Dantanio talks paying tribute to Michael Jackson in HIStory

Dantanio is one of the world’s best impersonators that greets the stage. As well as performing as Sammy Davis Jr, he has observed Michael Jackson with a magnified eye since a young age. All that studying has paid off in what is deemed one spectacular show in HIStory – exploring the pop star’s most most well loved songs.

Last week Dantanio chatted to us at the AU Review prior to his travels towards regional Victoria.

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How is the tour going so far?

The tour is doing phenomenally well. We started in New Zealand in May, into June and we just did our first two-week of Australia. It went very well. Our opening night in Brisbane was — wow, sold out. People were crying. I was thinking what a big reaction.

The reception has been amazing especially in Ballarat which we did not too long ago.

Is it interesting to see regional areas in Australia as well?

Well this is my very first visit to Australia in general. I’m quite all new to all the provinces and all the areas and stuff. Just the reaction we’ve seen all the places that we do visit — it’s all based on the demand from the fans, no matter where they are from. So we go where the fans really want it, you know?

How much dedication is taken into putting on the choreography, particularly when you are dancing like someone so charismatic as Michael Jackson?

A normal would be travelling to the venue. We are being based in Melbourne at the moment, so we are going to these venues in Victoria. We generally will leave around nine in the morning and we’ll start setting up not too long after that. Sound check would be around about four o’clock.

We’ve rehearsed for the show long before we go on tour. We have prepared for the show 2-3 months in advance. There is choreography, costumes, song lists and all these concerns that we look at at that time.  

When we’re on tour, we literally get to the venue and go through all that stuff we explained and then get ready for the night’s show. The show is well prepared, rehearsed too. The choreography side of things is very demanding because it’s a signature thing with Michael Jackson. I do my best to do my 100 per cent and thank goodness, I mean Michael started for me when I was 10 years old. His technique has been in my DNA now.

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His dancing technique is a unique one. When you see him perform, he has this way of setting himself apart from everyone else that incorporates dance into their pop songs. Would you agree?

Of course! Starting at the age of five, you know, and being surrounded by all that wealth of industry people — Barry Gordy, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson — all those greats that he grew up with in Motown. Surely, that rubbed off on him.

James Brown, Jackie Wilson, all those greats. When he dances, remember someone once said if you put a spotlight on Michael Jackson — just a spotlight with no music — somebody who is deaf would look at him dancing and feel the music. That was how dedicated he is.

He really puts on a visual spectacle. You have been impersonating him for a while now, so is it natural to you, or do you have to still work on his craft, so to speak?

Sometimes it does [come naturally] but you can never get to a comfort zone where you accept or believe that you know everything. At least I don’t, I never allow myself that. There is always room for improvement. Maybe tonight I may do a spin this way and then tomorrow I may point a certain way.

Michael Jackson himself was a very improvisational dancer. He would make up things away from what was rehearsed on the night of his show. It would be magical how it fit in. I would always find a way for room for improvement to [emulate that]. It’s constant improvement. Something that’s very challenging.

Can you give me an idea of what you reckon is the hardest song to perform?

Choreography-wise, I’d have to say Dangerous. I’m not sure if you’ve seen his 1995 show that he’s done on MTV?

I have a recollection of it…

He does this big collage of choreography in this song where he’s got a whole bunch of dancers and Dangerous is just full of choreography and I have to sing: The way she came into the place/I knew right then and there/There was something different about this girl.

And then he sings: Dangerous/The girl is so dangerous/Take away my money/Throw away my time

I mean, that song is so intense with movement and choreography with the tone you have to put into that song. So I reckon that is very difficult.

As well as his dancing, you have to emulate his singing style as well. Can you take me through how you develop your voice to ensure something as authentic as you can?

Like with everybody on this planet, I don’t think I could ask you to do a Barry Gibb or a Bee Gees song. It’s probably not in your register, but you find a way to make it work for you. I think having started on Michael since the age of nine; you get a knack for what he did.

I’m a singer-songwriter by profession anyway, so I’m used to being on stage and performing and singing his way. Emulating people comes natural because you are really actually studying them. It has challenges though. One of the songs we do in the show is Ben (starts to sing): Ben, the two of us need look no more / We both found what we were looking for.

I adore that falsetto, but you must have a clean falsetto for that song in general. I’ve studied all the ways Michael did that. One of the things he did was warm ups before his show, and I do that myself. There’s a discipline there.

What do you want people who see HIStory to come away with once they’ve seen the show?

When I’m on stage as Michael Jackson, I really do my best to be Michael Jackson. I believe the fans came to see Michael Jackson. You gotta put people in that elusive state of accepting that the King of Pop is on stage. The show is called HIStory, but history isn’t about past experiences for me. [It’s] also the future as well. [It’s] about informing and teaching.

I would love people to leave with that notion that they have had the Michael Jackson experience and that they can tell their children about it. They can pass on the music and the legacy of the greatest entertainer to those future generations too. That’s what I want them to leave them with – the memory of: I have to tell somebody of the spectacular performance.

Not just the performer actually, but also explaining the show, the music and passing it on. Continuing the history, so to speak.

lineHIStory is currently on tour. You can go see Dantanio perform the tribute to the King of Pop at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne on July 15th, Adelaide’s Festival Theatre on July 18th, Stage One Theatre in Bunbury on July 22nd, The Astor Theatre in Perth on July 23rd and finishing up at the Mandurah PAC in Mandurah on July 24th.

For more information head to this link.

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