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November 29, 1985 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-11-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Friday, November 29, 1985 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

THEATER

Dual Upbringing, Career
For Michael Peters

BY MICHAEL ELKIN

Special to The Jewish News

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Those must be some very spe-
cial shoes Michael Peters has
been wearing all these years.
'How else to explain the fact that
the likeable 36-year-old dancer/
choregrapher has been able to
stay one step ahead of everyone
else.
"I've been dancing all my
life," Peters says with a kick in
his voice. "I don't remember
doing anything but dancing. My
mother said I never crawled or
walked." He laughs. "Just
danced."
Peters has waltzed his way
into the spotlight since those
early days, choreographing the
music videos "Thriller' and
"Beat It" for Michael Jackson
and such Broadway shows as
Coming' Uptown and Leader of
the Pack.
Leading the pack is a natural
for Peters, who won a Tony
Award for his choregraphic
work on Dreamgirls, the multi-
Tony Award-winning 1981
show.
There was a time in Peters'
life, however, wherl the ou
and limber •dancer felt out
t of
step with others his age. Born to
a white Jewish mother and
black father, Peters' playground
was a swing on unparallel bars
— he felt slightly out - of - synch
with the other kids on the block.
"Why can't I be the same color
as you?" he once asked his
mother.

"To be truthful, everyone
seemed more upset about it than
I," he says, recalling some harsh
treatment. "People talked to me
as if I were terminally ill. They
just didn't understand."
But his mother well knew
what he was enduring. Rebecka
Peters, who divorced Michael's
father after a year of marriage
and living together for eight
years ("MY mother was a re-
bel!"), gave her son everything
he needed.
"My mother took me to opera,
she was a devotee of classical
music. She gave me anything I
wanted in culture. I had won-
derful exposure to all kinds of
things," says Peters.
Indeed, by the time he was
'six, the impressive Peters was
impressing others. "I won a

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scholarship to a ballet school,"
he remembers with a chuckle. "I
remember being the only guy in
the class."
His flights of fantasy took off
with his first role. "I played
Peter Pan."
Peters' interest didn't peter
out. His talents increasingly at-
tracted fans and admirers. Pet-
ers was different although his
distinctions weren't limited to
his performances.
"I went to Hebrew school and
church," he says of his upbring-
ing. "I wanted to know what it
was all about. It was like a
smorgasboard."
He can grin and laugh about
it now, but at the time, Peters-
was confused not knowing
whether life was- feast or
famine. "I felt like a man with-
out a country," he says, "when
actually I was a man with two
countries."

Though kids were cruel,
laughing at the black Jewish
kid who seemingly belonged
nowhere, Peters had the last
laugh. "I was the one who got
out of Brooklyn, not them," he
says.
What he left behind was
Williamsberg, a Chasidic section
where he recalls "walking
around getting stange looks.
Some of my mother's relatives
were Chasidim and I remember

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