For dancer Leo Moctezuma, ‘Michael Jackson Immortal’ is a dream come true


CAN YOU FEEL IT? | Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Immortal’ is so overwhelming that dancer Leo Moctezuma, inset, feels the singer’s presence in spirit.


RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

We’ve all done it: On the smooth floor of the kitchen or at the school gymnasium, we’ve practiced the moonwalk made famous by Michael Jackson. If it wasn’t that, it was the signature “claw” from the “Thriller” video, or the tip-toe stand of “Billie Jean” (sparkle glove and pants flair optional).

When he was younger, Leo Moctezuma was certainly one of these people. And like all of them, he practiced enough until he had it down perfectly. Or so he thought.

“Being a fan and a dancer, I used to learn all those the moves,” Moctezuma  says. “I kinda knew them, but during rehearsal, I learned that wasn’t the case!”

As a member of the cast of Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour — the tribute show created by Cirque du Soleil that comes to American Airlines Center on Tuesday — Moctezuma learned his self-taught moves, while close, weren’t accurate enough to get in this show. Soleil wanted perfection and with the Jackson family estate supporting it, he had to get it exact.

“Everyone has their own version, but it felt  better to learn the proper way. We’re doing the version,” he says. “Plus, we’re learning from the best of the best.”

Those “best” include an impressive roster of choreographers, among them Rich and Tone Talauega (Madonna), Jamal Sims (the Footloose remake) and most notably Travis Payne, who worked with Jackson on his Dangerous Tour and his what-could-have-been production that was the focus of the 2010 documentary This Is It.

High-profile pop stars are nothing new to Moctezuma. He’s toured with queer faves and pop heavyweights Pink, Britney Spears and Ricky stage3Martin, to name a few. But this tour fulfilled one of his dreams — even if part of that dream passed away two years ago.

“I feel very blessed to be part of this show. As a kid, it was always my dream to dance with Michael Jackson and so this feels like an honor. I’m dancing his dance and to his music. It’s cool to sort of touch people the way he did.”

Fusing the magic of Cirque with the dance and music elements of the King of Pop, Immortal isn’t merely a concert, it’s a massive all-out music-and-dance production. The intent of Immortal isn’t to capitalize on Jackson’s passing, but to honor the artistry he brought to music and, ultimately, the world. The Jackson estate helped to create Immortal, giving it added legitimacy and prestige..

Jackson was famous for his eccentricities, but for Moctezuma, performing the show has helped him realize something deeper. As an LGBT ally in the world of dance, he says that Immortal has inspired him to spread Jackson’s familiar message of healing to the world.

“He was about loving and respecting yourself and being weird but in a good way. He was kind of like how Lady Gaga is now,” he says. “I realize that in the community, those personal struggles are tough, but he was thinking out of the box and making amazing work. I think that’s how the community works.”

Another part of Jackson fandom was dressing the part. Whether you got the vinyl “Beat It” jacket or the cheapy bedazzled glove, he had an image to live up to. For Moctezuma, putting on his costumes was more a magical experience.

“As one of the fanatics, I get to dress up in some of that gear,” he says. “That part is like the comic relief of the show. But putting on that gangster outfit for the ‘Smooth Criminal’ bit was cool. I have moments during the show where he’s so present. His spirit and voice is so overwhelming that I forget he’s gone.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 22, 2012.