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Work and Soul in Michael Jackson's This Is It (Special Series Part 1): The Human Nature of Dance


Michael Jackson in THIS IS IT. (AP photo by Sony)

It says a lot that even while its principle star struggled to conserve creative energy and was simply “warming up” for the actual live performance scheduled to follow, Michael Jackson’s This Is It snagged the October 30 weekend box office in the United States with $21,300,000. It says even more that just two weeks after its opening, as of November 12, 2009, the movie has played in 3,481 theaters worldwide and generated just under $200 million in ticket sales.

At this point, going by the numbers alone, This Is It ranks second among the top-grossing music concert movieonly to 2008’s Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tours. However, the latter film accumulated sales over a run of fifteen weeks. Compare that to the former movie’s much shorter run and you have the basis for arguing that This Is It in less than a single month has become the number one music concert film in movie history.

The Human Nature of the Dance

With a brilliant fusion of rehearsal performances for sixteen songs and samples from numerous others, absorbing video footage, and informed commentaries, the rockumentary delivers everything those hoping to attend Jackson’s “comeback” concert could have hoped for with the principle exceptions being two things: Jackson’s flesh and blood real-time presence and body-to-body contact with throngs of screaming fans.

This Is It opens to an image of dancers who are not yet in musical motion. Later in the film, viewers will see their bodies at times ferociously animated or seductively elegant. At other times they will form part of a privileged audience watching a master showman at work. As director Kenny Ortega puts it, “the dancers are an extension of Michael.”

For the opening we get their faces, voices, and emotions as they speak briefly about the personal journeys that have brought them to this historic event: the much buzzed-about rehearsals for the King of Pop’s planned final concert tour:

One dancer says, “I’m excited. You have inspired everything in my life, my energy. You’re why I dance.”

Another: “I wanted to dance. That inspiration came from you. And you’ve inspired me and given me a reason to want to inspire others.”

And another: “I’ve kind of been searching for something to shake me up a little bit, and give me a, kind of a meaning, to believe in something, and this is it.”

Some of the dancers can barely speak because they cannot believe where they are and that their names are now associated with a man whose blood, sweat, and soul have been defining elements of pop culture since they were born. When they do speak, often they express gratitude for an opportunity that would not exist if the famous “Man in the Mirror” had not challenged himself at the age of forty-nine to tap once more into the seemingly eternal fountain of creative brilliance that allowed him as a child to blast through the world of entertainment like a comet of visions that only blazes through the Milky Way every other century.

Michael Jackson reheases with dancers in This Is It. (AP photo by Sony)

The expressed gratitude is not sycophantic in any way. They comprise a natural response to Jackson as a cheerful giver who, seemingly through his own eyes, was never able to give too much or even quite enough. It, the gratitude, is also very natural because these are, after all, dancers. Artists like MJ himself. And they have just found excellent employment during a horrifying recession.

For these particular dancers, even more important than the promise of a better-than-decent gig in a field where plum gigs rarely come along, is the miraculous chance to work with and learn from a legend, someone whose genius could add a greater luster to their talents for the rest of their working dreaming dancers’ lives.

by Aberjhani

Next: Work and Soul in Michael Jackson’s This Is It Special Series Part 2 by Aberjhani, the National African American Art Examiner and author/co-author of eight books including Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance and ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love.

Explore the Work and Soul of Michael Jackson:


  • kiara 5 years ago

    thank you i miss you songs are good

  • Aberjhani 5 years ago

    Hey Kiara, the music and the legacy go on and on and on... :-)

    I hope you enjoy the rest of this 4-part special series.


  • Nordette 5 years ago

    Saw it Thursday. Loved it.

  • Jaime 5 years ago

    I have been waiting...for the end to all conjecture, and for the celebration of what was a marvelous talent to begin. MJ's art was truly a gift to this world. Thank you.

  • Brandon 5 years ago

    hi Michel jackson i miss your songs

  • Aberjhani 5 years ago

    Thank you Nordette, Jaime, and Brandon--

    Between Jackson's and Kenny Ortega's combined genius plus the talents of some extraordinary dancers and musicians, this movie was bound to be exceptional on a number of levels.


  • merlene 5 years ago

    Michael Jackson will live in my heart forever, I grew up a Jackson fan and will die a Jackson fan. Michael was and always will be an amazing person, his talent is beyond any I have ever seen in this world. So sad it took his death to wake people up to see what this man was all about....Love you and miss you so much Michael !!!

  • Aberjhani 5 years ago

    I think "amazing" is one of the best words anybody could use to describe him Merlene because even with the negative circumstances surrounding his death he is still generating tons of positive creativity, inspiration, and charity on behalf of others.


  • Merlene 5 years ago


    My heart is still breaking over his death. I personally don't think I will ever get over it in my lifetime. Michael was only 2 years younger than me so I have to say I followed his career most of my life. You are so right about the word amazing it is so strong and powerful just like Michael was/is. His legacy will live on forever, the strength, power, love, energy, talent, excitement it was all there, Michael was such a beautiful package all wrapped up in one. May God let him be a peace now, cause I know some day I will meet him and the first thing I want him to do is moonwalk for me. God I love that man.

  • Marian Haddad 5 years ago


    You made me cry. Yes, yes and YES . . . You created in this write-up the sensibility of the movie, of the dancers' sense of awe that they were given this opportunity, and of Michael's own sense of gratitude, spirit, and generosity. And you reminded us that his sales in such a short period cannot be ignored. Thank you, so very, very VERY much . . . for this . . . one of the best reads yet, and I read NUMEROUS articles a day on MJ since June 25 . . . thank you is not enough,

  • Aberjhani 5 years ago


    I'm very glad you enjoyed the article. As a writer, I have a lot of respect for all the different extraordinary aspects of Michael Jackson's life and have been trying to present as balanced and informed accounts of it as possible from my distant perspective. I hope you find the remaining parts of this special 4-part series as meaningful as this initial post.


  • FirstBeKind 4 years ago

    Lovely article. I came to read it via Seven's website. I will read all of your works.

    For so many who watched Him in This Is It, we were transformed and set on a path to discover everything we could about Michael Jackson, the man. What I've learned over the last year is that he was the greatest entertainer of all time but beyond that is coming to know that we were fortunate to have lived during his time here. He was an angelic being, sent by God to spread love and hope throughout a troubled, love-starved world. He dominates my waking thoughts. He has inspired me to find ways to help others and to make a difference in our world, no matter how small. Great change comes from a million small acts of goodness.

    Thanks very much, Aberjhani!

  • An Marie 3 years ago

    Awesome work, Aberjhani!
    I too, came to your articles via Seven’s web pg. They’re beautiful & do MJ justice!
    Almost two years later, I still feel the pain of his passing. No one could have told me I’d feel this way. When Mike passed away, it was as if the sun wasn’t as bright as it used to be. Even now, I feel it in the air – like something’s missing…when really, it’s someone. Amazing! Knowing I’m not alone in how I feel, really does give me comfort. I’m only two years younger than MJ, so yes – I remember when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show!
    His talent is talked about, his upbringing, his genius, his illnesses, his pain, his sensitivity, the different avenues he sought in order to gain some semblance of privacy & hide just a little bit of himself from the public & his adoring fans. All in all, this one man made a difference in the world, which is why the world misses him! His humanitarian efforts are so overshadowed till it leaves me speechless! As we approach the second anniversary of Mike’s death, what mainstream media outlet will ‘man up’ & bring these things closer to light? His charity is always mentioned as a side note – as if it’s irrelevant & should take a backseat to the tabloid BS that’s always spouted. It would be very fitting to show the naysayers, the accusers, the doubters, those who need to believe evil lies, etc…just why there is so much adoring fuss about this “cheerful giver,” even in death. Like Marian, we can’t thank you enough!

  • Profile picture of Aberjhani .
    Aberjhani . 3 years ago

    I'm glad to see that Seven's tribute website to Michael Jackson has continued to attract people and that so many are finding their way here as well. I hope that what I've written about MJ so far is just a small tip of an iceberg waiting to break the surface. I suppose only time will tell. For now, you are more than welcome.


  • BritWales 3 years ago

    America should wake up to the facts *Huma is not Sunni, not Shia, not Islam. *Huma is of *Ahmadiya Cult. *Parents Indian-Pakistani* and therefore comprehend that Weiner did not convert, as Ahmadiyas marry anything to gain or profit. Jurnos kindly please cease erroneously printing that Huma is of Islam.

  • BritWales 3 years ago

    Michael Jackson recorded 1 MP3 singing in Arabic after time spent in the GCC - Arab Gulf. People really should listen to it and have the lyrics translated if not knowing Arabic. Thank God, I have MJ's Arabic MP3. I tweeted this fact also and suggested Piers Morgan should hear the Arabic MP3 when interviewing MH's sister recently. What are the American people afraid of, that they avoid talking about MJ's Arabic Mp3 ?