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.
During the week of the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, when fans are gathering in Los Angeles to remember their idol, Westlake Recording Studio offers guided tours in its two buildings where the iconic albums Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad were recorded. This year, on June 27, 2015, the studio will once again welcome fans in its historic rooms. For those who haven’t been there and curious to know what it’s like, here is a story about one of the first studio tours organized in the summer of 2012.
In 2012, on the third anniversary of Michael’s passing, Westlake recording studio opened its doors for the public and fans for the very first time. The 3-hour tour that included viewing of the two studio buildings in Los Angeles was quite pricy, but it was one of those things that, as a fan, you just can’t miss. For a long time I had been curious to peek into those seemingly unremarkable buildings – because that was the place where history had been made. At Westlake, Michael recorded his three most iconic albums: Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad. And so, on June 26 at 7:30 am, I found myself on the back parking lot of Westlake Studio D on Santa Monica boulevard.
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.
With the wave of posthumous interest in Michael Jackson subsiding, books about his life and legacy are becoming sparse – but also, on average, more carefully put together. New book “Xscape Origins” by Damien Shields deservs to be reviewed as it is dedicated to the subject that has long been almost elite in the realm of MJ-related press – Michael’s music.
In the Michael Jackson world, year 2014 was marked by the release of a collection, named Xscape, of eight previously unreleased Michael Jackson songs remixed by modern producers. The release was heavily promoted in the media and enjoyed commercial success.
Michael Jackson was a gifted, unique and outstanding dancer. His contribution to the art of dance is analyzed in this fascinating article by professional flamenco dancer and choreographer Amor (Lubov Fadeeva).
Michael Jackson in dance is a subject as vast as space. I can’t talk about it without touching on global issues of the art of dance, but I will try to bring it all together as much as possible – to gather all of the elements I see as facets of something larger, something whole, so we can try to see the entire picture.…
For me, dance is a global phenomenon, the most sacred and purest art, only matched perhaps by music, poetry, and fine art. The rest is derivative, like the branches of a large spreading tree grown from just one seed. Dance is pure inspiration born in the center of the Universe, expressible through numerous artistic forms and manifestations. Dance is visual music and non-corporeal emotion on a material level; it is spiritual energy creating all existence. This is how I have seen it since my childhood, in the form of feelings, and I will try to explain all this in words.
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.
On June 23-26 in Los Angeles, Brad Sundberg organized an exclusive series of In the Studio with Michael Jackson seminars called “The Homecoming”. A lot has already been written about Brad’s amazing seminars (check out our story about the ones in Saint Petersburg), and if you haven’t yet attended them, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But the ones Brad did in LA this year were special. Not only they took place in famous Westlake Studio D where Michael recorded his Bad album (hence the name “The Homecoming”), but this time Brad also invited some rare guests.
We attended the seminar on its last day, June 26. After the usual program presented by Brad, all the VIP attendees were treated to a dinner prepared by “Slam-Dunk sisters,” two lovely ladies who used to come and cook for MJ and his team during the studio sessions. The dinner consisted of salads, lasagne and banana pudding (with real bananas in it, as Michael liked it!) and was really delicious.
We are in a small studio located at a musical instruments rental center on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. The room is crammed with people sitting in rows of chairs in front of a low stage. On stage, Brad Sundberg, Michael Jackson’s assistant engineer and the organizer of this event, and his friend, sound engineer Brian Vibberts, are occupying two tall bar chairs. Brad Buxer, Michael long-time musical director is sitting behind a keyboard. MJ’s engineer of later years Michael Prince is looking at the screen of his MacBook. Michael’s touring bass guitarist Sam Simms has not yet arrived; he would join us a little bit later. With that, a trip to the past, full of stories and music, begins.
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.
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.