Justin Powell 1 p.m., Dec. 13
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The Man in the Mirror: A Reflection on a Legend
June 25, 2009. Michael Jackson is dead! My mom's shocking text message appeared abruptly on the cell phone screen. Good thing I was in the passenger seat; my heart nearly stopped in disbelief, and the words kept running on speed dial in my mind. Michael Jackson is dead. All of a sudden, my trip along the California coast did not seem as bright and full of life. Almost immediately, my hands reached for the ipod, scanning the King of Pop's extensive repertoire of music. I had to believe my favorite artist still had a voice, and a message to spread. I'm gonna make a change for once in my life... I closed my eyes and absorbed the hopeful and inspiring lyrics of Mr. Michael Jackson; my voice cracked as I tried to sing along, too many silent tears streaming down my face. I see the kids in the streets, with not enough to eat. Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs?
In fact, before reaching Santa Cruz, I embraced all of the corny MJ classics (those with massive choirs, the soundtrack for Shamu's brother, Willy, and those videos that feature MJ as a scary Peter Pan innocent who can't find his Childhood). I didn't care; this was a sad day...and I spent it with the music of my childhood, adolescence, and adult years- my first cassette tapes, several Halloween costumes, a handful of talent showcases dancing to Billie Jean, joint birthday parties (i.e. a joint party for me and MJ, since ours fall in the same month), and MJ dancing nights- the music that can make my body move in ways I never imagined, the music that sends my head, shoulders, hips, and feet on a kinetic wave of pop, funk, and soul, the music that expresses my love and passion for the art of dance...
...The music that inspired me to organize and take part in an international, one-of-a-kind event, Thrill the World, this past year. Thrill the World is an attempt to break the World Record for Largest Simultaneous Dance, and, since its birth four years ago in Toronto, Canada, Thrill The World has conquered that title, last year resulting in 22,923 participants performing the Thriller dance all around the globe at the same time. With the significant passing of MJ and his birthday on August 29th, 2009, I knew I needed to express my passion and absolute appreciation for MJ's artistry, as a vocalist, lyricist, dancer, video genius, humanitarian, and all-around entertainer. Who wouldn't want to dress up in zombie gear and bust out the classic choreography that has moves like the "roar turn" and "booty bounce"? As a Volunteer Thrill The World Event Manager and Organizer, I was able to do what I love to do more than anything- dance and connect with individuals in the community. Whether dancing just for the exercise, to perform, to do something new and exciting, or to pay homage to a legend, 209 of us San Diegans met in Mission Bay last October, decked out in ripped up clothing, toxic make-up, and baby powder, to Thrill the World as one unit. It was amazing, and I can't wait to do it again. [Check out thrilltheworld.com and thrilltheworldsandiego.com. Next year's event will be held twice on October 23, 2010.]
Michael Jackson's talent is recognized universally. His music and videos bear a magical resemblance to the groundbreaking sounds of tribal African rhythms, rock n roll, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Diana Ross, and even musicals, such as West Side Story. Though a controversial individual with many secrets and complexities, one cannot deny his influence on pop music today. To see an eight year-old and a 71 year-old participating in Thrill the World last year was incredible (the spectrum of diversity rocked my world); MJ's music will continue to infliltrate the modern world- in school peformances, in clubs, on the radio, in dance classes and presentations, sampled in contemporary music, on the streets, and through song (I just saw an elementary school choir perform Man in the Mirror at the New Children's Museum).
So, please, spend today in remembrance of MJ. Do the Thriller dance. Watch his videos; put on This is It (I am about to). Do an impression. Play a tune in your living room, or in your car, or on your ipod, or go out dancing. Or walking (I can't get enough). Smile, and recognize how his music has thrilled the world. It thrills mine still.
Look out for an MJ dancing night coming soon to an MJ-friendly place near you....