By Walter Rutledge
Michael Jackson, Jr. has spent his career working in the Black dance genre. The gifted dancer, choreographer, teacher, and this season’s Ailey “poster God” began his dance training at age 14 at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. under the direction of Charles Augins. His irrepressible curiosity, athletic physique and pliant musculature help Jackson Jr. quickly excel.
In 2005, shortly after completing high school, Jackson decided to move to New York City to pursue his dream. Then 18 years old he describes this time living and dancing in the dance mecca as “being so broke”. He quickly found work with the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble. Under the tutelage of founder Arthur Mitchell Jackson Jr. enjoyed DTH’s eclectic repertoire especially the contemporary works such as Robert Garland’s Return and Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla.
The following year he joined the Dallas Black Dance Theatre where he danced for two seasons before returning east to work with the Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco). Under the direction of Joan Myers Brown, Jackson Jr. performed the works of dance luminaries Talley Beatty, George Faison, Milton Myers and Christopher Huggins. A venerable taskmaster with an astute eye for developing artists, Director Brown recognized other qualities in Jackson, Jr. that extended beyond performing. He soon became the artistic director of Philadanco’s performing ensemble D3.
Conversation with Michael Jackson Jr
In 2011 Jackson returned to New York City as a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. During his six-year association with the Ailey Company Jackson Jr. has distinguished himself as a strong expressive performer. Tall, powerfully built, yet almost cat-like in his approach to movement; Jackson Jr. embodies the Ailey male aesthetic, which is also reflected in former heart-throb Hector Mercado, Clive Thompson, Elbert Watson, Keith McDaniel, and present principal dancer turned choreographer Jamar Roberts.
Two ballets Jackson Jr. anticipates performing this season are, Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section and Talley Beatty’s The Stack Up. Unfortunately both noteworthy works have limited performances schedules. To see these works and for an overview of the entire 2017 New York City Center schedule, and to purchase tickets, visit ailey.org.
Photos: 1) Michael Jackson, Jr. photo by Andrew Eccles 2) Michael Jackson, Jr. photo by Richard Calmes 3) Sarah Daley and Michael Jackson, Jr. photo by okeiffe