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Michael Jackson's Iconic Lean In 'Smooth Criminal' Was Actually Thanks To Some Special Shoes

The late King of Pop left such an indelible mark on the music industry that people are still talking about what a force he was as a pop culture legend.

Besides his signature crotch-grabbing pelvic thrusts and the moonwalk, many tribute dancers have been inspired to perfect his distinct dance moves. But there's one iconic move that has left many impersonators falling flat on their faces: the "Smooth Criminal" lean.




M.J. fan and neurosurgeon from Chandigarh, India, Dr. Nishant Yagnick, spoiled our suspended disbelief of the gravity-defying maneuver and disclosed to CNN, "He was cheating gravity."

His colleague, also a fan, vouched for Yagnick. "You can bend a maximum of 25 or 30 degrees forward before you fall on your face. I tried to do it, and I fell."



Jackson may have defied physical odds with his pop-and-lock precision on stage and in many of his music videos, but his core strength and built-in agility weren't enough to execute the slow motions move. So how did the pop legend achieve that lean first shown in the 1988 "Smooth Criminal" video?

In short, he had strong shoes to fill. Jackson's team devised a special shoe that would anchor him to the floor when the groove inside the heel would slide into a hitch protruding out from the floor.

Together with Yagnick, his colleague Dr. Manjul Tripathi, and Dr. Sandeep Mohindra published their research into the physics involved in the Journal of Neurosurgery: "How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics?"

The doctors explained to CNN that when the erector spinae muscles exceed their limitations as the body's center of gravity shifts, the ankles take over but aren't capable of such support, which strains the calf and Achilles tendon.



The study further explained:

This allows for a very limited degree of forward bending from the ankle joints, while keeping a stiff straight posture -- unless you are Michael Jackson. Most trained dancers with strong core strength will reach a maximum of 25 or 30 degrees of forward bending while performing this action.









But the specially patented shoes won't make a smooth criminal out of anybody.

"Very inventive idea of him, because even with that shoe, I am not able to do 45 degrees. You need a very good core of strength, and that strength was in Michael Jackson and his Achilles tendon," said Tripathi.



Yagnick told CNN that when Jackson performed the move live on stage during his concerts, people were astounded.

When Michael Jackson brought out the video and then did it live on stages around the world, people didn't know he had this shoe system. Particularly in India, where Michael Jackson is very popular, many people tried to copy him, and some even hurt themselves.

For some, the science behind the lean was far from a revelation; however, not everybody could execute the lean effortlessly, even with the special shoes.





Others thought the multi-Grammy award-winning artist can perform and excite a crowd without a hitch.



H/T - Twitter, CNN