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Thread: Michael Jackson: The Dancer of the Dream

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    Thumbs up Michael Jackson: The Dancer of the Dream

    Allow me to link this special article discussing Michael Jackson's dancing talent. It's the best one I've ever read on the subject. Mods, if this please is not the appropriate one, please move it where appropriate.

    Michael Jackson was a gifted, unique and outstanding dancer. His contribution to the art of dance is analyzed in this fascinating article by professional flamenco dancer and choreographer, Amor (Lubov Fadeeva).

    Michael Jackson in dance is a subject as vast as space. I can’t talk about it without touching on global issues of the art of dance, but I will try to bring it all together as much as possible – to gather all of the elements I see as facets of something larger, something whole, so we can try to see the entire picture.…

    For me, dance is a global phenomenon, the most sacred and purest art, only matched perhaps by music, poetry, and fine art. The rest is derivative, like the branches of a large spreading tree grown from just one seed. Dance is pure inspiration born in the center of the Universe, expressible through numerous artistic forms and manifestations. Dance is visual music and non-corporeal emotion on a material level; it is spiritual energy creating all existence. This is how I have seen it since my childhood, in the form of feelings, and I will try to explain all this in words.

    I remember how pleased, although not surprised, I was to see that Michael’s book was titled Dancing the Dream. Why did the title refer to dancing and not singing or music? I believe that wasn’t coincidental. Dance was special in Michael’s art – the deepest, most sincere, and most symbolic expression of his philosophy and artistic vision.

    I shall approach this topic in a roundabout way, starting with a quotation from a book by Maurice Bejart, Un Instant dans la vie d’autrui (or Moments in a Stranger’s Life). Bejart is a French choreographer, and the greatest personality in the modern ballet. He is an innovator, a philosopher, and an acknowledged genius in the field of dance. It’s interesting that Bejart grew up in the family of a philosopher: his father headed a society of philosophical research and published a scientific journal. Thus, Bejart grew up in an environment where human thought was valued, and from childhood he was surrounded by books and scientific works. That’s why, when he became a dancer, his art and artistic approach reflected deep thought.

    Bejart declared dance the art of the 20th Century. His ballet company, which consisted of highly respected professionals and achieved tremendous success, had exactly the same name: “Ballet du XXe siècle” or “Ballet of the 20th Century.” The brightest stars of the ballet world collaborated with Bejart.

    One of the chapters in his book is titled, “Turning Dance into the Meaning of Your life.” Let me give you some extracts:

    Dance was turned into a second-rate, decorative, and entertaining art. I mean dance in the West, of course. It is no mere coincidence that dance found itself in such a position in the West, because it was not just dance alone that was turned into a travesty here.

    I have taken dance seriously because I believe dance is a religious phenomenon. It is also a social phenomenon, but first of all, dance is religious. When dance is considered as a rite, both sacred and human, it fulfills its function. But if turned into a form of amusement, it stops existing, leaving only fireworks, or a parade of uniform-clad girls, or electric pinball games – but not dance in its essence. Speaking about this in the 80s is like banging into an open door, but in the 50s that door was firmly locked.

    In the name of God knows what taboo – some kind of fearful shame of the body, the carnal shell of “the soul” – Christianity rejected dance, while the same religion inspired the erection of cathedrals! Cut away from religion, which had made it alive, Western dance, convicted as “carnal,” hid away precisely into flesh: it became a branch of courteous ceremony. Away from religion, dance acquired good breeding in the worst meaning of the word.…

    But where has the ritual gone? The need to receive the Sacrament in both dimensions: vertical and horizontal, sacred and social?

    The appearance of Diaghilev with his Russian ballets in the beginning of the century was revolutionary. But this revolution was aesthetic. Meanwhile, the dance needed ethical revolution, but even aesthetic revolution was a big step forward! Great musicians, such as Stravinsky, finally began composing music for dancing. Great artists – Picasso, Derain, Braque – worked on stage designs and costumes. The world also saw incredible stage designer Leon Bakst.

    The Western audience instinctively felt a great need for dance that hadn’t had its essence emasculated. Yearning for unity, youngsters search for new rituals in rock, pop music, or disco – and they are right. Each era has to create its own rituals. The rites of our parents have necrotized and lost meaning.

    Novelty in dance is not an aesthetic problem anymore. We feel a much deeper need to address social matters and our perception of the world. We don’t need to tell dance anything – it has a lot to say!

    I’m speaking from the heart. With each day, I’m becoming more and more certain that dance is the art of the 20th Century.…

    A day has to come when everybody will be dancing.
    Nature of Singularity

    Since my childhood, dance has been a sort of religion for me, if not purely religion. Any art in essence performs the role of a cult, the role of a spiritual advisor, and other roles that bring it close to being a religion, to varying degrees for each art. But dance has a special role in this case. I wouldn’t want to cultivate the idea that dance must always convey something religious, but you have to consider that, historically, dance derived from religion. Its initial role was spiritual and sacred and not simply decorative, as Maurice Bejart rightly stated.

    When people watch Michael Jackson in awe, a miracle happens. They experience a moment when dance offers them something exciting and incomparable. Practically everyone who seriously considers Michael’s dancing will surely note a certain mysterious, unique quality in this entertainer that makes his art inimitable. Thousands of people have learned many of Michael’s distinctive moves and steps, but no one can perform them exactly the way he does. That’s why all attempts to imitate him (even by professional dancers) are doomed to failure: any Jackson impersonator is a surrogate in the eyes of ardent Jackson fans.

    To me, the legions of Michael Jackson impersonators imitating his dance moves are pure profanation. His bodily presence and emotional expression on stage cannot be copied. He is recognizable by the tiniest nuance, not to mention his one-of-a-kind energy. Even if a dancer can brilliantly perform the same dance elements, it’s impossible to copy Michael’s hand. In this regard, those impersonators who use Jackson’s style simply as a basis for their own variations and improvisations have an advantage. Their dancing always looks more interesting, alive, and skillful than an attempt to precisely replicate his movements, which is practically impossible in dancing. Jackson cannot be repeated, copied, or imitated – just like any famous dancer cannot be duplicated.

    So what makes Michael unique? Why are there ongoing disputes, for example, that his dancing contains so many sexual moves yet they never make him look vulgar – a vulgarity that can be seen in so many other performers? Why are his contributions to the art of dance considered so invaluable that this pop star can be placed alongside the great masters of ballet or folk dancing?

    First of all, I would say that the body and motor functions of every dancer are unique. There are some common features, but there are many specifics that can’t even be analyzed, just like it’s impossible to analyze every “dancing molecule” in a living human body. These minute details and particulars make the performing manner of each person his or her own. Some demonstrate less individuality, while others emit it from their first steps across the stage. That’s one reason no impersonator can ever copy or replace a brilliant dancer like Michael and look convincing for those who are well acquainted with Michael’s style.

    It’s not just a matter of his personal singularity; it’s a matter of the singularity of every human. Science has invented cloning, but not even a clone can be a perfect copy of the original, just like twins are not identical people. So there is no way an existing person could become a clone of another person. Differences would arise at some stage, even if the impersonator were spiritually close to the original performer. Perfectly copying individual peculiarities within a dance to create the illusion of a match is a utopian venture.

    Here I shall stop talking about uniqueness within nature and turn to my main topic, which I find more interesting: artistic uniqueness.

    Let me return to the beginning of the conversation and I say that, like any truly brilliant dancer, Michael stands out for his spiritual essence and spiritual approach to dancing. His dance reflects the very religious component mentioned earlier – not in the sense of expressing any religious doctrine or belief, but in the sense of his spiritual and emotional approach.

    First, Michael is not just a performer. He is the creator of his dance. He doesn’t do something he simply learned by imitating a choreographer. Even when his dance is carefully choreographed, he remains the creator: his dance comes from within, not from other people, regardless of who he collaborated with during preparation.

    Lots of choreographers and dancers participated in his projects, but the dance team and Michael are altogether different, although his dancers are always professional and excellent. Still, he invariably stands out, through both his manner of dancing and his inner feeling of the dance.

    He dances in the flow of free creation. It should be noted that even the moves he performs on stage over and over again are not mechanically repeated like a stuck record. No, he can continue any of his dances by free improvisation at any moment. And it never looks out of sync with his personal style; instead, it opens new facets of his fathomless inner creator. This is what no impersonator can do. Only the creator of the dance can update and renew his dance naturally and improvise freely, and still be himself. No one else can plunge into his sacrament. This is his personal domain, just like every person has his or her own body and his or her own place on Earth.

    Michael Jackson stands out among all stage performers of his generation and those that followed. It is often said that many pop entertainers draw on Michael because he created a standard. Still, many seem to draw on the wrong things. Michael was notable for his absolute belief in what he was doing. He always had a sincere and sparkling artistry, while contemporary pop performers mostly look like beautifully designed clockwork dolls and not charismatic entertainers.

    I don’t know why this is so, but I suspect the trouble is not in a lack of talent but in the fact that the pop stage has once and for all taken to manufacturing an average glamour ideal. Mostly, these new “stars” create an impression of Barbie dolls: all of them pretty, all of them capable, but lacking energy… Nothing exciting is going on. There is nothing that can shock or surprise us anymore – all revolutions are past. That is the overall feeling. Honestly, it’s sad to see that they are deprived of a true, live creative process and consciously make a product of themselves. A product and not a creator, even a small one. It is strange that the industry keeps dictating this kind of taste and selecting this kind of material for its star factory. But after all, a genius is only a genius if it is rare.

    The second, and perhaps the more interesting factor, is that fundamentally, Michael Jackson is not a pop figure. Yes, he worked within the framework of popular mass culture, but he didn’t belong to pop art on the basis of his mentality. I would even say this was his tragedy, of which he was not guilty, of course. The pop culture framework, on the one hand, allowed him to break all possible sales records and reach out to millions of people with simple and inspiring ideas. On the other hand, his talent was confined to that framework, so in the end, certain facets of his artistry didn’t fully manifest and went mostly unnoticed by the general public.

    The image of a pop singer prevented some people from taking him seriously. This was unfortunate, and I’ll say it once again: it was not his fault. The blame lies with the narrow-mindedness of society. His figure had too many contradictions for people to perceive him adequately. He combined traits of antipodal conventional types ingrained in popular mythology, and this eventually brought harsh trials and a tragic end upon him.

    In conclusion, I will repeat the obvious: being a genius, Michael wasn’t supposed to conform to any standards. As Niccolo Paganini said, “Talent is not loved, and genius is hated.” By the way, the lives of Paganini and Jackson had many parallels.

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    Default Re: Michael Jackson: The Dancer of the Dream

    I started to read it. Great read so far.

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    Default Re: Michael Jackson: The Dancer of the Dream

    Excellent article on Michael Jackson as a dancer. Wish there was more in depth analysis like this written. The whole article is definitely worth the read.
    Thanks for this!

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    Default Re: Michael Jackson: The Dancer of the Dream

    Thank you for sharing!

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    Default Re: Michael Jackson: The Dancer of the Dream

    Michael's dancing is something out of this world. Sometimes I think people just look at his movements and just think "sweet, nice dance moves" but sometimes people just have to watch his feet move without looking at his entire body.

    The link below is a really good video on how he moved his feet. Some of them are subtle movements and others are tricky for the eyes and you might have to replay it lol, but it's really nice to watch.

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