Remembering: Michael Jackson: Dancers and Choreographers Who Knew and Loved Him, and Those Who've Simply Been Inspired by Him, Pay Tribute

Article excerpt

Wade Robson, choreographer

Michael's movement was this amazing amalgamation of all his influences, filtered through this beast of a dancer. His lines were so dynamic. He understood the strength of simple movement delivered with incredible precision and energy. An invert of the legs and an extension of the arm were so much more powerful than 15 pirouettes. His energy shot up from the earth. God danced through him.

I remember the first time he taught me the moonwalk at the dance studio at Neverland. I was 7, I think. I remember standing at the ballet barre and him teaching me to push back one foot at a time, teaching me the weight distribution on the balls of the feet. "Now just go, push off, and fly!" he said. That night I couldn't sleep. I had to get up every 15 minutes and do it again.

I learned altruism from him. In the entertainment industry, it's easy to get jaded. Despite all of the madness he went through, he had such an innocence. He trusted people, and in his heart, believed in them.

Brian Friedman, choreographer

Even in his most subtre moves, he forced you to watch him. No one hit as hard as he did. He's one of the only people who could stand still for 30 seconds, a minute, and not let you look away.

Thriller, Smooth Criminal, Ghost, and Captain EO molded me as a creator. Without projects like these, I would be afraid to take the risks I do. If Michael had just described the plot of Thriller, who would've ever believed him? But he made it anyway and it is the most iconic video ever.

He was the first person to have technical dancers from contemporary and ballet backgrounds dancing with Pop N' Taco. It was incredible to see him bringing the worlds together. He gave every audience member something to connect with.

At 14, I booked a job with him. At the end of the live show, I happened to be standing next to him. He put his head close to mine, pointed to the signs in the audience, and said, "I don't understand why all these people love me." Especially to a kid, it was so honest. He was saying "I'm normal." It put me in a position to always stay grounded.

Brian Thomas, teacher/choreographer

The first day of rehearsals for Michael's 30th-anniversary celebration everyone was terrified. When he came in to watch the choreography I had made for him, I said, "OK, you can sit over here." I looked over, and my son had put some candy and a picture he drew of Michael on his chair. I apologized, "My son must have done that." Michael fell on the floor laughing--he was literally rolling. He said, "Show me some dance moves" to my son. It broke the ice, so the dancers weren't so afraid. He could've been a diva but he was nice to everyone. That's what I remember most--his childlike spirit.

Buddha Stretch, teacher/Remember the Time music video choreographer

Michael's a combination of so many different styles and influences. …