The students and staff at the Los Berros Visual and Performing Arts Academy got their Halloween off to a thrilling start Tuesday morning by collectively re-creating scenes from one of the spookiest — as well as one of the most acclaimed — music videos of all time.

About 450 students, plus several teachers, gathered on the basketball courts at the rear of the Mission Hills campus for a flash mob dance performance set to Michael Jackson’s iconic song “Thriller.” The group hit many of the famed music video’s signature dance moves as other staff members and a few dozen parents looked on.

Heather Anderson, the visual and performing arts coordinator at Los Berros, said afterward that she was pleased with the outcome of the performance, which took place during a morning fire drill.

“I think it went really well,” she said. “The kids were really excited and some of the parents were really excited.”

While the routine was certainly appropriate for Halloween, the reasons for its selection go beyond just the holiday.

Staff members at the school, which transformed into a visual and performing arts campus two years ago, pick a different art form each month to spotlight, and also choose a “master” of that art form to have the students learn more about.

For October, that art form was pop music. And given that the late Michael Jackson is generally considered the King of Pop, he was an easy choice as a “master” to research.

Since Jackson was so revered for his dancing and choreography, the staff decided to have the students focus on choreography during the month.

“The idea was, OK, then what?” Anderson said. “What are we gonna do with that choreography?”

Ultimately, they decided that “Thriller” was a great avenue to explore. Some of the older students performed a more advanced routine based on the 1982 hit song during a school assembly, while everyone — from transitional kindergarten to sixth grade and including students in special needs programs and advanced classes — took part in Tuesday’s flash mob.

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“We just wanted an opportunity to do it as a school, to keep us all together,” Anderson said.

Following the performance, the students received rounds of applause from the audience, many of whom recorded the group dance on their cellphones.

Anderson — who was principal at Los Berros when it made its transition to an arts academy but is now working with special education in the district office before possibly returning as principal at Los Berros next year — said she was happy to see so many parents in attendance.

No notices were sent home to parents, she noted, and the school didn’t exactly advertise its plans. She acknowledged, however, that word likely spread when several parents who went to pick up their kids after school saw teachers practicing Michael Jackson dance moves during a staff meeting in front of the campus.

“They kind of caught wind of it,” Anderson said with a smile.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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