Ellis & Barnes: Serious Mothers!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

You've Been Struck By...

The Smooth Criminal Swan Kick is illegal in five countries.

Have you seen This Is It yet? It's pretty amazing. No, really.

Like practically everyone, I could rhapsodize about Michael Jackson for days, but it might still be draining for anyone to want to listen. After the sudden death of the man, it was a whole few months of hearing: "I grew up listening to him...", "I used to listen to him as a kid...", "When I was a kid, I used to dance to Michael in my room...", and other similar statements from people stamping their childhood with their own personal history of Michael. So they should. In the eighth grade, we were all Clash fans, but at parties, we'd make an exception for MJ. He got the party started! Here's my personal history: I used to videotape all of his videos and I learned all of the dances. Every single one, and I still know them.

Seeing This Is It seven months after his death was jarring and sad, but magnificent. There's (of course) his music, but I will never tire of watching him dance, especially when he's just riffing on his feet, mucking around in rehearsals in front of his lucky pick of eleven dancers. From 500, to 200, to 11. Watching the A Chorus Line-like dancer selection process gave me chills; I hung up the tutu (and the sparkly thong with six inch spike heels) a long time ago, but there's a dancer in me that will never quit, and that will always want to go back in time and do better. Tonight, the dancer in me felt the tears of those selected by Michael himself. As their names were read, young, coltish blank slates with insane talent, they all at once were able to make us feel like we were picked too. If you watched this as a cynic, your heart would grow three sizes.

I was really trying to pinpoint what it is that I really love about Michael Jackson's dancing, and it came down to that if you saw him walking down the street, he looks like he could blow away in a light breeze (Fred Astaire), but when he's getting down and dirty with heavier percussion and licks, he adds weight to his moves, almost like a football player who can dance (Gene Kelly.) Then he turns everything out on a dime (Rudolph Nureyev), and then turns it all in and keeps it low and secret (Bob Fosse.) Michael had no 'training', but trained hard by observation. He turned his body into a sponge and then created his own moves, each move topping the one before last, until one evening while performing on the 1983 special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, he unleashes The Moonwalk on all of us like a sparkly Land Kraken. "Did he just...?", "What just he...?", "Wait, he's going forwards, but he's going backwards?". Yell straight into my eyes that when you first saw that, it didn't blow your mind. Tell me that you didn't try it yourself, on every surface in your home with every pair of shoes that you owned.

I don't care if he did it, or if he didn't do it. I don't care if he bought the Elephant Man's bones and turned it into a marimba for his monkey to play with. All I care about right now is that he's gone and I hope they hang that doctor out to dry. If I live long enough to where my mind can't tell a bag of grapes from Michael Jackson, at least I'll know one thing: I will still remember the Beat It dance.

It's for this, Michael, that I give you a long overdue thank you.