For many dance enthusiasts, including those at DF Dance Studio, Halloween would be incomplete without a rendition of Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
The South Salt Lake-based dance studio has been teaching people how to move like synchronized zombies as a yearly tradition. Participants at this year's "Thriller" class, which is scheduled for Friday night, are in for an extra treat because DF Dance is also premiering its original Halloween-themed production, "Ghost Town."
DF specializes in teaching salsa, ballroom and hip-hop, and all of these styles have been incorporated into the one-time show.
"This is the first time we're doing a production with a storyline, acting and interacting," said Lindsay Nielson, one of the dancers who will perform in "Ghost Town."
Everyone will be encouraged to stay well after the "Thriller" tutorial and performance of "Ghost Town" because the evening's events are part of the studio's biweekly Salsa Socials, and the salsa band Orquesta Latino is set to play until 2 a.m.
" 'Social' is a good word for it," said Maria Ivanova, founder of DF Dance Studio. "It's a really social event. It's all about people connecting through dance."
Creating a space where people can learn to dance and socialize has always been a central goal for Ivanova.
"The studio has a wonderful feel to it. It's not just learning how to dance, and it's not just a business. It's really building a community in Salt Lake," she said.
Ivanova was born and raised in Russia. She also lived all over Europe before moving to Salt Lake, where she studied nursing and anesthesiology at the University of Utah. She pursued a career in the medical field because she believed it was a stable choice. But something clicked as she filled out her application for the U.'s master's program in anesthesiology.
"Sometimes in life, you just have these moments when you realize what you really want to do," Ivanova said. "I was thinking that I just need something consistent and I was like, well, dancing is something that's been consistent my whole life."
So she ditched academic studies for dance shoes.
She has since performed and taught dance across the U.S., and during her travels to cities such as Los Angeles and New York, she experienced a dance culture that she could not find in Salt Lake City studios that fostered building bonds through dance.
"I thought, well, I've seen it in other cities, and I know this is Utah, but we can make it happen," Ivanova said.
Since opening in 2008, DF Dance has become an award-winning studio and garnered the Best of State prize for Best Social Dance Studio in 2010. Ivanova credits the accolades to her studio's emphasis on seeking top talent to teach the different disciplines it offers.
"We tried not to generalize and just tried to get the best in their specialty," she said.
One of those first-rate instructors is Carlos Gomez, a semifinalist in the 2011 Salsa World Championships and a featured performer in "Ghost Town."
"I'm excited for the fact that it's going to be Halloween, so these dances aren't going to be able to be done any other time," Gomez said. "They're so wild, they're so crazy. I guarantee that people haven't seen anything like this."
DF Dance Studio Halloween celebration
Oct. 26 at the studio, 2978 S. State St., South Salt Lake
Learn the dance "Thriller" at 9 p.m.
Watch salsa and bachata dancers perform at 10 p.m.
Watch the production "Ghost Town" at 11 p.m.
Dance the rest of the night away as Orquesta Latino takes the stage