Update! Record set. As of this update (Oct. 29, 2009) 22,923 dancers, in 32 countries, participating in 278 global events, raised $85K for 80 different charities worldwide. ROCK ON.
Here's our Thrilling in Los Angeles, in the plaza between the Nokia and the movie theater. If you know where to look you can see me dancing for a good four minutes, total! (Warning - shooter never stops moving the camera for some reason, so look away when you get dizzy. On the other hand, my guess is shooter was perhaps trying to get a little bit of everybody in at least once.)
Word is the participant count for TTWLA is around 2,300. Pulling on extensive experience elsewhere, I'm calling that number off. I think more people danced than officially registered. That felt more like a neighborhood of 4- to 5-K crowd to me.
Since you don't know where to look above, a couple of screencaps!, helpfully labeled "ME" (in the handwriting of H.P. Lovecraft).
I made tons more, but I think that's enough. O wait, I like this one:
I could hear Moi chattering on his video - fave line Ooo I just saw my hair on the jumbotron! He also accidentally got a shot of Moi on-the-ground at the start of the dance. He was a nice kid:
Oo, here's a still from Gary Leonard, in whose gallery I see parts of myself all over the place, but only this one near-whole body shot! Really, it's like Where's Waldo. This pic is from one of the early rehearsals. I'm just happy I have a pic of me taken by the great Gary Leonard. (It's not just me. When it comes to chronicling Los Angeles, it's like if Gary Leonard didn't shoot it? It didn't happen.0 No, really. If Gary didn't shoot it, it didn't happen.I took his picture once because he happened to walk in front of me at a Thing. Still giggle about that. Man o man, to get a look at his archives...
Then there was this, which I found out about on Monday when the CrackBerry exploded. For the record "it was horrors" was not what I meant to say. I was ambushed after 3 hours straight of teaching day-of newbies the dance; there was a disconnect between what was in my head and what came out of my mouth. As usual:
I've got a bunch of posed shots of me with various uberFun people, but that's enough. I'll hold onto those for myself.
So basically, Sunday was sleep for a very long time, then do as little as possible. I pretty much just searched for photos and videos all day, astonished and delighted watching all of the different videos from all over the world. I must have went through at least 200 of them, but I'm calling these two teens from Sao Paulo my fave:
I shall explain why these two are my fave at a yet-to-be-determined later date. I'll also add the one thing I found hilarious after the fact. At the time, after three hours, I was like PLEASE SOMEBODY COME SAVE ME.
The memory of myself at age 9, hysterically delirious with joy at my very first concert, watching The Jackson 5 at the Front Row Theater.
Mom, who took me to that concert.
James, who could bust out some MJ moves like you wouldn't believe.
Mrs. & Mr. Classy, by request.
In solidarity with the Truth of this column, particularly the graph excerpted below.
O and also this poem, which Alice Walker wrote in 1991.
This is going to be a blast!
Update (short version)! It was phenomenal day. Longer version later.
"The beauty and power of Michael Jackson, particularly in the first 30 or so years of his life, was that he was black. It’s important to stress and explain that because in this “post-race/post-black” moment, it’s become obvious that a lot of Negroes rushing to free themselves from the so-called shackles of blackness, aided by “colorblind” and “progressive” non-Negroes, don’t even know what blackness is: Working like a dog while mired in poverty in Gary, Indiana — endless rehearsals, mastering backbreaking craftsmanship, sweltering under the heat of a father’s dream deferred — all while aiming for a big time mapped out by sweat, hope and faith; that’s black. Not letting your lack of material comforts impede your forward motion; that’s black. Being rooted in the working-class/struggling-class vortex of innovation, perseverance and resilience that has birthed all the Negro musical r/evolutions in this country; that’s black. Building effortlessly on the past and setting a whole new bar for the future; blacker than black. Exercising the prerogative of organic genius by laying claim to shit that already exists and just making it your own; B-l-a-c-k. Mapping the template and setting the pace that will govern the globe; b-b-b-b-black. Coming of age amid proud shouts of “Black is beautiful” and effortlessly embodying the adage, but somehow getting infected with the centuries-old disease of white supremacy and internalized racism that will have you repeatedly take a knife to your natural-born beauty, that’s so very black. Being universal in your struggles and triumphs just by being you: black."
I don't know who the hell musician John Boswell is. I'd never heard of him until stumbling across A Glorious Dawn on the internet(s). In this case my general ignorance of what's going on in pop music cannot be blamed on Me, since this guy came from the internet(s), which are vast and there's no way to keep up with all that's going on there.
A Glorious Dawn knocked me over. Besides being a lovely tune, it triggered memories of my Child Self sprawled in the basement in Cleveland watching Cosmos - and throwing a fit if something was going on in the family that did not accommodate me being in the basement watching Cosmos.
I downloaded Boswell's song, turned it into a cd so I could listen to it in the car and on the home stereo, figured out how to get it onto the CrackBerry, sent the link to many friends I thought would also grok. Then I sent a paltry donation (between paydays when discovered), and eagerly waited to see what he would do next. The first one was so powerful, it signaled that whoever he is and whatever he's up to, he's not done.
We are all connected; To each other, biologically To the earth, chemically To the rest of the universe atomically
[Feynman] I think nature's imagination Is so much greater than man's She's never going to let us relax
[Sagan] We live in an in-between universe Where things change all right But according to patterns, rules, Or as we call them, laws of nature
[Nye] I'm this guy standing on a planet Really I'm just a speck Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck To think about all of this To think about the vast emptiness of space There's billions and billions of stars Billions and billions of specks
[Sagan] The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it But the way those atoms are put together The cosmos is also within us We're made of star stuff We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
Across the sea of space The stars are other suns We have traveled this way before And there is much to be learned
I find it elevating and exhilarating To discover that we live in a universe Which permits the evolution of molecular machines As intricate and subtle as we
[deGrasse Tyson] I know that the molecules in my body are traceable To phenomena in the cosmos That makes me want to grab people in the street And say, have you heard this??
(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)
[Feynman] There's this tremendous mess Of waves all over in space Which is the light bouncing around the room And going from one thing to the other
And it's all really there But you gotta stop and think about it About the complexity to really get the pleasure And it's all really there The inconceivable nature of nature
The two things I Shake My Fist At Over The Injustice Of It All is that I cannot draw/paint, and I cannot dance/choreograph. Happily flailing around is not the same as dancing. Boswell's new one? A dancer should choreograph it.
I cannot wait to see what Boswell comes up with next for this project. I've already got a playlist set up, ready to import the newest. By the time he's done I'm gonna have the most awesome cd ever!
James would have loved loved loved this. Not fair.
** Here's deGrasse Tyson's full quote, wonderfully sampled in the song. This paragraph s part of my DNA.
Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching prestine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we all all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe atomically. That's kinda cool. That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that! It's not that we are better than the universe. We are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.
A few of the jokes sail over my head because they're specific to television in England. The rest is absolutely pitch perfect. Two of my fave crime dramas, featuring three of moi fave actors = Me in hysterics on the floor. Enjoy!
Because after a long time yakking about it, this year I'm actually going to participate in Thrill the World!
The LA event takes place Oct. 24 in the giant, blinky, freshly-minted LA Live mall the city fathers and their developer buddies built downtown. Practice sessions have been going on throughout the region in public spaces such as parks & libraries, at businesses, in homes and I've heard of a couple of ambushed parking lots, but my schedule is such that I didn't have time to hit one up until last night.
Here we are about to start the sixth or seventh run-through (there's tons more people behind me and off to the right. Most were locals, but I talked to people who came in from Pasadena, Long Beach and the IE just for this. Wowie.):
More than one person on the ground looking up at the jet black sky blazing with arclights from the surrounding towers went 'wow, it's so pretty up there'. Our city is a fabulocity of urban. We who live in it tend not to lay on the ground and look up.
I didn't take a lot of CrackBerry shots due to not being able to take pictures and concentrate on not screwing up shoulder-step-nothing-step-shoulder-shoulder-back-shoulder at the same time.
The instructors were a combination of pro dancers and TTW veterans, and they were Made of Awesome. This session kind of broke into two groups. One was lead by a woman called The Queen Zombie, a pro dancer who was lithe, gorgeous, personable, flexible. The other was lead by a guy whose name I got, but did not write down, so by the time I got home I forgot it. It started with an M. Update! His name is Mahdroo.
The Queen Zombie started off slowly, but then moved at a pro pace that I could not keep up with. Think A Chorus Line - here are the moves, got it? here are the next moves, go - which was uber-cool to watch, but left my I'm Not One Of Those Black People Who Can Dance, Actually, in the dust.
Then I noticed the guy in a green T-shirt off to the left, leading a small group with whom he was breaking things down slowly using mnemonic tricks. One of the people near in my group joked "that's the remedial class." And I was allo really? Yay!and shifted over into his group. For me, that made all the difference, even though I'm still kind of sucky with everything that comes after down-clap-slide-set-shift-roar-stomp. I'll figure it out by showtime. The two groups would merge for complete run-throughs lead by Queen Zombie.
Here's me with M and the cheery guy to whom I loaned a pen (but I didn't write down his name, either..his T-shirt reads "free hugs" which immediately made me think warm fuzzy thoughts of CCI) after 2.5 hours of practice. You can see M in this video from tv news shot that morning. He's the one in the top hat.
I wanted a pic with the Queen, but didn't get one. Though it will be a zoo that day, I'll try to get one with her come showtime, because she is indeed made of Fabulous.
Basically, what the instructors do is teach you the dance cold. These volunteer veteran dancers - pro and enthusiast - are sprinkled throughout all of the practice sessions in the region. They know they're dealing largely with everyday people; their approach is one of positivity; they don't care if you're not a dancer, they just want you to have fun and do your best. They are there to help you bring your A-Game. I'm saying this because the TTW homeport has a bit of Stern Messaging about how exact you need to be with the dancing, which could scare folks off. You don't have to be perfect dancer. You do have to be committed to it though, and if you are your ! Woo Joy ! will come through in your performance and you won't suck as bad as you think you do.
I think anyone who would think of participating is already There with their whole heart, and probably not as bad as they think as far as their dancing abilities. Once the group gathers for show, and the energy is crackling among all and the group mind forms? You'll be fine. (But you do need to practice ahead of time so you can tune in. You can't Grock if you're not prepared to pick up the Frequency. Ask Kenneth. He'll tell you all about that part.) This is preparation:
Anywho, for the LA Thriller dance the dress code is Red Carpet Zombies! Which makes sense. Era doesn't matter, style does. The main firm rule is no T-shirts. The second rule is don't wear anything that will hurt your feelings once the costuming people throw blood all over it and shred it. If I had gotten off my ass over the past 1.5 years and made myself a full set of Victorians, that's what I'd wear next week. But I haven't, so I will be wearing my $8 do-over prom dress, since it was purchased over the summer with zombie action streetwork in mind. (Rev. Billy has a choir. I dream of a mobile social justice strikeforce comprised of zombies.) I will also clay my dreads that morning, with full knowledge that I will be dealing with clay in my hair for at least three weeks after. TOTALLY worth it.
What else? Oh! What I didn't realize until I showed up is that LA Live still has the MJ panels from the events that happened after his death still on site, mixed in with new panels for the soon to be released rehearsal footage/film. People wrote tributes all over the new as they had the old:
Because I will never be other than what I am, what was one huge thing I immediately noted about just this one practice for the home team? Latinos, Blacks, Filipinos, Whites, Mulits, all gathered together trying to figure out the dance and having a great time. I've seen pictures of what's happened at some of the other practice sessions, and most of them maintain that diversity.
I love this town!
Update! A very small part of the Santa Monica practice group on Saturday, lead by a guy from Africa. You can't see him in the shot because he's at the front with the non-remedial group. The guy in black was the remedial group leader:
Days later update! So many people showed up for the rehearsal in the Valley (they can call it North Hollywood all they want, but we on The Other Side Of The Hill know the score) that the room in this dance studio was over capacity, and they had to open up another room.
Even later update! The organizers also put together something called Express Practices. These were 1-hour sessions held in corp-heavy areas during lunch hour! How considerate is that?! One was held Friday in downtown LA in a grassy area in front of the Central Library. Here is our instructor manipulating one of the THREE security guys who showed up from Maguire Properties, trying to tell us to go away. This had a happy ending, mainly due to how she handled it. She told the security guys to get their supervisors down here, probably knowing that would take a while, and then just had us quietly working through the moves while they were dealing with that. Eventually they gave up, but left two security guards in place in case we - I dunno, zombie rioted or something - and we finished our practice. The privatization of public spaces thing that some of us rage about and the rest of you go Who Cares? Small example of why that's a problem. Small, less serious example of why this kind of thing (citizen use of public-yet-private spaces) has ended up in the California Supreme Court. For the record, the security guards who showed up were fabulous, in that they did not do what they could have done about us dancing on their grass in front of the city library. More than that I will not say.
Moving on, here is a sucky CrackBerry night shot one of the final rehearsals at Pan Pacific Park down on Beverly. Three groups of zombies dancing at starter/intermediate/advanced levels. We had a beautiful moon above. At this moment I can't remember if it was waxing or waning, and I don't feel like looking it up, but it was gorgeous. One of the dancers who hit up an outdoor session in Santa Monica earlier in the week said that while they were Thrilling, the marine layer rolled in, as it does in that part of the region, and they Thrilled through deep fog.