Michael Jackson: a trip to the moon on gossamer wings

photo: Buda Fabio MoriBy MARTHA ULLMAN WEST

Michael Jackson was a great dancer. And a very American one, heavily influenced by John Travolta and touted as such by Fred Astaire, an even greater American dancer.

It was this part of his talent that made me mourn this sad man’s passing: The strength of my response to the news of his death surprised me, I must admit.

And so I’ve been reading the coverage in The Oregonian and looking for mention of the man’s incredible ability to move. Marty Hughley’s eloquent analysis told me much I did not know, as did that emerging dancer Peter Ames Carlin‘s. But no nod to the way the man moved.

Then, to my delight, there was an account in this morning’s Oregonian of the French, frequently a class act, celebrating Jackson by moonwalking around the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris: I hope someone filmed it.

Just now, I turned online to the New York Times and read Alastair Macauley’s tribute to Jackson’s dancing talent — who knew that the British-born critic with his eagle eye for the subtleties of classical dance from Petipa to Cunningham would go to the trouble to watch a whole slew of YouTube snippets of Jackson dancing and write so perceptively about him?

For my part, I will always associate Jackson with dancing, and not just his: when my daughter was in the second grade at Glencoe Elementary School, her teacher drilled the kids in aerobic dance for exercise and they put on a fabulous performance to Beat It for the parents.

Outstanding was a boy who was quite horizontally challenged, but, man, could he move to Jackson’s beat. Nearly as well as Jackson.

— Martha Ullman West