Despite Michael Jackson's Molestation Allegations, MJ The Musical Will Hit Broadway This Summer
The hotly-debated Michael Jackson biomusical is back on. Not that it was ever officially off, but after its pre-Broadway Chicago run was canceled in February, its future seemed shaky.
Now, the show has secured a Broadway theater, with previews starting July 6 at the Neil Simon Theater.
Already, the musical has been through several stages of change: The Chicago cancellation occurred following the release of Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary that delves into accusations that Jackson molested children, including choreographer Wade Robson. Early on, writer Lynn Nottage and director–choreographer Christopher Wheeldon had said that they imagined the show would address these allegations—though they had always been denied by Jackson himself—and that it planned to focus on his early-1990s era, as he prepared for a tour to promote his "Dangerous" album. It's not clear if either of those ideas have been retooled.
One thing that definitely has been retooled is the musical's name: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough is now simply MJ The Musical.
And the show continues to evolve—it's currently in the midst of its third developmental workshop.
With Wheeldon on board, we expect no shortage of stellar dancing. But the fact that the musical is still happening is surprising. While some diehard Jackson fans are rallying in support amidst the accusations, others have had enough. (Earlier this year, writer Alison Feller penned an op-ed for Dance Magazine stating that despite Jackson's indelible mark on our culture, it's time to stop dancing to his songs.)
This spring, Nottage admitted to The Daily Mail that she believes Jackson's accusers, and described the pop star as "an immensely flawed human being." Later in a New York Times interview, Nottage and Wheeldon spoke further about their thoughts on the controversy, without outright taking sides. The pair said they intend to paint a balanced picture of Jackson, with Wheeldon noting, "part of what we do as artists is we respond to complexity."
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In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.