Top 5 African American Moments In Dance

Sources: Lansing State Journal – By Alex Woody | All Things Michael


This winter, Complexions Dance will come to Wharton Center. Known as the first American multicultural company, founded by Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Dance boasts a new exciting genre of dance that combines the best of athleticism, lyricism, technical training, and experience. Tickets to see Complexions Contemporary Dance can be purchased on or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.

Throughout history, African-Americans have pioneered many movements throughout dance history and culture. From crafting iconic choreography, innovating popularized dance, and integrating dance companies, check out these 5 iconic African-American moments in dance!

1. Thriller – Michael Jackson

Perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of dance choreography of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video took the world by storm with its dance choreography. The choreography is still paid homage to today, remembered yearly as Halloween rolls around.

2. Misty Copeland is promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theater

This last June, Misty Copeland made ballet history when she became the first African American dancer to be named the principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre.

3. Josephine Baker’s Banana Dance

Josephine Baker was a famous American-born French dancer, singer, and actress who popularized many well-known dances in the 1920s. Her most famous routine, titled ‘The Banana Dance’, featured her doing the original Charleston in a skirt made of artificial bananas.

4. George Faison becomes the first African-American to win for Best Choreography at the Tony Awards for The Wiz

In 1975, The Wiz took Broadway by storm. Taking home seven Tony Awards, the musical became the first African-American choreographed musical to win the Best Choreography award. This December, NBC will be producing a live television broadcast of The Wiz, be sure to check it out!

5. Complexions Dance

Founded in 1994, this avant-garde dance company became America’s first multicultural ballet company. Today, they tour across the world with their ballets described as ‘innovative’ and ‘awe-inspiring’. Be sure not to miss Complexions dance when it comes to Wharton Center January 19th, 2016!


Read more here

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis Discuss Working On Scream With Janet And Michael

Sources: Rolling Stone – By Steve Appleford | All Things Michael


Jam: Michael had asked Janet to do a song with him. Janet came to Minneapolis just to give us some inspiration for some tracks. The song that ended up becoming “Scream.” We went to his apartment in Trump Tower, put the track on and basically wrote the song lyrically in an hour. He definitely had things to get off his chest and that’s what it was about. Recording the song was probably one of the most mind-blowing experiences ever. He walked into the studio, very nice and very kind: “OK, I’m going to try my part now. . . .” So Michael goes in and the moment the music starts, he turns into the Tasmanian Devil. He’s a whole different person, stomping, clapping, he’s got jewelry jingling — all the stuff you’re not supposed to do in the studio. Me and Terry are sitting there going “Oh my God!”

Janet_Jackson_Michael_Jackson_Scream_Video(2) copie

Lewis: Screaming like fans.

Jam: He totally nails the song start to finish. Janet leans in and goes, “I’ll do my vocal in Minneapolis.” She wanted no part of following that. I don’t blame her. So we do Janet’s vocal, we send it to him. “Oh, Janet sounds really good. Where did you record her?” Minneapolis. “Oh, I want to come to Minneapolis and do my vocal.” What you got was this sibling rivalry between brother and sister who are also competitive. Yeah, we love each other, but I’m going to sing my a** off.

Read more here

OPENCV: How The Video Trail For Blame It On The Boogie Was Created


The video trail effect is nothing new: it was first used in music videos like “Blame it on the boogie” from the Jackson 5 in 1978. Now,  Antonio Ospite has put together a nice article that shows the basics of using OpenCV to create this effect in live video. He used the open source video processing package OpenCV for this, creating the effect with a short script. It can run in multiple ways, creating video trail effects, or “catch-up”trails (where the trail reverses into a final frame).

Mr. Ospite states that a few conditions are required to create a decent effect:

  1. the camera should not move;
  2. the lighting in the scene should be quite stable (when doing background subtraction it is recommended to disable auto-gain in the camera, and avoid any artifact introduced by the power line frequency);
  3. the subject should enter the scene only after the background learning phase has finished, i.e. after opencv_trail_effect has shown the preview window.

The effect in “Blame It On The Boogie” could be described as a short faded trail and can be achieved with this command line:

$ ./opencv_trail_effect -l 12 -s background -d fadeaccumulate

Screen Captures21

This provides an interesting example of how these video effects have become so much easier to create. The Jackson’s video was created using a Scanimate and Quantel Paintbox system that was as big as a closet and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Now, you can create these effects with free software and a cheap PC. Now you just need to figure out what in our modern world looks awesome with this throwback effect.

Sources: Hackaday | Antonio Ospite | All Things Michael

St. Luke’s Steel Band Salutes Michael Jackson

Sources: New Haven Independent  – By Brian Slattery| All Things Michael


“Sit back and relax,” said Kenneth Joseph, the musical director of St. Luke’s Steel Band. “Or dance, clap, and sing. Make them smile. They love to smile.”

Joseph was talking about his students from the St. Luke’s Steel Band and Music Haven summer camp students, just before the group launched into “Black or White.”

It was midway through “This Is It,” a concert of all Michael Jackson songs performed by a collaboration between St. Luke’s and Music Haven students to celebrate what has turned out to be the indelible legacy of the King of Pop, but deeper still, the rich, joy-filled sound that drums and strings can make together this past Friday afternoon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Whalley Avenue.

The concert was a testament to the dedication of the students to the music, and of Joseph and fellow instructions Debbie Teason (also steel pan), Colin Benn (strings), and Kareem Victory (percussion) to ensuring that their students succeeded, whether they were playing solo, in small groups, or all together.


Victory led his students in a drum demonstration.

students_conducting_students-550x309 (1)

Students conducted students.


When a cello needed to get to its player in the back of the string section, everyone lent a hand.


The concert picked up steam as St. Luke’s and Music Haven gave M.J.‘s greatest hits — “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” — a good workout. During “Thriller,” Benn took the mike to fill in for Vincent Price’s rap. The mike was quiet at first, but since half the audience knew it by heart anyway, it didn’t matter.

“I’ll do it for you,” said a woman in the audience, and joined in. By the time Benn got to the part about the funk of 40,000 years, at least a dozen voices were chanting along with him.

“I just want to say how exciting it is,” said Teason during a quick break before the finale, “that St. Luke’s Steel Band and Music Haven are taking their collaboration one step further.” She mentioned that many of the students in the steel pan group and many of the string players had started playing each other’s instruments, many for the first time.


Not that you would have noticed, as all the students played with drive, concentration, and real heart.

At the end of the program — a rendition of “We Are The World” — Joseph told the assembled audience that they would be cued to sing. “You won’t be able to help yourselves,” said Teason. And as soon as she turned to the audience, everyone in the church proved her right.

Also see St. Luke’s Motown Forever Tribute to The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and more below.


Read more here

The 50 Greatest Pop Songs Of The ’80s

Sources: Metro Weekly – By Chris Gerard | All Things Michael


All of the songs selected appeared in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart sometime during the ’80s. Only one song per artist is included.

1. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson (1982)

If one song changed an entire decade, it’s Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” One of the greatest recordings in pop history, its foundation is a heavy back beat by drummer Leon Chancler and a sinuous bass-line by the late Louis Johnson. Soaring over it all is Michael Jackson’s innovative vocal delivery. His phrasing — every vocal hiccup, twirl and twinge perfectly placed — makes the song. It’s a viscerally exciting piece of music, tense and dramatic, enigmatic and otherworldly. Who else but the King of Pop could have produced the single greatest pop song of the ’80s? See songs 1- 10 here

14. “Miss You Much” – Janet Jackson (1989)

Following up Control was no doubt a daunting endeavor, but Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were nothing if not ambitious. They ended up besting it by a mile with Rhythm Nation 1814, a hard-edged collection of pop, dance and R&B that not only grooves but has a positive message. The first single, “Miss You Much,” is a sizzling dance/pop anthem, formed around a heavy backbeat thickened by a funky bass-line, with swirls and bursts of keyboard underlying Jackson’s heavily layered vocals. The manic vocal arrangement during the chorus is particularly genius and Jackson sounds playful, self-assured and upbeat. See songs 11-20 here

Songs 21 – 30

Songs 31- 40

Songs 41- 50

100 Years Of Black Music

Sources: OUPblog – By Miki Onwudinjo | Oxford African American Studies | All Things MIchael


Celebrate the end of Black Music Month with this timeline highlighting over 100 years of music created and produced by influential African-Americans. Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea for Black Music Month back in 1979 as a way to annually show appreciate for black music icons. After lobbying, President Jimmy Carter hosted a reception to formally recognize the month. From then on, June became the period to commemorate the greats such as Frankie Lymon, Billie Holiday, and Michael Jackson. The month has grown from small gatherings to large events hosted nationwide. President Obama has since renamed the national observance and has proclaimed it as African-American Music Appreciation Month. Whatever it’s called, the rich legacy of black music will continue to be celebrated every day, all around the world.

Fullscreen capture 6302015 84125 AMFullscreen capture 6302015 84029 AMFullscreen capture 6302015 83909 AM

Miki Onwudinjo is a Junior Level Marketing Coordinator at Oxford University Press.

Click here to see timeline

How Michael Jackson Inspired One of the Original YouTube Memes

Sources: Gizmodo – By Adam Clark Estes | All Things Michael


An incredible thing happened on July 17, 2007. A video of several hundred inmates wearing orange jumpsuits and performing an immaculately choreographed dance to Thriller appeared on a small website called YouTube. Two years later, Michael Jackson was dead, and YouTube had changed history.

You might argue that Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance did for YouTube what his originalThriller music video did for MTV.

The video of inmates reenacting the original dance in a Phillippine prison was not only one of the early viral successes of YouTube. It was also one of the first times that a viral video became a meme with dozens of copycats uploading videos of similar performances from all over the world. Early adopters, of course, were college kids. Within a few months, the Thriller dance meme combined with the flash mob theme:

Suddenly, MJ’s jam from the early 80s was cheering people up all over the world, all over again. Michael Jackson died exactly six years ago today, but what’s remarkable is that the meme lives on. Two years after his death came this Thriller dance tribute in LEGO:

The Thriller dance has also become a mainstay at weddings. One could even argue that the Filipino prisoner Thriller dance was inspired by a grainy wedding clip from 2006, but it’s hard to say if prisoners in the Phillippines had access to high speed internet back in those dark ages before widespread wifi. Now, it’s self-evident that the meme is still being reenacted and reinvisioned. As with any meme, you know it’s hit mainstream when it’s being used as marketing materials. Case-in-point: the Thriller dance in a viral video from the Denver International Airport.

What’s inevitably remarkable about this little internet history factoid is the simple fact that it’s pure MJ. It’s a perfect encapsulation about how his music brought people together from all corners of the globe, from all cultures, and from every ethnicity. It’s fun to dance to!

I’d been living in New York City for less than a month when Michael Jackson died. That night, my friends and I wanted to pay our respects the best way that we could. We wanted to boogie. And apparently the entire city had the same plan. Wherever you went—in bars, in clubs, on the streets, in taxicabs—Michael Jackson’s songs were playing, and people were dancing. Everyone was so happy.

So today, on the anniversary of his death, let’s remember how Michael Jackson’s music inspires the best in us. It can make anyone from prisoners to minifigs dance. It can inspire an internet meme. It’s inspired a generation of memes. And for reasons like that, Michael Jackson will remain, in his own way, immortal.

Read more here