Thursday 22 February 2018

Dancer's warning over ailing Jacko

Michael Jackson appeared much thinner than earlier in his career, a dancer who worked with the singer has said (AP/Joel Ryan)
Michael Jackson appeared much thinner than earlier in his career, a dancer who worked with the singer has said (AP/Joel Ryan)

A dancer who worked with Michael Jackson throughout his career said she told the director of his ill-fated concert tour that she was worried about the singer's health.

Alif Sankey told a jury in Los Angeles deciding a lawsuit that the pop star appeared thin and unprepared in 2009 for the rigours of his planned comeback concerts known as This Is It.

The singer turned up at one rehearsal with shoes that had holes in the soles, missed rehearsals and appeared much thinner than earlier in his career, Ms Sankey said.

She showed jurors an email she wrote to tour director Kenny Ortega in early June 2009, urging him to try to improve Jackson's health and spirits. She never got a direct reply but said Mr Ortega raised the concerns with concert promoter AEG Live. "Please help me help you to get him back into that Magical Light, please let me help you help him find what was lost, his GRAIL," Ms Sankey wrote to Mr Ortega, who she had worked closely with for a number of years.

Evidence showed Mr Ortega copied Ms Sankey on several email messages that he sent to AEG executives about Jackson's condition and the need for him to receive physiotherapy and better nutrition. "He requires more attention and management," Mr Ortega wrote in one email. "I truly believe he needs nourishment guidance and physical therapy (massage) for his fatigued muscles and injuries. He is not in great physical shape. I believe he's hurting."

Ms Sankey met Jackson while working on his 1987 video for Smooth Criminal and was an associate producer and planned to dance on stage during This Is It.

She was giving evidence at the trial of a negligent hiring lawsuit filed by Jackson's mother against AEG Live. Katherine Jackson claims AEG failed to properly investigate the doctor who was caring for her son and later administered a fatal dose of the anaesthetic propofol to the 50-year-old singer in June 2009.

The promoter has denied wrongdoing and its lawyers have said the singer hid his addiction to propofol. Jackson's former dictor Conrad Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter.

Meanwhile, a TV choreographer who told a court that Michael Jackson never abused him as a child has now filed a claim against the singer's estate, claiming years of abuse by the pop superstar. Wade Robson's lawyer Henry Gradstein says in a statement that his client was abused by Jackson over a seven-year period.

Mr Robson was the first witness to give evidence in Jackson's defence against child molestation accusations that ended with the singer's acquittal in 2005. The accusations have been forcefully denied by lawyers for Jackson's estate and the singer's criminal defence lawyer. Mr Gradstein writes that strain from the abuse led Mr Robson, a choreographer on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, to suffer a breakdown last year.

Press Association

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