Friday, March 16, 2012

Michael Jackson's Billie Jean Motown 25 Live

On May 16, 1983 I danced Billie Jean on a TV show in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Motown. About 50 million people would attend the show. After that much has changed.

The Motown 25 was recorded a month before April. The full title was Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever, and I must admit they had to convince me. I'm glad I said yes, because the show produced the most happy and proud moments of my life.

As I mentioned I said no at first. They asked me to perform as a member of The Jacksons and a solo dance. But none of us were even Motown artists. There was huge debate between me and my business men. Weisner and DeMann. I thought about so much that Barry Gordy had done for me and the group. But I told my managers and Motown that I did not want to be on TV. My attitude on tv was just negative.

Eventually, Barry came to meet me to discuss. I was editing "Beat It" in the studios of Motown, and someone must have told him I was there. He came into the studio and talked with me a long time. I said sure, I do, but it has to be "Billie Jean." It would be the only non-Motown music throughout the program. He said it was just what he wanted me to do. So we agreed to do a Medley of The Jacksons, which included Jermaine. We were all anxious.

I gathered my brothers and we rehearsed for the show. I worked well with them, it was nice, a bit like the old days of Jackson 5. I had them choreographed and rehearsed for days in our house in Encino, filming to watch after each test. Jermaine and Marlom also contributed. Then we went to Motown in Pasadena to rehearse. We present and although there we spent all our energy in a trial, everyone was cheering and gathering around us to watch. Then I started my essay for Billie Jean. I just went through quickly because I had nothing planned yet. I had not had time because I was too busy rehearsing with the group.

The next day I called my production and said "please get me a spy hat, a fedora-like something a secret agent would use." I wanted something sinister and special, and a stylish hat. Still did not have a concrete idea of what to do with Billie Jean.

During the Thriller sessions, I found a black jacket, and I thought, “You know, someday I'll use it in a performance”. It was so perfect and so I just would use it in the Motown 25.

But one night before the recording, I still had no idea what to do in solo number. I went to the kitchen of the house and played Billie Jean. Loud. I was there alone one night before the show. And I stood there listening to what the music told me to do. I kind of left alone to create the dance. I stopped talking to me, I heard the drums coming, I took the hat spy, did a pose and hit the foot, allowing the rhythm to create Billie Jean movements. I felt forced to allow it to create on its own. It was impossible to avoid. I only listened and let the dance come - it was really fun.

I was also trained some steps and movements, almost all the performance was spontaneous. I practiced the Moonwalk for a while, and realized in the kitchen that finally I would do the Moonwalk on Motown 25.

The Moonwalk already rolled in the streets by this time, but I perfected it a bit when I did. It started with a step of break, popping like that black children dancing in the ghettos. Black dancers are truly innovative, creating new dances so pure and simple. So I said "this is my chance to do", and did. These three children have taught me. They gave me the basics and danced well enough alone. I practiced along with other steps. The only certainty I had was that step the bridge of "Billie Jean", walk forward and backward at the same time. As if I walked on the moon.

On the day of recording Motown was rushing everything. Delay. So I went and rehearsed alone. I already had my hat spy. My brothers asked what it was for the hat. I said they would have to wait and see. But I asked a favor to Nelson Hayes. "Nelson - After ending the number with my brothers and the lights dim, you throw this hat to me, I'll be in the dark corner near the exit of the stage, talking to the public, but you'll slowly back there and put the hat on my hand in the dark."

So my brothers and I finished the presentation, I walked up the side of the stage and said, "you are beautiful! I would rather say that those were the good old days; were moments, all my brothers, including Jermaine. But what I really like "- Nelson putting the hat in my hand -"are the new songs." I turned and grabbed the hat and left to "Billie Jean" in a heavy rhythm, I could tell that people were enjoying it. My brothers said they were clapping and speechless, and my parents and sisters were watching. But I just remember opening my eyes in order to see this sea of people standing and applauding. I came into conflict with my emotions. I knew I had done my best and felt good. Really good. But at the same time I was disappointed. Had planned to give a nice turn and stop on tiptoe, suspended for a moment, but I was not long enough. I made the turn and stopped at one end only. I wanted to stay there, freeze, but did not work as I wanted.

Backstage people congratulated me. I was disappointed because of the spin. I concentrated so much and to top it off I'm a perfectionist. But at the same time this was one of the happiest moments of my life. I knew it was the first time my brothers could see what I could do, how much I had evolved. After the performance each one hugged me and kissed me behind the scenes. They had never done this before, and I felt happy for us all. It was so beautiful when they kissed me. I loved it! Everybody hugged. My whole family hugs a lot. With the exception of my father. He is the only one who does not practice it. Every time we met we hugged, but when they kissed me that night I felt blessed by them.

It was still gnawing at me with that performance, and was not satisfied until a little boy appeared in the background. He was about 10 years and was wearing a suit. He looked at me with shining eyes, static, and said, “man, who taught you to dance like this?" I kind of laughed and talked. "Training, I think." And the boy looked at me, dumbfounded. I walked away, and for the first time in the night, I felt I had reached my goal. I told myself that I did well because children are sincere. When that boy said what he said, I actually felt I had done a good job.

I was so moved with the whole experience that I went home and wrote everything that had happened that night. My writing ended with meeting that boy.

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