Louisville dancer remembers Michael Jackson in documentary 10 years after his death
In 1988, duPont Manual Youth Performing Arts School graduate LaVelle Smith Jr. auditioned and won a spot performing in Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" video. A few months later, the young talented Louisville dancer was asked to join the "King of Pop" on tour.
Jackson's "Bad" tour was scheduled to play Louisville's Freedom Hall and Smith was thrilled to be performing in the place where he had grown up.
"I told Michael Louisville was my hometown and I was excited for my family to see me dance with him but a few days later, Louisville was taken off the schedule," Smith remembers. "I was very disappointed and Michael must have known that because suddenly Louisville was back on the schedule."
Jackson's kindness didn't end there, Smith said. He ordered tickets for 50 members of his family to come to the Louisville show and was ready to fork over the money at the box office when he was told he wouldn't have to pay.
"Michael had taken care of it, that was the kind of person he was," Smith told Courier Journal. "All those tickets were going to be very expensive tor me to pay for but he was so thoughtful. That was one of many amazing things he did for me."
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On the 10-year anniversary of Jackson's death, Smith is looking back at his relationship with the King of Pop, who he performed with for more than 20 years. During that time, the Louisville dancer also worked with artists like The Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, Diana Ross and George Michael.
His creative and inspired choreography earned the dancer numerous awards, as well. Smith won five MTV video awards for co-choreographing the music videos from En Vogue’s "My Lovin," "Free Your Mind," and Salt N' Pepa's ‘Whatta Man." In 1995, he won the award for the video "Scream," a duet between Michael and Janet Jackson. He won his fifth award with the music video for Beyoncé’s "Crazy In Love."
But his most memorable times were touring with the "Gloved One." Smith went out on three world tours with Jackson — "Bad," "Dangerous" and "History."
The duo was working on Jackson's comeback tour when the music icon died suddenly of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication on June 25, 2009.
"I knew him for over half my life," Smith said. "So I got to know him quite well and I think it's important for people who did know him to speak up and not be afraid. Some times the truth is not popular but I think it's important that those of us who did know him continue to talk about his character and his kindness.
Since his death, the documentary "Leaving Neverland" has presented a disturbing depiction of Jackson as an alleged child molester, accusations Smith addresses in the new film, "The Man Behind the Dance" by David Van Hoesen and Thibault Weewauters. The documentary, which is divided into two parts, features Smith and is now available online.