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March 22, 2024

The Story Behind Michael Jackson’s Anti-Gravity Lean

In 1987, a new music video, “Smooth Criminal,” showed Michael Jackson performing a mind-boggling dance move. He leaned 45° forward while keeping his spine straight, using only his feet to prevent him from falling. Those who believed that special effects had been used in the video were shocked to see this man, also known as the “Moonwalker,” perform the move in live concerts all over the world.

For generations since, several MJ fans, including the authors, have tried to copy this move and failed, often injuring themselves in their endeavors. The scientists explained that most trained dancers can achieve no more than 25 to 30 degrees of forward tilt. Strain is shifted from the erector spine muscles which support the spinal column to the Achilles tendon.

Following the release of the 1987 video, the antigravity lean became so popular with audiences that Michael Jackson and his team undertook a search for ways to reproduce the move in live shows.

Drawings showing the “antigravity tilt” (> 45° forward bend), the dance move introduced by Michael Jackson, as well as the conceptualized shoe designed by MJ and co-inventors.

Shift of the fulcrum from the sacrum to the Achilles tendon in MJ’s antigravity tilt.

Because the use of wires is extremely difficult in front of a live audience, Jackson could not perform the move during his Bad World Tour in 1988, soon after the release of the music video. Undeterred, together with co-inventors Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins, he developed an unusual shoe mechanism that, when used by dancers with strong core-strength training, could accomplish the antigravity lean without the use of wires. It took years to develop this invention, and the new technique was finally used in the Dangerous World Tour. The success of the antigravity lean spurred on the use of this move in most of Jackson’s later live shows featuring the song.

Inspired by Michael Jackson, the same shoe mechanism has been used by dancers all over the world who, after considerable training, have accomplished this move in front of mesmerized audiences without the use of wires.

On October 26, 1993, Michael Jackson filed United States Patent #5,255,452: Method and Means for Creating Anti-Gravity Illusion. The patent is for the shoes used to perform Jackson’s iconic anti-gravity illusion seen on the music video “Smooth Criminal.” Jackson wanted to solidify his “patented” move. The patent above includes the abstract, drawings, summary, and description of the shoes. The patent allows the “wearer to learn forwardly beyond his center of gravity.”


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