On January 9 and 11, 2016, the Kyiv modern dance school, Dance Centre Myway, hosted workshops by Dres Reid. It’s an unprecedented event for Ukraine as Dres, besides working with the brightest stars (Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, Ricky Martin, Kelly Rowland, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and others), is one of the leading dance teachers in the most popular dancing school in the USA, the Millenium Dance Complex. Dres began dancing at 7. At 21, he moved to Los Angeles where his great dancing career started. His first contract was in 2006, a world tour with Christina Aguilera; later he would do three more tours with her. After that he started working with Ricky Martin and other stars. During his dancing career, Dres participated in 15 tours, danced in dozens of videos, hundreds of concerts and award ceremonies. Currently, he works as a choreographer for the new young performers, teaching dance classes from classics to hip-hop and keeps touring with American stars. But the main highlight of his career is definitely his cooperation with Michael Jackson who personally selected him for his last tour, This Is It. We managed to attend one of the workshops and talk a little to this wonderful talented young man.
Many fans know Damien Shields by his writings on Michael Jackson’s music and projects related to it. Following the successful release of his new book, “Xscape Origins: The Songs and Stories Michael Jackson Left Behind,” Damien has agreed to give MJ.ru an exclusive interview. We used this opportunity to ask him about his life as an MJ-fan, his opinions and the research that goes into his articles and books.
Michael’s fans have always been incredibly resourceful and endlessly enthusiastic. They keep inventing new ways to pay tribute to their idol and coming up with new occasions to come together and celebrate his life. Every year, thousands of flashmobs are arranged by both professional and amateur dancers, videos are filmed, screenings of Michael Jackson concerts in rented movie theaters are organized. But this time, we have something really original to tell you about.
Most people know Michael Jackson primarily as a talented stage performer. And very few outside his devoted fan base know that, besides being talented in music and dance, he also had impressive drawing skills. The collection of his drawings is valued in millions of dollars today.
The first mention of Michael’s drawing talent goes back to the Jackson 5 times. In his autobiography “Moonwalk,” the singer remembers that he really liked drawing when he was a child. When the Jackson boys were staying at Diana Ross’ house, she encouraged them to develop their artistic skills. According to Michael, one day they got caught up in painting and accidentally stained the white carpet in Diana’s living room. They panicked in fear of punishment, but Diana didn’t scold them, she only told them to clean up the mess.
A small but cozy room inside the underground-style Fish Fabrique club in St. Petersburg is almost dark. The only light is coming from a laptop screen. The beat-up walls are decorated with the portraits of the most famous man on the planet, and there’s his cardboard lifesize silhouette standing in the corner near the stage. The room is filled with the achingly beautiful clear tenor supported by nothing but a guitar and a drum machine. It floods the room up to the roof, and the walls seem to disappear leaving everybody one on one with this voice and the sparkling magic granted to the singer by Mother Nature. Sixty people from all corners of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine greedily hang on every sound coming from large powerful speakers. Tears are running down the girls’ cheeks, some cover their faces with their hands to muff their sobs a little. Twenty four years later, we’re witnessing the birth of a masterpiece. This is just one of many special moments happening at In the Studio with MJ, a Brad Sundberg seminar, and the voice coming from the speakers belongs to Michael Jackson.
I’ve dreamt about attending this seminar since the very first day I heard about it. Partly it was because of rare demos and videos, and partly because I always wanted to talk to the person who worked with Michael so close for so long. So, when Elena Zelikova announced that Brad Sundberg was coming to St. Petersburg, I knew I could not miss the chance. What I did not know then was that the heavens prepared another surprise for me – I would not just be a guest of the seminar. I would be Brad’s translator.
The phenomenon of Michael Jackson continues to be surprising and amazing even after the performer’s death. Aside from the commercial potential of his music, the public seems to be in great need to keep seeing Michael’s image, not just hearing his songs. The new generation of the singer’s fans shows huge demand for Jackson’s presence in the modern reality, even if it’s just in the form of a hologram.
This article from Dangerous Zone fanzine, 2001, tells the story behind Michael Jackson song “They Don’t Care About Us,” and the music videos for it. It also offers an analysis of the meaning of the song and the videos, and their importance in Michael’s career.
And yet another scandal. “They Don’t Care About Us” even managed to break the controversy record previously set by “Black or White” – because this time there were two scandals at the same time. First, the US Jewish community was disturbed by the lyrics because it allegedly contained anti-Semitic words (the lyrics to this song is being discussed to this day). Then the Brazilian government did exactly what the good old Communist governors in the USSR used to do – “we maintain that everything is fine in our state, and whoever doesn’t think so will be silenced.” And even Pele, a nice man, a great football player and a national hero, supported this point of view. Perhaps, the most irritating thing for everybody was that Michael Jackson, who had been indifferent to politics up to that point, suddenly released a song that manifested his views very directly: “You know I really do hate to say it, the government don’t wanna see…”
While we are waiting to see what Michael Jackson will tell the world in his upcoming Invincible album, let’s recall one of his boldest works that suddenly displayed a clear and simple public stance of the “most apolitical” performer on the planet.
This article from the Dangerous Zone fanzine (issue #10) takes us back to the anti-Western propaganda of the Soviet Union which also stigmatized Michael Jackson, despite his overly positive image at the time. The article is interesting because it demonstrates how rapidly Michael’s art spread across the world and influenced the youth – exactly the effect the Soviet Russia government feared the most. The period described in the article covers the beginning of the 80s, the times when Jackson-mania was reaching the USSR through the “iron curtain”. There’s an interesting blog, Michael Jackson in the USSR, which shows many examples of how Michael’s style was copied by Soviet musicians, while the Soviet press treated him with contempt, calling him “a pop marionette” and an instrument used by the capitalist world to divert the Western youth from pressing global problems.
Eras have changed, ideologies have collapsed, the old country exists no more, and the Soviet propaganda sounds silly today, but Jackson’s art keeps influencing young people who have been embracing it for two generations. Read more →