By Raiza Giorgi

There aren’t many songs as synonymous with Halloween as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and the group that re-creates the dance from the famous “Thriller” video at the Santa Barbara Courthouse each year ends the event with a finale dance at Neverland Ranch, Jackson’s former home on Figueroa Mountain Road.

Every year World Dance for Humanity organizes the iconic dance anthem at the courthouse’s Sunken Gardens to coincide with “Thrill the World,” the simultaneous participation of dancers at hundreds of locations around the world.

“Thriller 2018” on Oct. 27 will help raise money for the group’s Rwanda Education Fund. The goal is to raise $40,000 each year, said Janet Reineck, executive director of World Dance for Humanity.

This year’s events in the Santa Ynez Valley will be Oct. 28 at several locations, including at wineries and Neverland’s gate.

“We help with subsidizing the cost of education, and we can send 170 students to high school and college next year through the education fund. On a local scale, we also raise money for the Westside Boys & Girls Club, so kids have a place they can go after-school,” said Reineck.

“To know that we are able to help so many here and in Rwanda makes it all the more meaningful. I am so proud to be a part of World Dance,” said Juanita Johnson.

WDFH also organizes flash mob events in the area along with “Thrill the World.”

“You don’t have to be a ‘Thriller’ fan or even a Michael Jackson fan. It’s about a global community moving at once and connecting to each other internationally,” said Reineck.

While the five-week practice sessions for “Thriller 2018” started Sept. 22, Reineck said everyone is welcome to participate on Oct. 27 at the Sunken Garden. There is a suggested one-time donation of $40 for lessons. Reineck encouraged all zombies to get sponsored to dance by family and friends so that more money can be raised. Prizes will be given to the top fundraising zombies.

World Dance has added more dates to “Thriller 2018,” including an Oct. 20 event in Ojai which coincides with the annual Ojai Day celebration.

“We also love dancing up in the Santa Ynez Valley, and culminate our events with a final performance in front of Neverland Ranch,” Reineck said.

For more information on “Thriller 2018” events or to participate as a zombie, go to


The “Thriller 2018” practice schedule continues into the week of October 22. Rehearsal times and locations are:

Saturdays, 10:15 to 11 a.m. – Santa Barbara Dance Center, 127 W. Canon Perdido.

Tuesdays, 7 to 7:30 p.m. – Santa Barbara Dance Center.

Wednesdays, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. – Alameda Park at Garden and Micheltorena streets by Kids World.

Fridays, 5:15 to 6 p.m. – Montecito YMCA.

Fridays, 5:00 to 6:00pm and Saturday 11:30 to 12:30pm – Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA