When Kenny Wizz was a teenage break- dancer in the summer of 1984, the Olympics came to his hometown of Los Angeles.
“The whole world was basically in LA,” he recalled in a recent telephone interview.
The aspiring DJ turned his attention to street performing. He and his friends showed off their moves in front of stores in Westwood and on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
At the same time, Michael Jackson’s landmark album “Thriller,” originally released in November ’82, continued to burn up the pop charts. Wizz had often been told that he looked somewhat like Jackson, especially when he danced, but he never took it seriously.
“People thought I resembled him from the cover of the ‘Thriller’ album,” he said, and they encouraged him to learn some of Jackson’s dance moves. “It literally got to the point where so many people were saying it that I decided to try it, just so I could tell them, ‘Look, I tried that, and it didn’t work out.’ ”
Nearly three decades later, Wizz has toured the world singing and dancing as the late King of Pop. His show – called “Michael Jackson HIStory II,” after Jackson’s bestselling 1995 compilation album – lands Wednesday at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane.
The show features 22 of Jackson’s most memorable hits: “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” of course, as well as ballads including “Earth Song” and “Man in the Mirror” and such Jackson 5 classics as “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There.” Wizz sings live while performing, and he’s assisted by a six-piece band and a troupe of dancers to re-create the Jackson concert experience.
Wizz has studied Jackson’s style of dance – inspired by artists as varied as Fred Astaire and mime Marcel Marceau – since he was a teen. Without the convenience of video recordings, he would buy magazines that included still photos of Jackson dancing.
“I’d look at them and think to myself, ‘What was the move before this shot was taken, and what was the move after?’ ” he said.
Jackson’s signature moonwalk is also a traditional break-dancing maneuver, and Wizz said he had it mastered long before he was impersonating the Gloved One.
“Everyone seems to think the moonwalk is the hardest part,” he said with a laugh. “But I’ve been doing that move since I was 14, so that’s actually the easiest part.”