Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop,’ remains as one of the most-loved musician, dancer and fashionista to the world forever. Fans love his dance moves as much as his music albums and have tried imitating his smooth slides, spins, crotch grab, pelvic thrust and his symbolic moonwalk with little success. Above all these is MJ’s gravity-defying tilt which was exhibited to the audience worldwide in his 1988 music video “Smooth Criminal.” Here, Jackson experimented with an anti-gravity lean where he and his fellow dancers lean forward at a 45-degree angle, far beyond the center of gravity, holding their back straight with feet flat upon the floor staying on these lines until they return to normal positions.
MJ: Cheating Gravity?
No normal person although extremely fit and healthy can perform the anti-gravity tilt physically without external aid. But Jackson executed the dance move with poise, amazing choreography and unmatched body balance. This is not how a human body works and if so, how was MJ able to accomplish it? Is it some trick, talent or tale?
Three neurosurgeons in India tried to analyze and find an answer to this question from a neurosurgeon’s point of view. When our body moves forward with our back straight, the erector spinae muscles that run parallel to our vertebrae support our body adapting it to the changing center of gravity. When the same bend is focused on the toes, these erector muscles are not the major support and the entire strain is over the Achilles tendon and calf, both of which are not really meant for this kind of stress. These surgeons point out that this strain allows for very limited degree of forward bending from the ankle joints and even the best of dancers could only move forward to a maximum of 25-30 degree with great effort and a 45-degree tilt was next to impossible, unless you were Michael Jackson. But even MJ could not accomplish this feat without external help. This aid was in the form of a special shoe that could anchor MJ and his dancers to the floor during the tilt.
The US Patent Office describes that the shoes have a specially designed heel slot that can be detachably engaged with a hitch (maybe a nail) projected through the stage surface by simply sliding the shoe wearer’s foot forward and engaging with the hitch member. In simple terms, the nail gets popped at the right moment and is hitched into a special shoe. The beauty here is that, even with such external support most of us cannot perform such moves as the body needs excellent core strength with full-fledged support from core muscles, abs and central trunk muscles. This core strength was MJ’s forte and present in his Achilles tendon. The three neurosurgeons who were also ardent Michael Jackson fans have tried copying the dance move but admit that they have failed miserably.
When someone without these muscle strengths try to perform such moves, he/she is sure to hurt his/her jaw, hyperextend the neck and cause serious spine damage. Apart from hurting the spine, there could also be intense damage done to the back, leg muscles and tendons as you’re holding most of the weight with muscles that you normally don’t use in this way.
Common people are not aware of these underlying tricks and when they try to copy it, results are harmful as most of them hurt themselves.
A Study on Dance
A study published in a renowned journal followed three types of hip-hop dancers (poppers, breakers and new schoolers) who were 232 in numbers. During the study period, there were 738 injuries among these dancers. Yet another study witnessed 1,665 injuries among 40 breakdance professionals and 104 amateurs mostly in the wrist, spine, shoulder and ankle. Breakdancing seems to be a high-risk dancing sport as there are more number of injuries and also individuals don’t give enough time for rest before jumping back into training again.
The King of Pop is not only an inspiration but also a challenge to the medical fraternity with his incredible mix of talent as well as magic. Trick or talent, new forms of MJ-inspired dance steps and moves offer numerous opportunities to understand modes and mechanisms of spinal injury. Michael Jackson remains an inspiration to dancers worldwide to jump higher, stretch farther and turn faster than ever before. Stress on the spinal column is inevitable and getting hurt is common in dancing. Neurosurgeons nowadays witness numerous cases of spinal injuries and face challenges when these dancers wish to continue dancing soon after receiving surgical treatments for injuries. If you are into dancing and want to strengthen core muscles and abs, get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com. The dietitian can suggest exercises as well as foods for strengthening muscles and making you fit.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.