MJ Studies Today C

Abstract: For the 100th edition of MJ Studies Today, Kerry Hennigan takes a look at the iconic imagery presented by Michael Jackson on his Dangerous World Tour, in particular his spring-board entrance onto the stage in a shower of sparks at the commencement of each show. With the Dangerous concerts, Jackson set a precedent in spectacular stunts for his own performances which carried right through to his plans for This Is It, and which have now been replicated in the Broadway and touring productions of MJ: the Musical.

Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the free monthly newsletter A Candle for Michael, administrator of the fan group “Michael Jackson’s Short Film Ghosts” on Facebook, and an MJ blogger on WordPress. Kerry is a life-long student, has Certificates in the Archaeology of the Ancient World and the Archaeology of Ancient Britain from Cambridge University in the UK and is currently focused on the Viking Age.


Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today C: The Iconic Imagery of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour and its afterlife.” (14-04-2024). The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies Vol 10, No. 4 (2024). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-c/

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The Iconic Imagery of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour and its afterlife. By Kerry Hennigan

Photo collage © Kerry Hennigan

“Michael finally appeared centre stage as if from nowhere, emerging in a flash of smoke,” observed Adrian Grant on the opening night of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour at Munich’s Olympia Stadion, on 27 June 1992. [1] That entrance, for which Jackson was catapulted into the air from beneath the stage, became immortalised in video footage and concert photographs that captured the moment and froze it for posterity. Against a backdrop of pyrotechnics, Jackson landed on the stage, and stood motionless, his metallic belt and bandolier flashing in the blindingly bright spotlights.

Having made his dramatic entrance, Jackson stood motionless, gazing out at his empire of adoring fans from behind his aviator sunglasses, as the audience screamed and cheered itself hoarse with the excitement of it all. As observed by Grant, Michael “seemed to command respect from his position and draw on the energy that the fans were creating.” [2]

Finally, the King of Pop moved, reached up, and removed his sunglasses. Flinging them aside, he then sprang into action, as the band launched into the opening number, “Jam.” With that, the show was off and running!  This same scenario was repeated for each show of the tour and was also replicated on a temporary stage in the middle of LA’s Rose Bowl Stadium for Michael’s 1993 Super Bowl half time show. The catapult entrance, the motionless stance, his costume, his dark glasses – they would all become an iconic part of the artist’s stage persona.

The costume served to strengthen Jackson’s “heroic” pose, and the impression that he was master of all he surveyed. As explained by Michael Bush, Jackson’s dresser on tour and one half of his design team of Tompkins & Bush, “Michael believed his clothes served one purpose and one purpose only: showmanship.” [3]

Today, the technology of live performances is light years in advance of what was “cutting edge” when Jackson toured in the 1990s. Yet, his iconic entrance for the Dangerous concerts remains a jaw-dropping moment that could only be equalled – on the same tour – by the artist seemingly flying himself out of the stadium via jetpack at the close of the show. Jackson had used stunts and “tricks” on his Bad tour, but having set such a high standard on Dangerous, he chose to arrive at the start of his subsequent HIStory tour concerts (1996-7) inside a space capsule that appeared to crash onto the stage at the conclusion of a virtual flight.

Even This Is It (rehearsals 2009) had to live up to Jackson’s own high expectations for a spectacular entrance – with his apparent arrival inside Lightman planned for the start of the shows, and departure via MJ Air – a 3D virtual airliner that would appear to take off over the heads of the audience with its star safely aboard. Like the Dangerous tour’s rocket man (a stunt double), Jackson’s “boarding” of the digital aircraft and its subsequent taxying and departure were intended to hold the audiences spellbound while in reality he was being whisked away from the stadium.

In the days before mobile phones with cameras, the only way most people could enjoy a Michael Jackson performance was to attend it. However, the Dangerous tour had the advantage of a major telecast event broadcast live on radio and shown on TV in over 60 countries. [4] HBO’s screening of the show held in Bucharest, Romania on October 1, 1993, won Michael a CableACE award for Outstanding Performance Musical Special, and scored the network its highest TV ratings ever at the time. [5] It is thanks to “Live in Bucharest” and the numerous unofficial videos of different shows from the Dangerous tour, that it is possible to appreciate what a work of art Jackson and his co-creators crafted.

As for Jackson’s stage persona, the catapult arrival, the jetpack departure, the warrior pose – images of these signature moments have appeared in hundreds, if not thousands of books and magazines featuring the King of Pop. That pose, and the costume, became the model for the sculpture of Jackson created by Diana Walczak for the cover of Jackson’s next album, HIStory, Past, Present and Future Book I. [6] Jackson’s soldier of love persona was one that he continued to exhibit on stage and in his short films, such as the HIStory “teaser” video.

Today, the planning and rehearsing of Jackson’s Dangerous tour provides the framework for the Tony Award-winning stage show “MJ: the Musical.” In terms of Jackson’s artistic legacy, his Dangerous tour, which ended prematurely after a show in Mexico City on 11 November 1993, for reasons of the artist’s health, has had a remarkable afterlife in more than just the memories of those fortunate to have seen it somewhere on its global odyssey.

Kerry Hennigan
14 April 2024


[1] Grant, Adrian. Michael Jackson: Live and Dangerous. Omnibus Press 1992, page 22.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Bush, Michael. The King of Style. Dressing Michael Jackson. Insight Editions 2012, page 38.

[4] michaeljackson.com “Live Concert in Bucharest: the Dangerous Tour.”  https://www.michaeljackson.com/music/live-concert-bucharest-dangerous-tour/ Accessed 9 April 2024.

[5] Ibid.

[6] YouTube. Diana Walczak sculpting the Michael Jackson HIStory Statue. Uploaded July 17, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rBYO8sNoHw. Accessed 5 April 2024.

Illustration: ‘dangerous!’ photo collage compiled by Kerry Hennigan using professional photographs of Michael Jackson and PhotoScape X Pro software. No infringement of photographic copyright is intended in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.