Monday, July 20, 2009

Acocella on Jackson, the Dancer

From an interesting piece by Joan Acocella, who analyzes Michael Jackson's dancing from a technical perspective:

Jackson, who had a thorough knowledge of the movie musical, revered Fred Astaire. He records in his memoir how thrilled he was when Astaire praised him. The old master even invited him over to his house, where Jackson taught the moonwalk to him and his choreographer Hermes Pan. (Astaire told Jackson that both of them, he and Jackson, danced out of anger—an interesting remark, at least about Astaire.) But despite Jackson’s awe of his predecessor, he never learned the two rules that Astaire, as soon as he gained power over the filming, insisted on: (1) don’t interrupt the dance with reaction shots or any other extraneous shots, and (2) favor a full-body shot over a closeup. To Astaire, the dance was primary—his main story—and he had it filmed accordingly. In Jackson’s videos, the dance is tertiary, even quaternary (after the song and the story and the filming). The camera repeatedly cuts away, and, when it comes back, it often limits itself to the upper body. Jackson didn’t value his dancing enough.

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