Doctors reveal how Michael Jackson was able to perform 'impossible' dance move
While Michael Jackson is gone, his legacy lives on. In today's pop landscape, there are several spiritual successors to his music, but nobody will ever sing exactly like him, or dance exactly like him. (Or grab their crotch exactly like him.)
The King Of Pop had many signature dance moves - the moonwalk, the spin, the kick, and of course, the anti-gravity lean. This iconic move appears in the Smooth Criminal video at around the seven minute mark. Michael stands up perfectly straight, then leans to one direction, from the getting dangerously close to the floor. Any other person fall flat on their face, but not MJ! He safely, and eerily, swings back up. It's pretty awesome.
A team of neuroscientists studied this 1987 routine, to see how Michael pulled off this "biochemically impossible" dance move. The study was conducted by Manjul Tripathi and colleagues from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India. (Hey, studying Michael Jackson moves beats studying boring medicine!)
"Most trained dancers with strong core strength will reach a maximum of 25 to 30 degrees of forward bending while performing this action," wrote the authors, in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. "MJ pulled off a gravity-defying 45 degree move that seems unearthly to any witness." So, how did the dancer pull off this mind-boggling maneuver?
When people try to do the anti-gravity lean, they discover that the strain shifts from their back muscles to the Achilles tendon in the ankle. So, even if you match Michael's impressive athletic ability, this only allows for a limited amount of bend. And you're probably going to hurt yourself. The only reason MJ was able to tilt those extra degrees was because - spoiler alert - he wore specially designed shoes.
Here's the secret behind the illusion: Michael's shoes had V-shaped slits in the heels, which he planted down on a nail, or "hitch member," driven into the ground. This allowed the singer to lean further forward, and pull off the classic "Smooth Criminal" lean. It's believed that this idea was inspired by US astronauts, who docked their feet in such a manner so they could work in zero gravity.
So, unfortunately, you won't be able to pul off this move on the dance floor. And even if you create the special shoes, you probably still won't pull it off, because it requires incredible core strength. "Several MJ fans, including the authors, have tried to copy this move and failed, often injuring themselves in their endeavors," write the authors. (Man, I hope that footage leaks.) "The chances of injury to the ankle are significant. You need strong core muscles and good support around the ankle. It's not a simple trick."
So, there you have it. If you're going to copy a Michael Jackson move, stick to the moonwalk, the spin or the crotch grab. But let's face it - you'll never nail it just like him.