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Breton zombies thrill late night Jackson fest

Gourin — Zombies invaded the small village of Gourin in the rural heart of France’s Brittany region on Sunday as part of a global tribute to singer Michael Jackson.

Over 700 people, most of them dripping with fake blood, sporting latex scars and wearing suitably ripped clothes converged on this normally quiet French backwater’s community centre to take part in "Thrill the World 2009."

At 2:30 am on the dot 71 of the macabre merrymakers took to the floor to re-interpret the famous zombie dance from the video of Jackson’s 1982 monster hit ‘Thriller’.

The Gourin dancers strutted their stuff at precisely the same moment as fellow Jackson fans in places as far away as Beijing, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Mexico and Sydney. The official start time was 0030 GMT, just after midnight, a reference to the opening line of "Thriller."

International time zones being what they are however, this meant that the event in Gourin started at 2:30 am, just before clocks were turned back an hour to winter time in France.

After the dance-off organiser Delphine Aldag said she had been amazed by the event’s success.

"We were hoping for perhaps 50 dancers and maybe four or five hundred people. It completely surpassed our expectations," she told AFP

"We want to do the same thing next year only bigger," she added.

"We’re planning a whole zombie weekend with films, dancing and a parade through the village," she continued.

Many of the zombie dancers said they had come as a way of saying goodbye to Jackson, who died suddenly at the age of 50 on June 25.

"I came tonight because I couldn’t go to Michael Jackson’s concert in London and this was my way of paying homage to him," said 19-year-old Anna who said Jackson represented her childhood.

Other revellers were just there for the fun.

"I’m here to dance with my cousin. I feel like Michael Jackson when I dance. My favourite song is ‘Bad’," said seven-year-old Matteo, sporting sunglasses and a hat and suit similar to the outfit worn by Jackson in the video for "Billie Jean," another of his hits.

And this being Brittany, the evening would not have been complete without some traditional folk music.

This time the usual Breton airs had a decidedly Jacksonian feel however as a trio of biniou players — Brittany’s distinctive regional bagpipes — bravely blasted out a decidedly original version of the Prince of Pop’s hit "Black or White."

Aldag also said she hoped her village’s participation in the global Jackson fest would silence critics who argue that life in rural Brittany is healthy but dull.

"I organised the event in Gourin because I live here and everyone is always saying that nothing ever happens. Well, that’s wrong. We can organise events that attract lots of people and where you can have fun," she said.

"Thrill the World" has been held annually since 2006, growing from 62 dancers, which organisers say resulted in a Guinness World Record, to last year attracting 4,719 dancers in 10 countries. Its website www.thrilltheworld.com lists 300 events this weekend.

"This year’s ‘Thrill The World’ aims to be an unprecedented global celebration of the life and music of Michael Jackson," said founder of the event Ines Markelle, a choreographer and dance instructor from Toronto, Canada.

It even has the seal of approval of Quincy Jones, producer of the multi-million selling "Thriller" album that features the song of the same name.

With well over 100 million copies sold, "Thriller" is generally agreed to be the best selling album of all time. The eponymous song, which features a celebrated spooky rap by kitsch US horror star Vincent Price, was written by British songwriter Rod Temperton.