Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On the Passing of Michael

To some it might seem odd, but some people like me never really knew what fans we actually were until the passing of Michael Jackson. As I grew up I knew as a small child that I really thought "ABC" was a cool catchy song. Even cooler was the whole "Off the Wall" thing. It was great music to sing to while driving to one of my first paid dance jobs in Tennessee. "Rock with You", "Workin' Day And Night", then later the dance impact of "Thriller" and "Beat It" ... all great music.

Now, as a dance teacher, I still love this music, using “Gone Too Soon” for a student's solo, "Billie Jean" for a young group number, "Wanna Be Startin Something" and others. But still, I just never connected the dots, the part his music played in my entire life as a child, a dancer, a teacher, a choreographer.

There are personal memories attached to many of his songs, like the time I traveled back late to school just to stick around at home and watch the whole Motown thing with the moonwalk with my parents. My dad was still alive then, and this is a special memory for me. I never stopped to think about the impact that walk or anything else associated with Michael Jackson actually had on my life, or the influence it had on many dancers from that point on. I only saw it for the cool thing it was at the time.

I guess like so many of us I thought he had plenty of hits to go, new horizons to thrill us. It came as a shock during rehearsal for a July show at the Koger center here when I received a text from my husband telling me that Michael Jackson was gone. It seemed so unreal.

In the few days that have lead up to the memorial, I've actually had time to think about the impact his music made on my life. While writing this on the day of the memorial, I decided to listen to my library of his music. It's my iPod now, not a cassette deck or portable CD player like years ago! I thought he'd want all of us to do that on this day of all days, and I was singing "Rock With You" just like I did in my car so long ago. The memories flooded in. "I'll be There" then, "Never Can Say Goodbye" ... that's when the tears started to pour. I hadn't listened to those songs in a very long time. Those songs are my history, my past, your past, our past.

It seems the end of an era. There will never be another Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, James Brown, John Lennon, Gene Kelley, or Michael Jackson. I'm grateful that I have been around long enough to experience their brightness in the span of my life. Stars like that burn so bright, and there seem to be none like these left. Michael has left a void and I find this so sad because generations of dancers, musicians, and kids will only know the legend of the "King of Pop" without actually being able to experience it the way so many of us were fortunate enough to experience while he was still alive and creating his phenomenal music.

So today of all days, I now know, I was and am a huge fan of Michael Jackson. My dancers, my dance children will forever be touched by his music and his dancing because he touched my life and in turn , I touched theirs.

One final thought several days after writing the above: Today during Nationals I counted over 20 entries choreographed to Michael Jackson songs from "Thriller" to "PYT". The legacy continues...


Dale Lam - Artistic Director
Les Mizzell - Technical Director
The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company Website
Dale and Les on Twitter

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