Cirque du Soleil’s Incredible Michael Jackson ONE: An Interview with Dancers Kany Diabaté and Ahlamalik Williams

August 13, 2014
Michael Jackson ONE Dancers

Dancers from Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE, Kany Diabaté in center (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil, 2013)

Audiences and critics agree that, from start to finish, Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE is a thrilling roller coaster ride of an experience. We recently had the opportunity to see this exciting show during its run exclusively at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

More than a standard tribute production featuring impersonators, Michael Jackson ONE has been best described by Cirque du Soleil as…

“A sonic, tonic fusion of acrobatics, dance and visuals that takes the audience on an immersive journey through the music and spirit of Michael Jackson.”

Now in its 2nd year, much has already been written or said about the production’s stellar creative team, which includes Writer/Director Jamie King, and an amazing cast of 63 dancers and performers.  There are elements of magic (including that iconic glove) and the brilliant use of holographic images, and the result is a show filled with one surprise after another.


We were fortunate to interview two incredible dancers from the cast: Kany Diabaté and Ahlamalik Williams.

Before we get to that, however, here are our….

Five Reasons Why You Should See Michael Jackson ONE


Michael Jackson, 1989, Los Angeles, CA  (AP Photo / Nick Ut)

Michael Jackson, 1989, Los Angeles, CA
(AP Photo / Nick Ut)

1. It is a celebration of the life, music, talent and artistic legacy of one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived.

Over the course of 90 minutes, we were reminded of Michael Jackson’s tremendous influence in the world.  As a singer, dancer, actor, songwriter, fashion icon, and humanitarian, he was unstoppable.  In fact, because of his sheer power as an artist (even as a child), some of the most magical moments of the show are when the audience gets a brief glimpse of the man himself.

2. You will see stage production taken to an entirely new level in terms of creativity and design.

In Michael Jackson ONE, you are not just watching the show, but you are immersed in it.  With a custom-designed theatre that enables the performance to happen not only onstage, but also in, around, and above the crowd—part of the fun is watching people in the audience whipping their heads around just trying to keep up!!  On top of that, you get unbelievable lighting effects and a state-of-the-art sound system with speakers imbedded in every seat.  So,…Caution: You may want earplugs.

3.  The performers are amazing!!

In fact, seeing Michael Jackson ONE gave us an entirely new understanding of the phrase dancing full out.  There was never a doubt that the performers were utilizing the space, their strength, energy, technique and unique artistry to the fullest.  Each and every performer was a force to be reckoned with!

4. The dancers gave us a true lesson in how to work those heels.

Ok, this might be a side note, but here goes —

There is something about Las Vegas that makes us want to bust out with the sky-scraper stilettos. For the most part however, we’d previously witnessed very little “working of the heels” going on.  Instead, we mostly saw a lot of people being “worked OVER” by their heels, and y’all know what we mean.

In Michael Jackson ONE, the dancers provide a vivid reminder that high heels are worn to enhance, not hinder.  Whether executing the intricate choreography or simply strutting across the length of the stage, the performers gave us a welcome demonstration of just how to wear those heels with confidence! SNAP!!

5. There’s nothing like the experience of a live show!

Yes, the Internet is a a great learning tool, especially for other performers.  On the other hand, nothing can compare with the energy and spontaneity that comes with seeing a live show.  One simply cannot beat that feeling of seeing something happen unexpectedly and fully understand what has brought the audience to a gasp.

 See our interview below with dancers Kany Diabaté and Ahlamalik Williams.

Also, be sure to watch their videos at the end of this post.


Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil "Paparazzi" -  Photo credit : Isaac Brekken/Getty Images Costumes : Zaldy Goco

Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil “Paparazzi” –
Photo credit : Isaac Brekken/Getty Images
Costumes : Zaldy Goco

 A Glimpse of the Show…

Dancer – Ahlamalik “Malik” Williams

(See Ahlamalik’s video below.)

Ahlamalik "Malik" Williams, Dancer

Ahlamalik “Malik” Williams, Dancer

DanseTrack – What can you tell us about your background?

Malik – I am originally from Sacramento, CA, and moved to Las Vegas a few years ago to work as a street performer.  This is the first Cirque du Soleil show I’ve done.


DanseTrack – How would you describe your role and dance style in Michael Jackson ONE?

Malik – My dance style is a mixture of many Hip Hop forms, including popping and locking.  This show gives me the opportunity to mix my own style with Michael’s character.


DanseTrack – In this show, you have a wonderful opportunity to showcase your unique skill as a solo dancer. Is there some degree of improvisation on your part, or is it all choreographed?

Malik – My act is almost completely free-form. There are a couple of moments in my solo that I keep the same every night, but for the most part, my act comes off the top of my head.


DanseTrack –  Over the years, what dancers have most influenced you?

Malik  – The first dancer to inspire me was my father.  Growing up, I was introduced to plenty of dancers who have influenced me such as Poppin JohnAlonzo “Turf” Jones, Michael Jackson, Usher and Les Twins


DanseTrack –  Michael Jackson ONE is an incredibly high-energy production. How do you stay in shape and prepare for the show?

Malik – This show requires a high amount of energy from beginning to end.  Everyday, about 30 minutes before the show, we are required to warm up.  To stay in shape, I keep my earphones in all day and practice when I can, especially after shows each day.  Dancing is 24/7 for me.


DanseTrack –  Any final words on being a part of such an exciting and ground-breaking production?

Malik – I am more than thankful for Cirque giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent on a stage like this in the name of Michael Jackson.

Cirque du Soleil poster featuring Ahlamalik Williams

Cirque du Soleil poster featuring Ahlamalik Williams (Photo: Matt Beard, Costumes: Zaldy Goco, © 2014 Cirque-Jackson IP., LLP)


Dancer – Kany Diabaté 

(See Kany’s video below.)

Kany Diabaté

Kany Diabaté

DanseTrack –  Tell us about your background, Kany.

Kany –  I was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, but my parents are originally from the West African country of Senegal.  Although this is my first Cirque du Soleil show, I have been involved with the Michael Jackson ONE production since day one of its creation.  I have also participated in the Madonna MDNA World Tour Workshop while with Cirque du Soleil.


DanseTrack – How would you describe your role and dance style in Michael Jackson ONE?

Kany – My role is that of a warrior fighting for good alongside my fellow warriors.  In this role we help guide four of the main characters along their way to self-discovery.  We are very privileged that Michael Jackson left behind such an amazing legacy as a dancer.  Overall, the movement style is an exciting blend of some of his original choreography mixed with the unique skills of the performers in the show.


Kany Diabaté MJ ONE

Kany Diabaté MJ ONE 2013 Soul Train Awards, By: Maury Phillips/BET.

DanseTrack – In some of the dance sequences, you’re doing very intricate choreography in heels! Did that come naturally?

Kany – It is actually my first time ever dancing in heels in a show.  So, it is an honor to have been given this spot, but it has also been a challenging part of this journey. I have learned so much as we have worked to bring out the sexiness in the movement while keeping the intensity and energy.  It has definitely been a challenge, but one that I get to enjoy every single night I do it.


DanseTrack – Besides Michael Jackson, over the years, what dancers have most influenced you?

Kany –  My first exposure to dance was through African dance, since I came from an artistic family of mostly dancers and percussionists.  I grew up watching my aunt and uncle performing with the National Ballet of Senegal when they were touring in Europe.  So that was my earliest inspiration. Michael Jackson was another major source of inspiration. Later, I was influenced by the The Electric Boogaloos, and actually had an opportunity to train with them for a short time.  Popin Smiley from Paris gave me my first introduction to popping, and during several trips to New York, I was mentored by the amazing choreographer, LUAM, who helped me a lot.


DanseTrack – Michael Jackson ONE is an incredibly high-energy production. How do you stay in shape and prepare for the show?

Kany – It does require a certain amount of preparation.  We have a daily warmup before each show, but I also work out in my own spare time.  I sometimes take dance classes or practice free-style movement.  I love doing pilates or hot yoga because, with the kind of intensity required for this show, my body sometimes requires a more relaxed approach to stretching and working out.


DanseTrack – Any final words on being a part of this production?

Kany –  This has, by far, been one of my greatest experiences as a dancer and as a person.  To have been included in such an amazing production with a cast representing many nationalities — all with incredible skills paying tribute to an artist I’ve always looked up to—has truly been a blessing.  I hope that, where he is, Michael would be pleased with our efforts to honor his legacy, and that the audience will sense our joy and respect each night we get to perform this show.


Thank you, Kany and Ahlamalik!!

For everyone else….

Don’t miss the show!!

For ticket information, click : HERE 

Location: Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino  at 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd,  Las Vegas, NV 89119

Now for the videos…

Kany Demonstrating her own Choreography for her Class

Ahlamalik’s Video

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson in EBONY photo shoot at the Brooklyn Museum, 2007 (Photography: Dudley M. Brooks/EBONY Archives)

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