Pop–Slide–Groove–Lunge! Get ready, here comes the King of Pop! Lisa Pillow, director of Lisa’s Dance Spot in Austell, Georgia, created a tribute to Michael Jackson for the studio’s 2010 recital. To mark the one-year anniversary of his tragic death, 110 students bobbed and moon-walked to the pop star’s memorable hits, making “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” an unforgettable matinee recital for 350 family members and friends.

-"Workin' Day and Night"
-"Stranger in Moscow"
-"Thriller"
-Pre-ballet students in "I'll Be There"

 

From top:
-Intermediate jazz students in "Thriller"
-Studio director Lisa Pillow in "Smooth Criminal"
-"Ease on Down the Road" for the beginner level
-"Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" for intermediate/advanced dancers

Lisa’s Dance Spot specializes in recreational jazz, hip hop, ballet and tap dance. In a two-and-a-half-hour show, Pillow and staff mixed Jackson’s hit songs and moves with the students’ class work. With the many Top 10 hits and decades of recordings, there was a lot to choose from, and Pillow felt the show would appeal to audiences of all ages. “The great thing about Michael’s music,” she says, “is that it’s still fresh and still grabs you now in 2010.”

 

The recital took place in a local theater. With a show budget of less than $5,000, Pillow kept the set simple—a black backdrop was lit with the studio’s logo—and let the dancers be the focus of the production. The director herself and two assistants, clad in spats and pinstripe Zoot suits, kicked off the show with a rendition of “Smooth Criminal.” In the spirit of a Jackson concert, she had a friend serve as emcee to keep the energy high between numbers. The full ensemble closed the show by boogying to the title piece, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” and took their final bow to roaring applause.

 

Lisa’s Dance Spot’s MJ-inspired numbers:

 

Song: “Can You Feel It” by The Jacksons

Genre: Jazz

Level: All dancers

Costume: Black attire with white gloves

Choreography: The full cast opened the show with Jackson’s signature head-bob moves.

 

Song: “Ease On Down the Road” from The Wiz

Genre: Musical theater

Level: Beginner/intermediate

Costume: Yellow halter dresses fringed with silver sequins and a silver headband

Props: Silver canes

Choreography: Two dancers spun onto the stage, as if just out of Dorothy’s house. More dancers boogied onstage tapping their canes and swishing their hips. The dancers formed a pyramid at the end to bounce the piece to a Broadway finish.

 

Song: “I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5

Genre: Ballet

Level: Pre-ballet

Costume: Pink and black leotard and tutu with a feather headpiece

Choreography: The precious ballet babies showed off their port de bras, chassés and tendus for an adoring audience.

 

Song: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Genre: Ballet

Level: Intermediate/teen

Costume: White and silver flowing dresses with white headscarves

Props: Silver mirror

Choreography: Dancers decorated their own mirrors and used them in the port de bras of this more classical ballet piece.

 

Song: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” by Michael Jackson

Genre: Jazz/hip hop

Level: Intermediate/advanced

Costume: Black leotards, silver shorts and silver twine laced up one leg

Choreography: The Dancing Divas mixed in classic moves like the lawnmower and railroad arms into this toe-tapping rhythm. They formed a giant dancing caterpillar marching to the beat.

 

Song: “You Can’t Win” from The Wiz

Genre: Tap

Level: Beginner (ages 3–5)

Costume: Pink and black leotard and tutu with a feather headpiece

Choreography: Like Jackson’s Scarecrow character in The Wiz, these tiny tappers used scarecrow walks with their marches and toe touches.

 

Song: “Scream” by Janet and Michael Jackson

Genre: Hip hop

Level: Intermediate/advanced

Costume: Black sneakers, black leggings, yellow and pink baggy dresses, fingerless gloves and a tilted black hat

Choreography: This funky hit mixed hip-hop moves with robotic popping and locking movements.

 

Song: “Stranger in Moscow” by Michael Jackson

Genre: Modern/lyrical

Level: Intermediate

Costume: Yellow and orange flowing dresses

Choreography: With dramatic gestures and floor work, this lyrical piece told the story of a stranger searching for something and finding it at the end in a loving embrace from her friends.

 

Song: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (pictured)

Genre: Jazz

Level: Intermediate

Roles: Jackson and Zombies

Costume:

Jackson: Red sequin Members-Only jacket and red jazz pants

Zombies: Dad’s old white button-up dress shirt cut up and torn, black pants or bottoms, teased hair and lots of dark eye makeup

Choreography: Incorporating moves and phrases from the original “Thriller” video, these jazzers brought down the house with the “funk of 40,000 years.”

 

Tips, Tricks & Tracks

 

Why Jackson?

Jackson’s music has inspired studio director Lisa Pillow all her life. At age 16 she won a beauty pageant after performing the “Thriller” dance, and as a teacher and studio owner, she lives by Jackson’s example. “He’s the kind of person who inspires people to be better than what they are,” she says.

 

Set the Mood

Pillow and her teachers played Jackson songs all year in the studio to build excitement for the show.

 

Overcoming Obstacles

State-wide flooding in September 2009 destroyed Lisa’s Dance Spot. Though initially devastated, Pillow was able to rebuild in two months’ time, with the help of her supportive network of family and friends. “That’s what Michael would have done. He faced adversity and got through it,” says Pillow. “Now our studio is bigger and better. The flood didn’t stop me.” In June 2010, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” burst onto the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre.

 

More Music Ideas:

 

Michael Jackson

—“The Way You Make Me Feel”

—"Beat It”

—“They Don’t Care About Us”

—“You Are Not Alone”

—“Ben”

—“Black or White”

—“Ghost”

—“Will You Be There” (Free Willy soundtrack)

 

Jackson 5

—“I Want You Back”

—“ABC”

—“Dancing Machine”

 

The Jacksons

—Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

 

 

Click here for a video of three routines from Lisa Pillow's Michael Jackson-inspired recital!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Lisa’s Dance Spot

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