By Vanguard with Agency reports
THE King of Pop seemed driven and upbeat in the weeks, even hours, before his death as he rehearsed rigorously for a series of 50 concerts in London that were to begin a late-career comeback. Friends and colleagues said Friday that Jackson appeared in recent months to be rejuvenated by the prospect of performing again.
After years of seclusion following a child sex scandal, the pop icon was heavily involved in all aspects of the concert rehearsals. He had hired a personal trainer and was practicing with backup dancers and choreographers several hours a day, they said.
â€œHe was working hard, setting the example, overseeing the choreography, kicking butt and taking names,â€ said Johnny Caswell, president of CenterStaging Musical Productions Inc., a Burbank sound stage where Jackson rehearsed until late May. â€œHe was ready to blow everybody out of the water. This was going to be the biggest extravaganza, entertainment spectacle ever.â€
Jackson was involved in all areas of planning, including watching auditions and choosing the backup dancers who would appear with him, said Maryss Courchinoux, a 29-year-old dancer from Paris who sought a place on stage with Jackson. Courchinoux said she had been selected as a backup dancer for the London concerts and had been fitted for a costume. She had been invited to Thursdayâ€™s rehearsal in Los Angeles to meet Jackson and watch the practice to help prepare for her role, she said.
On the same day, Jackson was pronounced dead after collapsing at his home in Holmby Hills, a swanky neighborhood near Bel Air. Courchinoux recounted how Jackson was in the audience as she auditioned in April, when she performed a set routine and then was asked to do freestyle dances – a hip-hop style called â€œpop-ins.â€ From the stage, she could make out Jacksonâ€™s profile and his glasses where he sat in the empty auditorium. Friends later told her that Jackson jumped up and applauded after her group performed.