In the ship’s daily newspaper called the Compass I read, "come and learn to dance the Thriller".
On the list of things to choose that I call “Things I Might Not Do Otherwise”, that item was in the top three. Wyona and I were on the dance floor for the first lesson and Moiya joined us for the second lesson.
We should have known something was unusual when the dance directors wanted to know our stateroom phone numbers and when we were handed out two pages of instructions about the dance moves. At the end of the second lesson they said that the Thriller dance number was going to be peformed before one of the evening events called the Quest, and that we would be getting front seats in payment for our performance.
That is when Moiya and about 8 others of the dancers went to the side saying we/they were opting out. The cruise staff are adept at twisting arms and giving positive feed back: don’t worry, we will be in the front line for you to follow; no one will be noticing you through the smoke and strobe lights; people who have done this before on other ships have said the performance was one of their cruise highlights.
This didn’t seem possible to me. In the first place, I had been on a previous cruise and the participants that time had been given 5 hours of practise, not the 3 that our shortened cruise had assigned for the dance practise. I told Wyona the next morning that I couldn’t sleep all night, waking all night to practise in my mind all of the phrases I could remember – boogie to the left, boogie to the left, swim, swim, turn to the thriller pose, etc., imaging where my feet would be going. She laughed and said she was having nightmares – that she was mad at the cruise dance directors because they had changed the steps and so she had mutinied and got a group of the other dancers to agree with her that they would do it the old way ... against the wishes of the instructors.
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In real life, Moiya was absolutely OUT – with every excuse in the world. She folded (but just barely) to group pressure and stayed in, if she were to be allowed the middle spot in the chorus line-up, – thinking that there she would be hidden the most from the view of the audience.
Alex came to the pre-performance practise – in the ice rink where a floor slips over the ice so that there is a place for dancing and for the quest events that were to follow.
Alex filmed us on the video of Wyona’s camera – a clip worthy of u-tube.
Here is the problem for the three of us – we know no Michael Jackson songs – not even Thriller, nor have we watched the Thriller videos.
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As Moiya whispered to me weeks later, “Why would I have the lyrics to any of the Jackson tunes in my mind. Twenty years ago I put that music in the category of wickedness that I should never listen to."
The three of us persisted on board, practising our moves in the cabin, pre and post breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When we reached the point of the final choreographic touches to the dance (a place none of us thought the others would reach) Wyona was identified as a confident looking dancer and assigned a place in the back of the line – which at one point turns into the front of the line -- an assignment that made her shoulders slump and her feet stamp a bit and her head shake in disbelief, but what could she do? Look confident! The reward is front line billing – at least when the back line turns into the front and the front to the back.
“Nope,” she said. “We seem to be the only ones in the theatre that are hearing these words for the first time. We are listening cold. The rest of the audience is hot – look at them silently mouthing the words along with the singers.”
After the intermission we were changed. Perhaps it was the Pepsi we drank. But we were actually, entranced. I wonder at this moment what the word transmogrified means, for that word pops into my mind about us. The lyrics, the dancing, the miming, the band, the gymnastics, the costuming, -- magical moments on stage. A fantastic show. Following the audience’s wild clapping and cheering at the end of the show, the cast did a reprise – many more numbers – among them, the Thriller song and the moves that Moiya and I had learned on the boat. People in the boxes were standing, their bodies swaying, doing all of the steps that the cast was doing on stage. Moiya joined in, doing the moves we had learned on the boat, her feet stamping and her hands clapping – the deadman walk, the steps where the head and shoulder meet to simulate a tick, the lion pose – I was crying, I was laughing so hard watching her.
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Moiya wants me to mention that Thriller is not really a show with a plot. All they do is play Michael Jackson songs which are both sung and choreographed. There is a child who comes onstage at first, singing one of Jackson’s earlier songs. And there is another figure that looks like Jackson as an older performer ... but no plot line ... just the songs.On the way home in the subway, we began to plan our costuming which is going to go over the top the next time we get on a boat and there is a chance to perform the Thriller dance. In fact, we were five long tube stops past the place we should have alighted to get the Northern Line home by the time we stopped our conversation and tried to think of how we were going to get home. Moiya was right. There is mortal danger in being Michael Jacksonized.
Move on a few weeks – to yesterday. Wyona left Woodside Lane for Calgary. Moiya and I left Woodside Lane for downtown London, wondering which of the yet unseen West End Musicals we could add to our agenda. We slipped into the theatre where Thriller is staged, not believing that we would get a ticket since Wyona has been there many times and she had never been able to get tickets. But the stars were in alignment – we got producer tickets, right in the middle of the theatre, about 8 rows from the front for the very cheap price of £32.50. We warmed up to the ambiance we could feel in the crowd in the first part of the show, though we napped a bit. I turned to her and asked, “Moiya? Do you know any of the songs. Ever heard “Dirty Diana” or “Bad” before?”