How does one woman go from a gracious ballet dancer to a bold Michael Jackson impersonator? The answer, says Devra Gregory, lies in her own one woman show, “Woman In The Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey” which runs December 4‑21 at the Horton Grand Theatre in San Diego. The show is a celebration of Gregory’s life story, her evolvement as a professional dancer and her journey to spirituality.
Gregory grew up in a Jewish family in Chula Vista and attended the San Diego Hebrew Day School from the first through seventh grade.
“When it was time for my Bat Mitzvah I wanted the Saturday morning service so I could read from the Torah and have an aliyah like the boys I had been in school with for seven years,” she says.
“Because it was the early ’70s and we were in a very conservative synagogue, the Rabbi said ‘no.’ I became frustrated that I was not considered an equal. It felt too patriarchal and unbalanced so I went on a search for something else.”
Gregory studied Eastern religion, Buddhism and eventually Wicca; an earth based spirituality that honors nature and the feminine Divine. She felt connected to her spirit through nature and eventually became a Priestess. Today Gregory leads women’s ritual circles involving ceremony, singing and dancing; something that has never been far from her heart.
Gregory began taking ballet lessons at age six; at age 13, she joined the San Diego Ballet Company.
“I had a very chaotic home life with a lot of violence, so dance was my way of escaping that,” Gregory says.
In her late teens, she traveled to New York to study dance and became a ballet teacher upon her return to San Diego.
“Dancers often have other jobs to sustain them, but I have been very fortunate in getting work as a dancer or teacher,” said Gregory.
After moving to San Francisco and dancing for the San Francisco Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, Gregory received an opportunity to work as a jazz dancer and ultimately ended back in Southern California. Throughout her career, she has also done modern dance, exotic dance, children’s shows, vaudeville shows, magic shows and even performed as a Las Vegas showgirl.
But taking on Michael Jackson was a huge challenge for Gregory. She was actually unfamiliar with his unique dance moves before deciding to play the iconic musician. She chose not to hire a dance instructor and instead watched as many videos of the King of Pop as she possibly could to learn how to move like him.
“I took on the role as a professional choice and challenge,” Gregory says. “Then, when I began to study his work I became a huge fan, with mad respect. Michael Jackson held enormous amounts of energy in his body; like a massive generator. He could just stand on stage without moving and one could feel him.”
To many a surprise; Gregory has not hired a makeup artist to help her transform into the iconic singer/dancer. Instead, she does the makeup for when she performs as the “Man in the Mirror” herself. The job takes her an hour and a half, and as anyone who has seen her show can attest to, she does a fine job.
Gregory first produced her Michael Jackson show in 2012. She snagged a Bravo SD Award for that show, and has performed it several times since then. With the latest run of her show, she hopes to inspire people to think outside of the box.
“I hope to inspire the audience to step into their own power and truth and not feel obligated to live a life that is expected of them.”