AUBURN — Facing an audience in the bleachers Friday, 20 young dancers stood still. At the sound of creaking coffins, they came alive, slowly.

When the familiar tune of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” filled the gym, they started moving, stiffly and slowly as zombies, across the floor, some dragging a leg. As the beat intensified, their pace picked up.

They had those signature Michael Jackson zombie moves down, including the way he lifted his arms as if rigor mortis had set in. They moved their hips and arms in imitation of his famous moves.

Audience members, proud parents and fellow campers were into it. When the number was done, they applauded and cheered.
Welcome to DJ Dance and Performance summer day camp at Central Maine Community College. Friday’s performance was given on the last day of the week-long session.

The camp is one of 45 that have attracted 300 elementary students to the campus. Offerings are diverse: sports, dance, Army, police and the arts.

In the dance camp, participants ranged in age from 9 to 13.

“I signed up because I love dancing. I do it almost every day,” said Scott Venable, 10, of Lewiston.

Elizabeth Pratt, 12, of Minot and Kate Veinott, 11, of Turner said they were there for the same reason.

“I teach myself,” Veinott said. “I wanted to get some help.”

Instructors were Lewiston native Jennifer Farantino of Concord, N.H., and Dan DeBruin, who grew up in Auburn, lives in Falmouth, owns a DJ business and works for a college.

In its third year, the camp was like a combination of three television shows: “Dancing With the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol,” DeBruin said. Attendees learn choreography, singing and performing.

“Thriller” was chosen to learn and perform because of Michael Jackson’s recent death, and because the number so well represents 1980s music, Farantino said.

“I grew up watching that video,” she said. No other entertainer has done the kind of moves Jackson did in “Thriller,” she said. “Who can top that?”

Before the performance, Jessica Girouard of Lewiston said her daughter, Alexis, wasn’t sure what to expect from the camp. After the first day, “she was so excited,” Girouard said. “At home she taught her younger sister the moves they were learning already.”

The campers on Friday also danced to “Bust a Move” and “Fire Burning.” Drew Masse, 12, of Lewiston wowed the crowd with his solo singing of “Alone.”

The show opened with DeBruin calling out each name as lively music played and the audience applauded. Each performer came strutting out in his or her own style, all smiles.

Dave Gonyea, director of summer camps at the community college, said the goal was for kids to “have fun, learn to get along with other kids and learn some skills along the way.”

The most important lesson is to introduce them to college, Gonyea said. “I know it works. When I walk the halls of this college today, I see students I first met in summer camp.”

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Paige Pelletier, 11, left and Shawna Murch, 11, warm up prior to the start of Friday night’s performance at DJ Dance and Performance summer day camp at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

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