Who isn’t a Michael Jackson fan? Every ardent music and dance lover will be well versed in his signature dance move from 1987’s music video ‘Smooth Criminal’. One could only guess how the legend managed to defy gravity and give us that awestruck dance move. Many tried replicating it but with fail. Now the 30-year old mystery is finally decoded bu a terrific trio of Indian scientists.
Three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India – Nishant S. Yagnick, Manjul Tripathi, and Sandeep Mohindra – set out to examine the antigravity tilt from a neurosurgeon’s point of view.
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, MTV had only one format – music videos – and that genre really took off when Jackson burst on the scene in 1983 with his musical hit ‘Billie Jean’. Prior to his arrival on MTV, most videos were merely visual promos for artists’ songs, and in some cases, the visual side of the promos detracted from the music.
Michael Jackson, on the other hand, took his incredible music and added storylines, special effects, cinematography, and amazing choreography. He created high-budget brief movies highlighting both music and dance.
And about that dance…Jackson executed dance moves that were thought impossible, at the time and even now. Almost every fan tried to dance like him, but very few could pull it off. Some of Jackson’s dance moves even appeared to defy the laws of gravity.
In one move featured in his music video ‘Smooth Criminal’, he pitched forward 45 degrees, with his body straight as a rod and his shoes resting on the stage, and held the position. That was not how the human body works! How did Michael Jackson do it? Was it talent, magic, or both?
First, Yagnick et al. explored some basics of spinal biomechanics to show just how impressive was the feat. Even the strongest of dancers could only maintain a 25- to 30-degree forward tilt from the ankle.
Admitted fans of Jackson, the neurosurgeons documented how the antigravity tilt was accomplished, taking into account the talent and core strength of the artist, as well as his inventiveness and use of a patented aid, that together seem to move his body past human limits.
They also warned other neurosurgeons of new forms of spinal injuries, as dancers followed Jackson’s example and attempt ‘to jump higher, stretch further, and turn faster than ever before’. The study was one of those mysteries where the solution is as fascinating as the performance.
When asked about his article, Tripathi said, “MJ has inspired generations of dancers to push themselves beyond their limits. Though a visual delight, such moves also lead to new forms of musculoskeletal injuries. ‘The King of Pop’ has not only been an inspiration but a challenge to the medical fraternity.”