The King of Pop endures in Michael Jackson ONE
Choreography is important in all Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas productions, but only Michael Jackson ONE was entirely inspired by an icon of dance who directly influenced most, if not all, of its cast members. Whether emulating Jackson’s style, paying tribute to his trademark moves or expressing his spirit through entirely fresh and original choreography, the fleet feet that touch the stage at Mandalay Bay belong to seasoned professionals who all came of age after the King of Pop’s influence on the world of dance had become both widespread and well-established.
Michael Jackson ONE’s fifth anniversary this month is a landmark for both the production and the careers of the people who have been involved with the show since its inception. Dance coach Tiffany Baker, who joined Michael Jackson ONE during its creation, says the show is at a strong point right now. “We’re consistently working on trying to strengthen different elements, make a storyline really visible with the audience,” she says. “With the cast constantly changing we bring in different strengths and different skills that can really help elevate a lot of our acts.”
Baker cites the “Thriller” number as an example of one that went from good to breathtaking thanks to the growing skills of its trampoline acrobats. Like Jackson’s style itself, the show’s choreography is a mix of classical, contemporary and street styles originally developed by Olivier Simola and Rich + Tone Talauega. Signature Jackson accouterments such as spangled gloves, penny loafers, sunglasses and fedoras inspire entire scenes. Teams of Smooth Criminals, MJ Warriors, Paparazzi and Tabloid Junkies deliver synchronized moves, while Dirty Diana is brought to life as a pole-dancing siren under the spell of the malevolent machine-monster Mephisto.
Acting scenes have been revised to strengthen the narrative of four misfits who discover hidden powers after being drawn into Jackson’s magical world. “We really try to keep faithful to what the original directors and choreographers wanted and what their vision was,” says Baker. “But then sometimes in putting something together you realize this works, and this doesn’t. If we do it this way, people will understand it better.” Slacklines, martial arts and juggling figure in the evolution of the misfits into heroes, and Jackson’s image is prevalent via video and holographic imagery. Awe-inspiring special effects and multi-directional sound add to the experience, but Michael Jackson One is primarily a celebration of Jackson through his music and body movement.
Baker says the scene set to “Smooth Criminal” is the most difficult to pull off. Dancers don gangster suits and fedoras to transform into King of Pop avatars and evoke actual choreography created by Jackson for performing the song live. “For the dancers, you really want to look like Michael as much as you can,” she says, adding that while his inspiration was prevalent, no one can really pull off Jackson’s moves like Jackson did. “Every dancer, some time in their life has been influenced by Michael Jackson in one way or another, no matter what age you are.
Mandalay Bay, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Thurs.-Mon., $69-$180 plus tax and fee. 877.632.7400