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07-02-2009, 12:01 PM #1
'Michael never had a normal life'
The constant media attention and scandal turned Michael Jackson into a loner and a ‘cold’ person, says choreographer Kevin Stea.
Stea is half-Chinese, half-Welsh by birth, and an American model, singer and choreographer who’s worked with the likes of MJ, Madonna, Prince, Ricky Martin, George Michael, Celine Dion and the *****cat Dolls. He worked with MJ first on Black Or White, and then on Blood On The Dance Floor. Excerpts from an exclusive interview to DT:
What was it like working with MJ?
The first time I met MJ, he was really fascinated by the knee pads that I got from Madonna’s tour. He didn’t talk about business right away. I remember how enthused he was with the way the video of Black Or White ended. He was excited because the technology – digital morphing which allowed one face to turn into another and MJ into a panther – was used for the first time. MJ was gregarious, fun and had a great sense of humour.
You’ve worked with both Madonna and Michael – whom did you find more easy/difficult to deal with?
I don’t think either of them was difficult to work with. I feel that Madonna is quick to judge. If she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you. And you won’t be working with her for long if she doesn’t like you. She’s more resistant to ideas. If she likes it, she likes it and if she doesn’t, it takes a lot to convince her. You have to say ‘the idea looks amazing’, ‘you have to trust us’ to convince her. Michael was more creative and hired the best people. So he did listen to their ideas. He was accessible and very open. It could’ve been because of the way I met him.
MJ’s father has said, ‘I wish the world recognised Michael when he was living?’ Do you identify with that?
A lot. After so many years of speculation and drama, with his name dragged into several controversies and scandals, it was difficult to make a comeback. He got a lot of unfair judgement. I think people never put themselves in his shoes. MJ never had a childhood. Even in real life, he was a performer. He spent all his life on stage. People expected him to act like a normal person and have normal reactions to situations, but he never lived the life of a normal person. People judged him as if he were any other person, but his life was so different from us. He was so isolated and started his career at such a young age.
You say he was isolated despite his popularity. Why do you think that was?
Isolation is natural, especially when you reach that level of popularity and know that your fans are absolute fanatics. MJ longed to experience normal things – like camping, or going out for movies. He wanted to enjoy simple, mundane things that we take for granted. It was like looking at the other side of the mirror. We look at him and say, wow, what a life he had, but he also looked at us and said the same thing.
MJ was in the news for his dependence on drugs and charges of molesting minors. Did all this affect his relationship with his colleagues?
I’ve worked with him before the scandals happened, and also during the time he was embroiled in them. He was a different person the last time I worked with him, for Blood On The Dance Floor. MJ was much colder then. He wasn’t happy; there was no joy for him in doing a project. His projects earlier were his babies, through which he expressed himself. There was a lot of pressure on him, which was the biggest tragedy. It was tragic to see someone so loving, crushed by the public opinion and accusations. I don’t know how many people can really handle that pressure.
What do you have to say about MJ’s conversion to Islam?
That was a personal choice. Everyone follows some form of spirituality. He also followed what he could.
Tell us about the making of Black Or White.
MJ had high expectations from this video. We originally shot it with a much simpler background. After going through the video, he realised it wasn’t getting his message across. He then decided to re-shoot the video.
Did you choreograph the steps for Michael or did he do them himself?
I was the associate choreographer, so my job was to teach him the steps. I didn’t create the steps, I worked on them with other choreographers and got to teach Michael.
Black Or White has Thai, Latin American, Indian and Russian troupes in it. Did Michael discuss the concept with the team?
Yes, he did. According to the original concept, MJ was to appear in aesthetic groups which were expected to follow his dance steps. But a lot of thought went into it and Michael finally decided to join each group and pay respect to their cultures. I also thought it more appropriate.
Was it tough for MJ to learn the Indian dance steps?
It was challenging. He worked hard on learning the nuances of the dance form. Since there was a story behind each step, it became much easier.
With tracks like Heal The World, did he manage to spread a positive message?
He was in a unique position that enabled him to share such a crucial message with millions of people. It is commendable of him to have chosen so many powerful messages. These tracks will remain powerful forever.
Is there any way in which MJ inspired you?
He inspired me to be myself and not imitate others. He wanted me to do my best. If I have been a singer, model and choreographer, it is all because of MJ. These are all ways of expressing yourself and being creative. MJ understood his music as a creative expression. I have been inspired by that and had a lot of fun doing every bit of all that I have done so far.
07-02-2009, 12:11 PM #2