Kristen Sutton fulfilled her lifelong dream Wednesday night, leading a troupe of dancers dressed as zombies to the Michael Jackson song “Thriller” while hundreds of curious people looked on in Portland’s Monument Square.
Sutton wore a red leather jacket and black penny loafers, the apparel Jackson wore in his music video that was released in December 1983.
“I can die a happy woman now,” Sutton said after the so-called zombie flash mob ended to cheers and applause.
Sutton said she memorized the words to “Thriller” when she was 12 and dreamed of dancing in public to the song as a tribute to the world-famous pop singer, who died in 2009.
Sutton, who teaches dance and serves as general manager of the Avant Dance and Event Center in Westbrook, organized Wednesday’s event using social media. She planned it as a simple tribute to Jackson, but it got bigger than she imagined after she posted a notice on Facebook.
About 40 zombie dancers from across Maine danced with her in Monument Square. A crowd estimated at 300 watched.
Dancers were able to perfect their moves by watching an online tutorial video that Sutton posted. She also organized two rehearsals before Wednesday’s performance.
“I am a Michael Jackson purist. I wanted this to be the exact dance video choreography,” she said.
“This is going to be fun. I can’t wait,” said Brian Noyes of Portland, who said he was dressed as a vampire zombie.
“It’s fabulous. I say we do this every other week,” said zombie dancer Leigh Adams of New Gloucester.
The performance began at 5:25 p.m. with the dancers gathered around the base of the Portland Sailors and Soldiers Monument. The living dead remained motionless for a couple of minutes.
When a WBLM radio station van, equipped with rooftop speakers, started playing “Thriller,” the zombies started to move. They clawed the air, bared their teeth, growled and stomped to the beat of the music.
The crowd cheered, took photographs, clapped and sang along as Sutton led the dancers through what appeared to be a nearly flawless routine.
Jackson’s original was released as a 13-minute music video. Wednesday’s performance lasted about three minutes.
Afterward, Noyes crawled on his hands and knees along the base of the monument. Noyes and the rest of the zombies then staggered off to Binga’s Stadium, a nearby pub and restaurant, to celebrate their performance.
“This was an absolute blast,” said Stephanie Hayes, a zombie dancer from South Portland. “I was impressed by the number of people who showed up. That was our biggest fear, that no one would come.”
Before the flash mob started, Reggie Groff spent about 45 minutes applying makeup to Sutton and several other zombies from the rear of his Zombie Blast van. Groff, a video producer who distributes an energy drink called “Zombie Blast,” said the event was a lot of fun.
He said the public’s fascination with zombies has been fueled by end-of-the-world television shows like AMC’s “Walking Dead.”
“Zombies are either the most frightening creatures or the funniest. People are really into them,” Groff said.
Sutton said the large turnout and tight choreography of the dancers — some of whom had never danced in public — impressed her.
“I’m so proud of everyone,” she said.
She said she will stage another zombie flash mob next October. She isn’t sure where it will be held but said it probably won’t be in Monument Square.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:[email protected]