Broadway Dance Center is celebrating Black History Month by honoring some of the Black dancers, choreographers, and educators who broke through barriers and transformed the industry.
Next up is Michael Peters.
Who is Michael Peters?
Michael Peters was an African American director and choreographer best known for his work creating music videos for pop stars like Diana Ross, Pat Benatar, and Michael Jackson.
A born and bred New Yorker
Peters was born in 1948 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to an African American father and white Jewish mother. From an early age, he loved musicals like West Side Story and My Fair Lady. As a teen, Peters attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High school of Music & Art and Performing Arts and trained at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center in Queens. Early on in his career, Peters danced on Broadway in shows like The Wiz and Purlie and worked with modern choreographers including Alvin Ailey and Talley Beatty.
The “Balanchine of MTV”
Peters got his big break choreographing Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You, Baby.” He went on to choreograph music videos for other famous stars like Lionel Richie, Pat Benatar, Diana Ross, Billy Joel, and Michael Jackson. Peters makes a few cameos as a dancer in many of these videos, too. He quickly became known as the “Balanchine of MTV.” Beyond the world of music videos, Peters choreographed and directed for both stage and screen. He won a Tony Award for Dreamgirls (with co-choreographer, Michael Bennett), staged live shows for Aretha Franklin, Ben Vereen, the Pointer Sisters, and Earth Wind and Fire, worked on films such as “Sister Act II,” “13 Going on 30,” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and directed episodes of popular shows like “New Kids on the Block,” FAME,” and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
In addition to his Tony for Dreamgirls, Peters won two Primetime Emmy Awards (“Liberty Weekend” and “The Jacksons: An American Dream”) and the American Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in a Feature Film (“What’s Love Got to Do with It”). He was a strong advocate for choreographers’ rights and started a campaign for an Academy Award to acknowledge choreography. Peters died of AIDS in 1994 at the age of 46.
Watch Peters’ work here: