Back in the day when music videos were still THE popular form of artists getting their music out there I would spend hours in front of the television watching elaborate dances to all the big pop songs. It never occurred to me that someone was coming up with all the moves the dancers were performing. It certainly never crossed my mind that one person was responsible for most of them. Vincent Paterson is a name I wasn’t familiar with,and I doubt you were either. But one look at his resume and you know that his work is some of the most iconic dance of the past thirty years. In the new documentary The Man Behind The Throne, directed by first-timer Kersti Grunditz, we finally get to hear from the man himself.
The doc follows Paterson as he’s setting out to create a new Cirque De Soleil show called Viva Elvis! He’s shown working with dancers less than half his age, and not only can he keep up with them-he dances circles around them (not literally). We follow the arc of preparing the show all the way to the premiere in Las Vegas, with plenty of nostalgic looks at his past. Paterson is an engaging and charismatic guy, but the documentary really shines when we see some of his own footage of rehearsals with Michael Jackson and Madonna. This guy wasn’t only a dancer, he took the careers of a couple of the biggest stars in the world and shot them straight out of the stratosphere.
As a dancer he was featured in the videos for “Thriller” and “Beat It” (he’s the white guy in the knife fight). After assisting with the choreography on those, MJ asked him to direct the video for “Smooth Criminal” and the rest is history. Paterson has an amazing knowledge of motion and rhythm, and he’s able to translate his thoughts into performance at the drop of a hat. It’s no wonder Cirque wanted his help. He’s clearly the best in the business, but he doesn’t seem to care about that so much.
Humble might not be the right word, but I’m sure it applies to him. He’s made a point out of not becoming a celebrity himself, stating that after seeing how some of his clients had to live, he’d never want that. He says “I never feel like a creative genius. I always feel like I’m just an honest mule who wears his heart on his hoof.” Many times throughout the film Paterson mentions that he’s contemplating retirement after the Viva Elvis! show, but it’s clear from his passion for dance that this mule still has some miles left on those hooves.
It’s shocking to see a guy whose work has had such a ridiculous effect on pop culture go unrecognized for so long. Grunditz has made a film that shines a light on one of pop music’s best kept secrets, and it’s about time Paterson got some credit from people not in the dance world. A lot of artists go unappreciated in their own time, so I hope that people will check out this documentary and realize that there’s always someone behind the star, pushing them even further than they could ever go on their own.
The Man Behind The Throne will premiere at CIMM Fest in Chicago on May 4th at Society For The Arts at 3pm. You can get tickets here.