Worldwide famous coreographer Travis Payne, Michael Jackson's old friend and associate producer of the "Michael Jackson's - This Is It" film, has exclusively granted the following flash, though really intense, interview to MJPortal.com.
We deeply thank Travis for having found the time to fulfill our request, initially agreed for June 09, then postponed until some days ago.
Q. Well, I suppose that the first question that I'll ask is about you. When did you fall in love with "Dance" as an Art form and what prompted you to believe in the "power" of Dance?
A. As a young child, I always moved a lot. I would move to the music my parents played. At 5 years old, I first saw Michael Jackson. I was instantly mesmerized by his dance and music. I listened to Michael and his brothers religiously before starting formal dance training at the age of 9. I studied ballet, jazz, tap, modern and gymnastics.
Q.How did you and Michael end up together... or maybe I should ask how did it all begin between you and Michael?
A. Every morning before going to middle school and during high school, I would watch Michael and Janet’s short films while I ate my breakfast cereal. I imagined myself on stage performing with both of them. I did this for years.
I attended the ‘Bad’ and ‘Rhythm Nation: 1814’ tours multiple times. I knew all the steps. My friends and I sent a video tape of me doing Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Tour choreography to Janet. About one week later I was flying to Japan to meet her and join the tour.
After touring with Janet at 19, I auditioned for “Remember the Time” with Michael. This was the first time I worked with MJ. It was truly a dream-come true. After “Remember the Time”, I joined the Dangerous tour as a dancer. Once on the Dangerous tour, I became a choreography partner to Michael. We did the “American Music Awards” in 1993, the “MTV Awards” opening number in 1995. Next was the “HIStory Tour” and “Ghosts”. For ‘This Is It’, I was the associate director and choreographer of the tour and associate producer of the film. And you know when we slide and open our legs in Dangerous? That was us just trying positions that the human body doesn't naturally do. We always try to live in those positions." There's that present tense again.
Q. Was your relationship with Michael purely work work work or is there a friendship somewhere in there also?
A. In the beginning our relationship was only about the art and creating. Over the years, it grew into a very special friendship. Michael grew to trust me.
We didn’t always speak regularly in the beginning. That changed. During “This Is It”, we were always together creating the best show Michael, Kenny and I could.
Q.How do you feel after Michael passed away?
A. I feel numb and emotionally exhausted. I still can’t believe he is not going to call me with another new idea. I will really miss those calls.
Q. From past experience we all know that Michael was a real perfectionist. What was the climate during rehearsals of the “This Is It” tour?
A. The climate during “This Is It” was intense, but loving. We had a huge responsibility that continued to grow daily. Michael was very clear that he wanted to create the greatest show his fans and the world had ever seen.
There was never tension, but a constant awareness of the creativity and energy needed to realize Michael’s vision.
Q. Have you noticed any changes in MJ from the time you met until now?
A. Michael had matured in his art and awareness of his responsibilty to the planet. Everything he stood for was based on love, peace, good will and joy.
He loved his fans, our planet and his family. He had always shared these ideals with the world through his music and art, but the world didn’t really hear him.
It was necessary for Michael to return to the stage to remind the world of our individual and collective responsibility to our planet. He was even more passionate about his messages this time. He’d say, “This Is It! We have to fix this mess!” All of the environmental tragedies and poverty that exist really affected Michael, more than people knew.
Q. We know that the “This Is It” tour would have been the greatest show of all times. Which are the main differences with Michael's past concerts?
A. Michael was a father of 3 children this time around. His children were now old enough to appreciate what their dad loved so much: performing for his fans. Michael was young enough to do it again.
Q. Was Michael really ready to face 50 concerts?
A. Michael was definitely ready to do the concerts. The 50 shows scheduled in London were spread out over 9 months. Michael would have been performing an average of 2 to 3 shows per week.
Q. The selected dancers appeared very motivated and happy about their engagement. How did they react to MJ's death?
A. Eveyone was devastated. We couldn’t be apart. We would meet in a different location for many days after Michael’s passing to be aorund each other for support.
Q. What about the Dome Project, and how about all the uncompleted songs Michael Jackson wrote in the last decade? Will they see the light in a reasonable time?
A. The “Dome Project” was the code name for ‘This Is It’ during production. I hope Michael’s songs will be heard by the world, especially the new ideas I heard before he passed.
Q. You've worked with some of the greats like Michael, Madonna, Janet and many more. Do you think that the future will give us some new pop music phenomena of this type or can we say that this era is coming to a close?
A. I think anything is possible. I do know that there will never be another Michael Jackson. He was an instrument of nature and a unique being.
Q.What do the future generations have to look forward to?
A. Future generations have hard work to look forward to. With hard work comes glory. Michael has set the bar so high in all of entertainment, philanthropy and so loved humanity. Let us remember his spirit when dealing with each other. It’s not hard to love each other more. We’ve learned violent behavior just as we’ve learned to read in 2-d. 3-d is what’s natural.
Q. Thousands of fans around the world believe Michael is still alive, and that his death is an hoax. What can you tell us about all the misteries surrounding this argument?
A. I have heard this and don’t believe it. Michael would never take his children, family and fans through the drama of staging such a hoax. That’s not his style.
He’d think that was selfish because it would hurt so many who love him. He was ready to take the stage again and do what he did best. Change the world.