Core or stomach strength, shoes with special heels, and a peg on the floor.
That’s how the late Michael Jackson performed his 45-degree, leaning, gravity-defying “Smooth Criminal” dance move, according to three neurosurgeons in a study published in a science journal this week.
Fans of the late singer and dancer, who passed away in 2009, have been wondering how “The King of Pop” managed to tilt forward in the 1987 music video seemingly without anything to hold him up, a Sky News article published online noted Thursday.
However, the surgeons said in a “Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine” article published May 22 that Jackson designed a special shoe with a triangular slot in the heel that hooked onto a metallic peg that came up from the stage floor at the right moment.
Nishant Yagnick, a longtime Jackson fan from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, led the research.
Yagnick and his fellow Indian scientists noted that Jackson did have very good core strength.
“Several MJ fans, including the authors, have tried to copy this move and failed, often injuring themselves in their endeavors,” they wrote.
Most trained dancers can achieve no more than 25 to 30 degrees of forwarding tilt, the scientists explained.
Such a move shifts the strain from the erector spine muscles, which support the spinal column, to the Achilles tendon, added Yagnick and coauthors Manjul Tripathi and Sandeep Mohindra.
“This allows for a very limited degree of forward bending from the ankle joints, while keeping a stiff straight posture —unless you are Michael Jackson,” they said. “MJ pulled off a gravity-defying 45-degree move that seems unearthly to any witness.”
Despite the illusion, the surgeons said Jackson’s physical abilities were still very impressive.
“Even with specially designed footwear and the support of the hitch member, the move is incredibly hard to pull off, requiring athletic core strength from strengthened spinal muscles and lower-limb anti-gravity muscles,” they added.
“Trick or not, new forms of dancing inspired by MJ have begun to challenge our understanding of the modes and mechanisms of spinal injury,” the surgeons said.
“Ever since MJ entertained us with his fabulous moves, throughout the world dancers have tried to jump higher, stretch farther, and turn faster than ever before.”