Michael Peters


Michael Peters

(08/06/1948 — 08/29/1994)

Michael Peters was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in New York City to an African American father and Jewish mother. His first major breakthrough came when he did choreography for Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” in 1975. He went on to stage other memorable dance sequences for music videos, including Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” (in which he has a brief cameo) and Lionel Richie’s “Hello” (in which he also has a brief cameo as the dance instructor of Lionel Richie’s blind love interest).

However, he was most recognized for his choreography work in Michael Jackson’s videos. Especially the smash hit “Thriller”, directed by John Landis, and “Beat It” directed by Bob Giraldi, which is vaguely reminiscent of West Side Story: Peters co-stars as one of two gang leaders who prepare for a dramatic showdown/knifefight, which is averted at the last moment by Jackson. Peters is dressed all in white, and wears sunglasses during the piece.

Peters choreographed Diana Ross’ landmark July 1983 Central Park concert, “For One & For All”, during which, he dances with Ross during her “Maniac” & “Pieces of Ice” numbers. Peters also appeared in Lionel Richie’s video “Running With The Night”.

Peters is also widely credited for the striking transformation of actress Angela Bassett into Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It.

Peters danced with Talley Beatty, Alvin Ailey, Bernice Johnson, and Fred Benjamin, and worked with Michael Bennett. Bennett and Peters shared a 1982 Tony Award for Best Choreography for their work on the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. In 1985, he directed and choreographed the Ellie Greenwich jukebox musical Leader of the Pack.

Peters died in Los Angeles, California of an AIDS related illness at 46.  His awards and commendations included:

  • 1982 Tony Award for Best Choreography – Dreamgirls
  • 1987 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography – Liberty Weekend
  • 1993 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography – The Jacksons: An American Dream
  • 1994 American Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in a Feature Film – What’s Love Got to Do with It


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