Dance Died: A tribute to Michael Joseph Jackson

by Onyemaechi Ogbunwezeh

Have you ever seen grace and beauty embrace to make love to the eyes? Have you ever seen feline gracefulness shuffle its elegance onstage, to seduce our senses with the divine refulgence of beauty? Have you ever witnessed celestial agility mix with prompt and delicate responses to the sounds of the human heart to appease the eyes and seduce the soul? Have you ever seen a pair of human legs, gracefully conduct an orchestra of motions, to moon-walk an audience into a bewitching trance? Have you ever watched a man so artfully offer his body as a canvass of expression, where aesthetics blended seamlessly with measured, harmonious movements to convoke a festival of sensory surreality? Have you ever beheld something akin to a god of dance?

If your answers to the above questions are yes, then you have been among those privileged to see either in life or in film, Michael Joseph Jackson!

The sounds and music that this genius created defined an era that began long before I was born, and swallowed most of my young life. A consummate artistic and musical genius, he crowned himself the king of Pop, but in the estimation of anyone who has ever watched him perform on stage, this guy is the god of dance. In him all mathematical, geometrical and physical principles of dynamics and motion mix in a seamless expression of beauty dancing to sounds of music. I have never seen or known anyone who dances like him. Girls scream in his presence. Women faint in joyous ecstasy, whenever he takes the stage. Men cannot resist trying to imitate his genius.

This was the genius that was forever lost to the world on the 25th of June, 2009.

Like every great genius that has ever graced our world with their presence, and enriched us in the process, we never understood him. In most cases, to make our ignorance and insignificance before such giants bearable, we elect to misunderstand them. Our press and local gossip clubs feed us, what we clamour for; namely a desecration of the genius to make our mediocrities bearable. History attests to the crimes we have committed variously against genius. We committed a treasonable felony against philosophy by recommending hemlock for Socrates in ancient Athens. We killed the Christ; a radical and opinionated genius, who had a vision of a kingdom of peace and justice, and challenged the unjust, hypocritical structures of his day. We murdered Martin Luther King, Jr., who had a dream of Blacks and Whites dining together on the tables of brotherhood instead of sitting on the simmering fences of division perpetrated by consolidated ignorance and fear. We killed a Patrice Lumumba, who refused to swallow imperial bullshit, but chose to tell truth to power.

Was there ever a genius we did not attempt to kill or stampede into self-destruction and suicide? Is there a genius our world has not accused with the most terrible felonies resident in our sick hearts?

Our reaction to genius has been quite predictable. At their advent, we are dazzled by their meteoric refulgence. They continued to blaze our skies, even though we would wish them to fizzle out like meteors. The more time they spent on our horizon, the more they exposed our collective banalities. To restore some semblance of self-esteem to the fault-lines and mediocrities that the presence of genius makes us realise in ourselves, we try to domesticate them. Instead of listening to Longfellow and striving to make our own lives sublime like that of genius and on departing leave our footsteps in the sands of time, we give up and relapse in laziness. We then create cottage industries out of labelling geniuses with appellations in order to domesticate their boundless genius. We fail no doubt in these efforts as they continued to soar, refusing to succumb to our mercenary profanities.

That does not mean that they are not wounded by our assaults. But since they cannot help themselves from being who they are, they assumed in their bodies and souls all the contradictions of a bridge between humanity and divinity.

They became tortured souls!

Show me a genius, who is not a tortured soul? Aristotle of old after plumbing the depths of his own mind in a world still in the thraldom of ignorance gasped in ultimate frustration: “there is no great genius without a tincture of madness”!!!

The surprise was never that Michael Jackson died. The surprise is that he lived at all. He was a genius and to that end, a tortured soul like all of them. He wanted to live forever, but could never have lived the life we know.

Every genius bears the burden of being a hybrid between base humanity and celestial divinity. They operate at wavelengths that supersede that of ordinary mortals. Their vision is at home with the gods. They come rarely. Once they come, they blaze through their age, engendering revolutions in their chosen fields, and attaining immortality in the process, in a short span of time. Their humanity is sometimes a hindrance to the full expression of their genius. They attract always the opprobrium of the normal; and since they are above the normal, we label them abnormal.

Michael Jackson was a kid prodigy, who broke into the limelight with his five brothers, the Jackson 5. As the lights of others in the band was dimming, his was launching itself into stellar orbit, where he remained shining brilliantly like the Northern Star, with which every other musician and dancer after him navigated his path.

He was a gift of the gods. His music and dance plucked its inspiration from the trees of sublimity; and compelled the timbres of our souls to vibrate whenever we heard them. We labelled him “Wacko” because he could not fit into our conceptual prefabrications. We have never seen his like before. Today he acts in consonance with our rational expectations, and tomorrow, he is off every rational tangent we know. We sometimes had no patience for such gyrations that our minds could not domesticate. With that we continued to sear the soul of genius with a cognitive dissonance arising out of our cult-like devotion to him and marketplace-like denunciations of what we considered his eccentricities. All in all, he suffered at our hands.

Michael Jackson redefined dance. He revolutionarized this art, engendering a paradigm shift that will forever bear his impress. He can dance. He gyrate his hips and moves his whole frame in a way that relegates all others before him into the peripheries of insignificance.

Like every other genius, he most times defied the expectations of our narrow insularities in relation to social comportment. He remained eternally a child in a man’s body; a tortured soul, who chose to tarry on the lanes of childhood instead of maturing into the adult world of hate, violence and betrayal of innocence. Sometimes his naivety smacks of puerility, which attests to the fact that he spent his whole life fearing to grow up. If he had grown up, he would have compromised his genius, since I have never seen a genius who escaped childhood, and remained true to his vocation.

A proof of this was his supreme naïveté in relation to his finances, as well as his ultimate carelessness about so many things that people kill to lay their hands on. For us he was weird, but in his weirdness, he left his footprints on the sands of time, which polished his art and edified music. He died enroute doing the only thing that ever gave his life meaning. He inaugurated an era in entertainment, which will never be the same again at his regress.

No one could ever dance like Michael Joseph Jackson. We are lucky to have encountered such a genius on our pilgrimage here on earth. As he Michael Jackson is always “Startin Something”, we are sure that he would “thrill” the heavens, as his “Thriller” did us here!

As we mourn this genius, if anyone asks: why would Michael Jackson die at this time, “Tell Em That Is Human Nature”!!!!

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