mob performance at the mall.
BY BRIDGET BALCH
The zombie apocalypse might be coming sooner than anticipated.
Saturday is Thrill the World Day, an international event celebrating Michael Jackson's famous "Thriller" song and dance, and, for the first time, the Fredericksburg area is participating.
Valerie Webber, a local swing dance teacher, decided to organize a flash mob at the Spotsylvania Towne Centre after being inspired by similar events in the Washington, D.C., area.
The 3 p.m. event on Saturday takes place simultaneously with more than 150 other "Thriller" dance routines around the world.
In preparation for the flash mob, Webber has been offering "Thriller" dance lessons on Sunday and Wednesday evenings in exchange for nonperishable food items to donate to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank. She'll collect more donations during Saturday's routine at the mall.
Webber originally thought that she would have to charge for the dance lessons to pay for the rental space at Picker's Supply in downtown Fredericksburg, but she was able to work out a deal with the owner to use the space free.
"I felt bad charging for something they could learn on YouTube," Webber said. Instead, she has collected 100 pounds of food from the dance students to donate to the food bank.
Webber's goal is to have 25 "zombies" participate in the flash mob. Attendance at the lessons has ranged from three to 20 people at a time.
One person who shows up to every practice is Laurie Szymanski. She recently moved to Fredericksburg and thought these lessons would be a fun way to get to know people.
She also has a passion for the dance because she was in college when it became popular almost 30 years ago.
"In the '80s, Michael Jackson was all the rage," Szymanski said.
According to Szymanski, Thrill the World is all about "celebrating Michael Jackson and what he contributed."
Webber began offering the lessons in late September and started by teaching the dance slowly. Throughout the weeks, the lessons have gotten faster, but Webber said she makes an effort to break the moves down for anyone new.
"It's easy. She's a good teacher," said Stephanie Johnson, one of the dance students.
Webber hopes more people will be aware of the Thrill the World flash mob here in Fredericksburg after this year so that even more people will participate next year.
Webber has coordinated with the Spotsylvania Towne Centre to prepare for the event.
She encourages anyone who wants to participate to go all out with zombie make-up and costumes.
The flash mob will perform at 3 p.m. outside of Sephora, and all are welcome to participate.
Bridget Balch: 540/374-5444
The Thrill the World flash mob will take place on Saturday, Oct. 27,
For more information, contact Valerie Webber at 703/622-4957