“Easy As ABC!” Remembering Michael Jackson on the 7th Anniversary of His Death
Every year since Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, my aerobic dance class has celebrated his music.
This class is more than huff and puff. Each week our instructor designates a different theme with choreographed songs to match. For example, Memorial Day saw us honoring World War II by dancing to the Andrews Sisters snappy ’40s tunes and on Father’s Day we did songs from Fiddler on the Roof. Our teacher is a former professional dancer and her enthusiasm makes it easy for our group of 10-15 students to learn the steps.
To take on Michael’s music, our first task required mastering the Moonwalk. We all got it, though our rubber-soled running shoes didn’t give us as much glide as we would have liked. We did disco struts to “Billie Jean” and added our moon walks to “Beat It. “Man in the Mirror” gave us a chance for leg-strengthening plies. We jitterbugged to “Rock with You.” For a finale, our instructor taught us to put all the steps together in a jazzy, rockin’ “Can’t Stop Till You Get Enough” routine. “Heal the World” slowed the tempo, and we sang along during our cool down period. We left to get into our cars, energized and still humming the tunes.
My memories of Michael Jackson go back to the 1970s, when I taught at Helen Hunt Elementary, a three-story historic building constructed in 1902, when the city was just over 30 years old. Located at the southeastern edge of the city by Prospect Lake, it would serve the families of new arrivals and the small, established black community. By 1970, it was far from being on the outskirts of town, and had become instead, an inner city school, 80 % Black and 20% Hispanic.
Like the other schools I’d taught in, the school calendar allowed for three class parties a year: Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. I had a repertoire of traditional party games in mind when the first Halloween party arrived. My students soon set me straight. Along with their costumes, they were armed with 45 rpm records. At Helen Hunt, party time meant you pushed the desks to the sides of the room and danced! I’d never heard of Michael Jackson, but I promptly found out who he was, since every one of my third grade girls was in love with him.
I can still picture those eight-year-olds bouncing on the second-story ancient wood floor of Helen Hunt School as they danced to the Jackson Five singing “Easy as ABC.” The high-ceiling room echoed the music while joy and energy filled the space. Shawanda grabbed my hand, pulling me into the crowd. “Come on, Mrs. Bell, you can do it.” Of course I could. Who could stand still to a beat like that!
My thoughts return to the aerobic dance class. The mirror wall reflected us as we practiced our moonwalks and perfected the lively routines. Is Michael Jackson’s music ageless? You might say so. The majority of the class are in their sixties and seventies, and three have celebrated their 80th birthdays.
Lucy Bell is a retired teacher and writing consultant. She is a certified Native Plant Master and Interpretive Guide at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. She founded Friends of Emerson in Colorado Springs, now in its thirteenth year.