This performance is an homage to the choreographer Michael Peters who created one of the most famous dance moments in collective culture: Thriller. His dance has been re-performed and interpreted in hundreds of different ways and locations throughout the world including the Cebo prison in the Philippines, the movie 13 Going on 30, and the Guinness World Record for largest group dance. The unique gestural movements of Michael Jackson, pared with the comical image of zombies dancing made Thriller one of the most recognizable choreographic moments in popular culture and dance history.
What is unknown to the larger public about this work is the man who created the choreography for this video. Michael Peters was born in Williamsburg to a black father and Jewish mother. He became well regarded for his choreography on stage and in music videos including winning a Tony for choreographing the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, Pat Benetar’s Love is a Battlefield and Michael Jackson’s Beat It where he appeared as a rival gang member. He was also a gay man who lived through the height of AIDS and ultimately died in 1994 from an HIV related illness at the age of 46. The Thriller dance, particularly embodied through Michael Jackson’s singular movement vocabulary, when considered through the lens of the AIDS crisis, provokes a sense of eerie joy in dancing through death.
My performance attempts to dislocate the movement vocabulary of the piece from man that made it famous, and create an homage to choreographer Michael Peters. The piece will take the basic gestures of thriller (danced solely by people who self identify as queer) and create a sensual and evocative re-envisioning of the dance. Without the song, the piece will strive to address issues such as the invisibility of queer artistic contributions in history and the use of artistic creation as means of rebirth.
My art resides in a space of trans-disciplinary influence. While it is most firmly rooted in the history of live visual art, I work across genres and materials using multiple modes of creation including sound, music, performance, video, fiber arts and sculpture. With performance as a lens to develop conceptual ideas, my work lives on as a combination of collective memory, objects, photographs, sound recordings and video documentation. The objects and performances work in tandem to illustrate my ideas and create art that addresses social, aesthetic and emotional concerns as well as describes political and social possibilities.
Meg Leary (b. 1978) is a Chicago-based performance, sound and visual artist. She began her career as an opera singer, which has since become the foundation for the visual and performative works she creates. Over the past decade, she has been developing a series of performances, videos, sculptures and compositions based on the public perception of the “diva.” These pieces examine issues of femininity, queerness, fatness and voicelessness.
Leary has an MA degree in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA degree in Studio Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her BA from Smith College and vocal training at The Boston Conservatory. Her work has been shown at a variety of venues including the Chicago Artists Coalition, Gallery 400, EXPO Chicago, ACRE Gallery, SOHO House, Chicago Artists Coalition, Subterranean, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, NADA, Elastic Arts, The Hideout, The Whistler, Mana Contemporary, Kendall College of Art & Design, Peanut Gallery, Links Hall, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and more. Leary is currently a 2017 resident of the HATCH program at the Chicago Artists Coalition.