Michael’s Moves: The Choreography of MJ The Musical

MJ The Musical invites audiences into the world of one of the greatest entertainers in history, Michael Jackson. The show is a journey through the life, career, and legacy of a man who forever transformed the landscape of music and dance. Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, the show explores Jackson’s life, focusing on rehearsals for his Dangerous World Tour, and spotlighting the triumphs and trials that shaped the King of Pop’s life and career.

Choreography is an integral part of MJ The Musical; after all, Michael Jackson was not merely a singer; he was an extraordinary dancer whose moves have become iconic in popular culture. His distinctive style of dance, a fusion of jazz, pop, and hip-hop, revolutionized the music genre forever. The choreography in MJ The Musical, therefore, carries a responsibility to keep the magic of MJ’s dance style alive.

The Rhythm of a Legend: Exploring Michael Jackson’s Dance Style

Michael Jackson’s signature dance style was a blend of technical skill, rhythm, and raw expression. His choreography featured a number of iconic moves that have since become synonymous with his name. The Moonwalk, the Sidewalk, the Robot, the Spin, the Toe Stand – each of these moves has its own distinct flair, a combination of fluidity and precision. Jackson’s dance style was also characterized by his ability to seamlessly fuse different dance forms. He borrowed from jazz, hip-hop, and pop, blending them into a style that was unmistakably his own. His movements on stage were as much a part of his performance as his vocals, adding a visual element to his music that made his performances unlike anything else.

Behind the Moves: Christopher Wheeldon’s Choreography for MJ The Musical

English director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon brings the choreography behind MJ The Musical to life. A former ballet dancer and award-winning choreographer, Wheeldon is known for his previous work with renowned ballet companies, including The Royal Ballet in London and Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. His goal for MJ The Musical was not simply to reproduce Jackson’s music videos and performances one-for-one but to capture the essence of Jackson’s artistry and present it in a fresh light.

To achieve this, Wheeldon enlisted the help of Rich and Tone Talauega, brothers who previously danced with Jackson on tour. Their firsthand experience with Jackson’s dance style proved invaluable in crafting the musical’s choreography. Wheeldon also leaned on the expertise of the show’s associate choreographer, Michael Balderrama, a Broadway veteran who’d also had the opportunity to dance with Jackson on his extended song “Ghost.”

“I was just in awe of the articulation in his body,” Wheeldon shared while speaking of MJ’s dancing style. He was captivated by Jackson’s ability to isolate every bone, every muscle, bringing intensity to his movements, while his legs moved fluidly, like mercury. It was this dichotomy, this blend of precision and fluidity, that Wheeldon sought to capture in the choreography of MJ The Musical.

Elijah Rhea Johnson: Perfecting the Iconic Moves of the King of Pop in MJ The Musical

For Elijah Rhea Johnson, who plays MJ, understanding and executing Jackson’s moves went beyond just physical practice. It was about understanding the intention behind each move. As Johnson puts it, “Michael did all things with intention.” This approach required him to unlearn and then relearn the moves he thought he knew, starting from square one. He described the process as challenging but rewarding. 

Interestingly, Johnson’s journey with Jackson’s dance began at a young age. He was just eight when his father taught him how to moonwalk in their kitchen in Detroit. This early experience shaped Johnson’s approach to dance, instilling in him a deep appreciation for Jackson’s style. The choreographers, Rich and Tone, had no notes on his performance of this iconic move. “[As] a lifetime MJ fan and dancer, that made me feel extra proud,” said Johnson in an interview.

This is Thriller Night: Key Highlights of MJ the Musical

The performance of “Thriller” is one of the highlights of the show. This iconic song, synonymous with Jackson’s groundbreaking approach to music videos, has been given a fresh lease of life on the stage. The choreography for “Thriller” is a perfect representation of Wheeldon’s vision, blending the familiar with the new. The music number incorporates the signature moves from the original “Thriller” video, as well as the dark, zombie-inspired aesthetic. However, the show adds its own touch, featuring three actors embodying Michael Jackson at different stages of his life dancing together on stage.

A Standing Ovation: Audience and Critics’ Reactions to the Choreography of MJ The Musical

Audience reactions to the choreography of MJ The Musical have been overwhelmingly positive. Many viewers have expressed their awe at the performances, with one audience member stating, “The dancing and the lights and the set, it’s so crazy.” Another audience member shared a similar review, noting, “The dancing and singing are phenomenal, and the sets are to die for. Each scene is more fantastical than the previous one. I was blown away when I saw it a few months ago.” Critics also highly lauded the production; in 2022, MJ the Musical won a Tony Award® for Best Choreography, once again proving the talent of the cast and crew.

If you’re a fan of Michael Jackson or simply love great music and dance, then MJ The Musical is a show you won’t want to miss. Come and feel the beat of King of Pop on Broadway. Experience the thrill of MJ The Musical live!