TO THE EDITOR: I read with interest the article by Yagnick et al.1 (Yagnick NS, Tripathi M, Mohindra S: How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics? J Neurosurg Spine 29:344–345, September 2018).
I felt that I should make you aware of the real history regarding Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” dancing technique and the “leaning effect” to which the authors of the article refer.
The five dancers were all dressed in “fly belts” under their suit clothes, to which were attached fine piano wires at their hips. These wires extended through their jackets and were connected to a fly arbor and then by cable to a set of pulleys overhead in the stage grid. It is possible to see a subtle crease in Michael’s white jacket as he leans. The cables extended across the network to another set of pulleys and then down to five special effects men, who used the cables to lower and raise the five leaning dancers to the music and dance step in unison.
Each dancer had one shoe built with a slot plate in the heel that could slide onto a peg in the dance floor to help provide stability; however, the weight of each leaning dancer was held up by the wire fly rigging and the individual operators. Without this proper rigging, the dancers’ shoes alone would not have permitted them to achieve this iconic dance sequence.
I supervised the special effects in the filming of the “Smooth Criminal” music video. I handled Michael for this routine. My company, Filmtrix, Inc., developed this gag, including construction of the shoes for all five dancers and the overhead fly rigging, as well as production of all special effects for this film.
There will always be new and different inventive ways to move the body in dance. The necessary inclusion of these mechanisms to prevent injury to the spine is very important.
The authors’ conclusion in their paper still applies.
The author reports no conflict of interest.
Yagnick NS, Tripathi M, Mohindra S: How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics? J Neurosurg Spine 29:344–345, 2018
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