Talent, magic, or a bit of both?

The science behind Michael Jackson’s dance moves

When was the last time you watched a Michael Jackson music video? If your answer is “never” or “not for quite a while,” you are really missing a treat.

Source: Pexels/祝 鹤槐

According to Rolling Stone, “No single artist … shaped, innovated or defined the medium of ‘music video’ more than Michael Jackson.” 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 story lines, special effects, cinematography, and amazing choreography. He created high-budget brief movies highlighting both music and dance.

Though a visual delight, such moves also lead to new forms of musculoskeletal injuries

Manjul Tripathi

And about that dance. . . . Jackson executed dance moves we 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 appear to defy the laws of gravity. In one move featured in his 1987 music video “Smooth Criminal,” he pitches forward 45 degrees, with his body straight as a rod and his shoes resting on the stage, and holds the position. That is not how the human body works!  How did Michael Jackson do it? Was it talent, magic, or both? 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 introduced in “Smooth Criminal” from a neurosurgeon’s point of view.

Photo
A: Drawings showing the “antigravity tilt” (> 45° forward bend), the dance move introduced by Michael Jackson, in comparison to the normal limit of a human tilt (20° forward bend), as well as the conceptualized shoe designed by MJ and coinventors. B: Shift of the fulcrum from the sacrum to the Achilles tendon in MJ’s antigravity tilt.
Source: Manjul Tripathi

First, Yagnick et al. walk us through some basics of spinal biomechanics to show just how impressive is the feat. Even the strongest of dancers can only maintain a 25- to 30-degree forward tilt from the ankle. Admitted fans of Jackson, the neurosurgeons document 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 warn other neurosurgeons of new forms of spinal injuries, as dancers follow Jackson’s example and attempt “to jump higher, stretch further, and turn faster than ever before.”

The full story on the antigravity tilt is published in a new article in the Journal of Neurosurgery entitled “How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics?” (https://thejns.org/doi/full/10.3171/2018.2.SPINE171443). When asked about his article, Dr. 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.”

27.05.2018

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Promising diagnostic tool

Tracing tau tangles against Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have identified in live human brains new radioactive “tracer” molecules that bind to and “light up” tau tangles, a protein associated with a number of…

Photonic endoscopy

Fibre probe explores the depth of our brain

This could be a major step towards a better understanding of the functions of deeply hidden brain compartments, such as the formation of memories, as well as related dysfunctions, including…

Klotho

Could a ’longevity protein’ be the key to rejuvenating muscles?

One of the downsides to getting older is that skeletal muscle loses its ability to heal after injury. New research from the University of Pittsburgh implicates the so-called “longevity protein”…

Related products

Research use only (RUO)

Eppendorf - Mastercycler nexus X2

Eppendorf AG

Research use only (RUO)

SARSTEDT - Low DNA Binding Micro Tubes

SARSTEDT AG & CO. KG

Research use only (RUO)

Shimadzu - CLAM-2000

Shimadzu Europa GmbH