Dance Class -- Janet Jackson Conducts A Seminar On The Verb: To Move

Janet Jackson at the Tacoma Dome, last night and tonight.

Janet Jackson sings about a ``Rhythm Nation,'' a state of mind, one nation under music.

Count on a citizenship exam with a section on dancing.

Last night in her Tacoma Dome concert, Jackson taught an advanced civics course on the subject, filling it with an energy more kinetic than potential.

Before going any further, a few class notes:

-- Keep your hands occupied. Hold a microphone in one. Use the other to point to the sky or the audience, or rest it on your belt while you thrust your pelvis.

-- Thrust your pelvis regularly (handy for catching breath in between more athletic maneuvers).

-- Combine jerky and graceful movements, and do it very quickly.

-- Imagine galloping along on a horse, but without the horse.

-- To turn around, jump straight up and scissors your legs. Land with feet and legs crossed. Uncross legs without moving feet. Master this before moving on to more complicated methods.

-- Never walk. Strut, stalk, skip . . . but never walk.

-- For individual tutoring, consult Anthony Thomas, who took over as Jackson's choreographer from Paula Abdul and has designed the steps for almost all of the numbers on the Rhythm Nation tour and every video so far from the ``Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814'' album.

Last night's concert began, appropriately, with Jackson's yet-to-be-released music video, ``Black Cat,'' projected on three huge screens hung from the scaffolding of the $2 million stage set. Music videos - along with the production wizardry of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis - helped catapult Jackson from a minor branch in a musical family tree dominated by brother Michael to a star in her own right, arguably the most popular female pop singer of the moment.

In one respect, it was hard to tell where the video ended and the concert began - ``Black Cat'' segued seamlessly with Jackson's entrance on stage, which was projected on those same screens.

In other respects, it was no contest. Jackson in the flesh makes her videos seem flat by comparison. Stripped from the fancy sets and casts of thousands, her dancing revealed another dimension.

She even sweated. You could see it on the giant screens.

Jackson was joined by Thomas and five other backup dancers throughout the 90-minute show. Even the guitar players were called on to dance and pick at the same time. Credit them all for a concert so animated that it that should include a limbering-up period for spectators.

Emerging in a thigh-length flared black coat, black gloves, snug black pants and tall black boots, Jackson looked like a hip-hop buccaneer. Then she went to work. Her second number, ``Nasty Boys,'' from Jackson's previous platinum album ``Control,'' built on a groove that manages to convince even arhythmic spazmoids that yes, for three minutes they could get up and dance as if possessed.

``Chuckii,'' Jackson said to her keyboard player/musical director/opening act Chuckii Booker before launching into the song, ``give me a beat.''

``Chuckii, Arthur Murray, dear God,'' half the audience was probably thinking, ``give me Janet Jackson's moves.''

On top of the dancing, the concert also included some dazzling lighting effects and pyrotechnics. In one instance, Army surplus flame throwers seemed to have been put to constructive peacetime use. You could feel your eyebrows starting to singe 20 rows back.

This drove the crowd wild.

The audience - many of them wearing concert T-shirts with ``MUSIC DANCE POETRY UNITY'' emblazoned on the front or ``PREJUDICE IGNORANCE BIGOTRY ILLITERACY - NO'' on the back - did not seem to notice any thin spots in the concert. They came mostly when Jackson's dancing didn't hold center stage.

Jackson reportedly uses prerecorded vocal tracks on many of the numbers in the show. And yes, her voice was watery at times last night. That didn't seem to matter. She could mime to the music and still make it worth the price of admission.

Before the concert ended, Jackson would use a chair and a handkerchief as dancing props. She saved some of her fastest and most furious steps for the final song of the encore, ``Rhythm Nation.''

``We are all part of a rhythm nation,'' she sang, or words to that effect. Meanwhile, her hands and feet and hips had traveled several country miles.

Her brother Michael's Moonwalk? Forget it. That was yesterday's space program.

Class dismissed.