'I taught Jacko how to Moonwalk'
THEY first met in 1979 after a concert by The Jacksons in Los Angeles. "There was an afterparty at this swanky restaurant in Beverly Hills," says Jeffrey Daniel, then the frontman of disco group Shalamar.
"I waited for an opportunity to go over and he was like (sings) 'the second time around...'
"This is after his sold-out concert and he's singing the chorus to my song. That's just how cool he was.
"But I didn't know at that time that he was already a fan of my dancing."
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They became friends and Daniel would teach Jackson a number of dance moves, most famously the moonwalk. But where did he get that from?
"From the dance group The Electric Boogaloos and it was called the Backslide. But I wanted to do it right across the stage with Shalamar so I adapted it with long slides."
Daniel also choreographed Michael's Bad and Smooth Criminal videos (in which he also featured) and was creative consultant on a number of live tours.
Which is why the film Michael Jackson's This Is It, essentially a collection of clips from The King Of Pop's rehearsals for his planned 02 Arena shows, is familiar territory for Daniel.
"I'll have a different reaction from the general audience because I worked with him for such a long time," says Daniel, who saw the film at its London premiere last week.
He adds: "He was putting together some pretty nice visuals. And I've never seen him wear that many costumes before. That was pretty interesting for me. But what else can I say? It wasn't meant for public viewing but that's all we have left."
So what was he like?
"Extremely smart, more socially-conscious than most people would give him credit for and a very hard-worker. I know everything sounds cliched but it's all true."
Daniel learned to dance from an early age.
"We were raised in the projects (state-funded housing) area of east Los Angeles and dancing was just what we did in our neighbourhood. It was our culture.
"I loved it and it kept me away from things I shouldn't have been doing. I couldn't drink and dance. And I was never into drugs, even cigarettes. I was only into dancing and music."
His mother, who raised her three children as a single parent, was a classical pianist and ran a church choir, so music, like dancing, was a big part of his childhood.
"I was listening to The Beatles, Sonny and Cher, The Monkees, The Turtles, then Motown and Ray Charles. Being in California I was listening to it all."
After success as a dancer on the US TV show Soul Train, he formed Shalamar – a band that sold 25 million albums and had worldwide hits with A Night to Remember, Friends and There it is.
Shalamar are credited with introducing West Coast Street Dance into Europe, sparking a craze of body popping and robotics.
After the group split he went back to dance teaching. Daniel now lives in Japan.
He'll be teaching his moves at a masterclass at Dance Doctors in Long Eaton on November 16, part of which will include a Q&A session. Isn't he worried that these will be hijacked by questions about Michael Jackson?
"Well, that's obviously going to be a factor but if they're coming just to find out about Michael then when we get to the dancing they're going to walk out sore," he laughs.
The last time he spoke to Michael Jackson was around two years ago.
His death is bizarre, he added. "None of it makes much sense to me, still to this day."
He adds: "I think we, the people that really knew him, regret that we weren't there to say 'hey, what the hell's going on?'"
His fondest memory in the 30 years he knew Jackson was at Neverland.
"It was just the two of us walking together one night. We were going to see Toy Story in his cinema and we just talked. Not business, just life, children, family, girlfriends, wives, what we want to do... and that's something I'll treasure for the rest of my life."
Jeffrey Daniel will present a masterclass at Dance Doctors Studios, 3 C West End Mills, 2 Leopold Street, Long Eaton, on Monday, November 16 at 5pm (beginners) and 7pm (advanced). Tickets are £25, call 0115 946 4822 or visit www.dancedoctors.co.uk.