Michael Jackson: A Dance Idol

June 29th, 2009 – After Michael Jackson’s untimely death this past Tuesday, his ever-lasting legacy has become widely celebrated. He has accomplished many things – creating his first hit single with the Jackson 5 at just 11 years old, dizzying record sales and armloads of Grammy’s – but perhaps his most important legacy may have been dance. Many performers that follow have to acknowledge Jackson’s presence as a dance phenomenon.

Michael Jackson set the standard for male performers. The moonwalk created an entirely different on-stage presence, revamping male-sexuality. His natural grace, flexibility, and rhythm all helped to make Jackson an undeniable role model in the dance world. Much of his moves were self-taught, as he took inspiration from James Brown, movie musicals, African indigenous styles, and street dance. Jackson was a true innovator and performer at heart. He set aside countless hours to practice his routines, he was dedicated to perfection.

For Jackson, dance was another mode of self-expression. Dance allowed him to create a visual to the lyrics of his songs. Jackson referred to the art mode as the physical embodiment of music. He said dancers should become elements of the song, and exchange thought for feeling. “Thinking is the worst mistake a dancer could make…” explains Jackson. “You have to feel”. As many dancers know well, thinking can lead to error; but to substitute that with feeling, you become engaged in the music and expression.

Michael Jackson’s influence will always be apparent. Many of today’s dancers may not have started without first being mesmerized by the pop idol. Take a look around today’s popular culture and you will see the iconographic inspiration he left behind. For many people, Jackson made dance “cool” again.

Several tributes have since taken place, a security consultant at a prison in the Philippines coordinated 1,500 inmates to the Thriller video. A memorial moonwalk was scheduled at the Eiffel tower on Sunday. Throughout the United States, fans gathered at places relevant to Jackson’s career.  

Although Jackson’s life ended far too early, his presence has yet to expire. We can expect to see a continuance of his life’s work and contributions for some time to come.

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