Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Michael Jackson - The Grace & Glamour

 my favorite photo of Michael Jackson

it would seem amazing to many
that a world-class fashionista & jewelry designer
(of my age no less)
would be infatuated with MJ all started with the album Thriller
because of my young daughter
...i was a dance student until i went off to college,
& Michael's dance always seemed magical, impossible &
totally awesome...i don't think another person could complete
those triple spiral turns on tiptoes like he did
...when he was to perform at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles in 1993
 I convinced myself I HAD TO BE THERE...not to see football, but to see Michael...
once you saw this man in person & felt his love,
even in a stadium filled with 100,000+ people, saw his performance,
witnessed the show which he, & he alone, designed,
you knew then he was special. 
I never believed any of the hideous allegations
 made aganst him by con-artist people &
publicity-loving D.A.'s &  prosecutors.
He remained a vulnerable child,
but a man whose brilliant talent put him in the
forefront of the world stage. 

With his rehearsal movie coming out,
I thought I would post this tribute to the true genius he was. 
 The article below is a reprint from the L.A.Times on June 26, 2009.

Culture Monster
Why Michael Jackson danced like no one else

June 26, 2009
10:56 am

The way people move is as unique as their DNA -- indeed, it is their DNA in action, living proof of their singularity.

But most dancers have to give it up to become professionals, to lose themselves in the style of a school, a choreographer, a company, an image of unanimity.

Not Michael Jackson. It was his supreme achievement as a dancer to remain indomitably himself and, in the process of entertaining us, to offer a vision of expanded human potential. What's more, long before excesses and obsessions claimed him, he helped turn MTV into DTV, making television the place where dance films set to new music inspired a generation with their creative power and originality.

Best seen in his music videos (where his vocals are pre-recorded so he doesn't have to wear a mike), the components of his personal style are easier to list than duplicate.

Start with isolation: Each move alone as if in a close-up, sudden and incredibly sharp.

Weightlessness: The sense of freedom from gravity and a body with no mass or muscles, just pure torque.

Transformation of the mundane: shadow-boxing and other familiar moves drawn from athletics and pop dance renewed and heightened through a spectacular sense of flow and delirious speed.

Like the brilliantly calibrated gliding steps that formed his signature moonwalk, Jackson's nervy, high-velocity turns seemed to operate in zero gravity, and his finest dance performances gave the illusion of being a momentary impulse, almost accidental in their perfect balances and other evidence of faultless technical control.

If his high-pitched vocal sound simulated perpetual adolescence, the way he moved kept him super-stylized and ageless -- a lover, a monster, a streetwise idealist at home in many cultures and a smooth criminal too.

The finest music-video choreographers who worked with him took what was supremely his and taught it to his backup dancers, expanding the scope of Jackson's style and grounding it in a muscularity and masculinity that kept it from looking over-finicky or effete. A skinny kid in a red-satin baseball jacket might not have one chance in hell of stopping a gang war, but the late Michael Peters made us believe in
“Beat It” (
the galvanic group surges that Jackson generated.

His film performances eventually grew compromised by a reliance on special effects and directors with no talent for shooting dance -- among them Francis Ford Coppola, who managed to undermine Jackson, Gregory Hines and Fred Astaire in various projects, making him Hollywood's champion dance-killer. But Jackson's energy and commitment always remained exciting, even when his directors and an edge of narcissism tainted the result.

Obviously, it is difficult to separate Michael the dancer from the increasingly grotesque celebrity and pedophile suspect that he became, a disfigured creature desperate for attention and profoundly alienating even in the brief, bizarre news clips that defined him in recent years. There is plenty of evidence that he was a seriously disturbed and lonely man, forever remaking not merely his public image but his physical being. We know that he tried to change his nose and then his whole face, maybe even his race -- and that, like many of us, he reportedly stayed in deep denial about aging.

But if he didn't want to look like himself, he always danced liked no one else. That was his triumph.

And that's why we should remember how he worked his lithe, articulate, hair-trigger body more than all the operations, marriages, court cases and financial meltdowns that marked his career.

Most of us never saw him in live performance but think we knew him. Not from the piping, childlike vocals, however catchy, but from the moves -- the unforgettable soul-deep individuality of his dancing. And that's a legacy worth celebrating.

-- Lewis Segal

Formerly The Times' staff dance critic, Segal is a freelance arts writer based in Hollywood and Barcelona.

Long Live Your Music Michael

1 comment:

arlee bird said...

During the 80's I managed a touring theater company which incorporated much dance in the productions. After Thriller came out it set the standard for my choreographers. The moves from the Thriller dance were simple and yet so unique and definining the choreographers could teach non dancers to perform dance numbers that looked good.