Ann Arbor native Brian Woolridge has been dancing the moonwalk in the alley behind the Liberty Square parking structure since 1995.

Christina Choi
Brian Woolridge, an Ypsilanti resident, dances to Michael Jackson music in a Liberty Street alley last fall. Woolridge said he has worn out a number of pairs of shoes dancing. (ZACHARY MEISNER/Daily)

Woolridge, 34, first began dancing in the alley when he noticed that it wasn’t being used for anything else.

Soon his solo performances set to Michael Jackson began to garner attention.

“I guess people would walk by and watch,” Woolridge said. “I guess I became the Michael Jackson guy.”

Over the years, he’s perfected his technique by watching videos of Jackson’s performances, which have been given to him by other Michael Jackson fans. He said his collection includes everything from tapes of The Jackson Five’s early variety show performances to Jackson’s solo concerts.

“You’d be surprised at the stuff I have of him,” said Woolridge, who grew up with the nickname Michael. “Probably stuff that people will never, ever see again.”

He lists “Bad,” “Billie Jean” and “The Way You Make Me Feel” among his favorite songs to perform to. But one tune, “Stranger in Moscow,” from Jackson’s epic HIStory two-disc album, carries a deeper meaning for Woolridge.

Woolridge said he identifies with the song’s lyrics and its video, both of which express feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“I guess I’m really kinda isolated sometimes,” he said.

He said that while dancing helps him deal with this isolation, it can also contribute to it. Sometimes, people stop to watch him. But when he approaches them, they often walk away.

Once a crowd of police officers stopped to watch.

“Should I put my hands up or what?” he remembered thinking.

After watching for a few moments, the officers moved on. But another encounter with the law wasn’t as harmless.

After an article appeared in a local newspaper insinuating that the “Michael Jackson dancer” had groped a girl, officers approached Woolridge while he was dancing across from Mongolian Barbeque on Main Street to ask him about the incident. The case was later dropped because Woolridge was at work at the time of the incident.

Woolridge said he can usually be found dancing in the Liberty Street alley on weekend afternoons after he gets off work at the Meijer on Carpenter Road, where he’s employed as a janitor. The recent cold weather, however, has kept him from dancing, he said. He’ll be dancing again at the Project Suyana Date Auction on Feb. 2.

He said he spends a lot of money on batteries for his boombox and on replacing shoes he has worn out over the years.

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