In the music video for Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson and four backup dancers used cables and harnesses to lean a full 45 degrees, a move that’s physically impossible for an unsupported human body. But somehow, Jackson also performed this dance move live on stage without any visible support. It turns out that in addition to developing impressive core strength, Michael Jackson nailed his shoes to the floor.
Screenshot: Michael Jackson
(According to the patent, the shoes were also taller than they looked, with a fake sock covering some of their ankle support.) The stage was prepped with nails sticking out unobtrusively. Jackson would slide his slotted shoes onto the nails, locking him into the floor, so he could move his centre of balance forward.
The shoe patent, now expired, hasn’t been secret for a long time, but this scientific paper, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery in the context of treating dance-related “injuries that may perplex the neurosurgeon,” renewed some interest.
Even with the extra support of being nailed to the floor, says the paper, Jackson still had to use all his strength as he leaned, straining his Achilles tendon to stay ramrod straight. So if you want to pull off this dance move, you need a rigged stage and dance skills.
Maybe try learning to moonwalk instead. Here’s an old but clear video guide to that more achievable dance move.
You can see the deep lean in the music video below, starting at 7:04. But as we mentioned, this instance was achieved with waist harnesses, not with Jackson’s special shoes.