How the dancers do the famous lean in Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” might be a secret. But performer Cameron McKinlay could talk all day about how getting to do that lean in Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson The Immortal” world tour is a dream come true.
“For me, that’s one of the most iconic moments in the show — to be a ‘Smooth Criminal’ dancer,” the 28-year-old dancer said.
McKinlay’s first Cirque du Soleil show was “The Beatles Love” in Las Vegas, which he said he performed with for three years. When he heard about the Michael Jackson show, he auditioned and came on board when it began in October 2011.
Since then, the tour has taken him to 29 countries and more than 140 cities around the world. And one year ago, it became even better, when his fiancee, whom he met on the Beatles show, joined the tour.
One thing he said shocks him about the tour is the true immortality of the king of pop.
“I see kids that are probably 4 to 6 years old dressed from head to toe in a Michael outfit and dancing and doing the moonwalk,” he said. “And then you have someone in their 60s or 70s dressed up head to toe. He’s timeless across generations.”
McKinlay said there’s an energy to the show that he’s never felt on tour before, even while he was performing for “The Beatles Love,” another tribute to one of music’s greats.
“Michael is such a celebrated artist and musician,” he said. “Everyone wants to be there and they want to do Michael proud, because he had such high expectations of him and his work. We feel like we’re filling in his shoes.”
Making this show even more unique is the fact that the audience gets to interact with the performers during intermission. They teach showgoers a bit of “Beat It.” And during the performance, audience members are encouraged to be on their feet and dancing, as if they were at an actual Michael Jackson concert.
“It’s such a cool experience to come down in intermission and teach them the moonwalk and have them come down and show us their Michael moves,” he said. “They’re so excited to show us what they can do.”
Since the show has been touring for almost three years, there is no music from Jackson’s latest posthumous release. “Xscape” came out in May and was the second album to emerge since the artist’s death in the summer of 2009.
But before “Xscape” came out, the group got to listen to it, McKinlay said. He came up with the idea to make a music video to the track “Blue Gangster,” to release the same day as the album.
McKinlay said the tune sounded like a follow-up to “Smooth Criminal.” In the music video, the men wear the same blue tuxedos as they do in the performance for “Smooth Criminal,” and the women wear flapper dresses. The video is viewable on Michael Jackson’s Vevo page.
The dancers rehearsed and recorded the video in the evenings after the tour show. McKinlay said they sometimes would be up until 4 in the morning working on it, only to repeat the process the following day.
McKinlay later found out that “Blue Gangster” was indeed intended as a sequel to “Smooth Criminal.”
“I’m glad we were on the same page as Michael,” he said.
Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Michael Jackson The Immortal’ world tour