- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2003

He skitters across the floor sideways like a crab on roller skates; he plunges to his knees on the floor like an ancient troubadour, grasping his mike at a rakish angle; he flings off a cape thrown over his shoulders that suggests a triumphant prizefighter leaving the ring, then stomps back to center stage staggering and a swaggering.

Mostly, James Brown projects raw energy, his body coiled to spring, his voice sometimes rasping, sometimes erupting in a primal scream.

Locomotion, getting from here to there, has prompted more dance moves than you can count — and fascinated onlookers since time began.

There can be magic in the moves. Think of the Russian partisans in the Moiseyev folk dance company, wearing big felt capes that reached all the way to the floor, their hidden feet pattering smoothly and giving them the look of being windblown across ice. Or the incredibly fast flutter of the Queen of the Wilis in “Giselle” as she skimmed on pointe across the stage in lightning-quick bourres.

James Brown’s movement is made of rougher, tougher stuff, all of it driven by the beat that consumes him — rhythm made visible.

Mr. Brown is no trained dancer; his moves stem more from an athletic background that actually included boxing. “I coulda been a pro,” he says of his days as a pugilist in a Washington Times interview, “but when the girls started screaming, I forgot about boxing.”

The dizzying, shuffling speed of his feet as he rockets sideways, punctuated with sudden spins and a nifty trick with one leg propelling him along as the other knee is raised high, and abrupt splits to the floor and instant rebounds — all the while belting out a song — electrified his audiences.

As the crowds grew, his dynamism and power were a revelation to them.

Mr. Brown’s way of reacting to the beat, of incorporating it into his body language galvanized his fellow musicians, as well. The early Mick Jagger sometimes cavorted like a Brown look-alike; Prince openly paid him tribute in the way he moved; and Michael Jackson’s moonwalk was born out of James Brown’s gravity-defying frolics.

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