Michael Jackson’s choreographer, APS alum Travis Payne, returns to Atlanta for special screening of This Is It

As the Michael Jackson movie This Is It, taken from the rehearsals for the late pop star’s planned comeback shows, hit the big screen last weekend, Atlanta Public Schools can be proud of one of its alumni playing a key role in the movie.

Choreographer Travis Payne, a 1989 graduate of Northside (now North Atlanta) High, where he was taught by William Densmore. (He also attended Fickett Elementary and Southwest (now Young) Middle schools.) An Emmy-nominated TV choreographer (“The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “MTV Video Music Awards”), Payne also has either danced, choreographed or contributed to music videos for Jackson, Madonna, Sting, Britney Spears and Jackson’s sister, Janet Jackson.

Payne had been working with Michael Jackson and director Kenny Ortega on a film work of the London concerts, and Ortega captured more than a hundred hours of videotape of Jackson preparing for the show. The tape covers four months of rehearsals, but there wasn’t that much to use as some people thought.

“We had remnants,” Payne said in a feature in the Wall Street Journal. He noted that everyone at that point was rehearsing, including the people working the camera: “You don’t see the finished glossy product that we’ve become accustomed to.”

A veteran of Michael Jackson tours, Payne says he and Jackson had become friendly over the years, recalling in one article how he spent a lot of personal time with Jackson online, visiting sites such as YouTube.

“I used to love sitting and just surfing the ’Net with him,” Payne said in an Associated Press article that ran last week in the AJC. “And we would just do that and we would be able to have our creative reference time in a different way now.”

Payne collaborated with director Ortega on the Michael Jackson memorial tribute following Jackson’s death at age 50 over the summer.

Payne will be in town on Saturday for a special screening of the movie with family and friends.

For more on his work on the film, check out this extensive interview on Movies Online. There is a video interview with him on MovieWeb, and he’s featured in a CNN video feature as well. For more, check out this “Today Show” clip and this one on “Good Morning America” (you’ll have to scroll down a bit).

We hope to have more on this as the week progresses. Stay tuned!

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