Video: Michael Jackson's moonwalking inspirations

Here is a video montage of some of the fantastic dancers that clearly inspired Michael Jackson. (Thanks, Gil Kaufman via Daily Swarm)


  1. Larry Collins of the rockabilly Collins Kids had some nice footwork that was similar to moonwalking – wonder if that was any influence.

  2. if from African rooted dance, then utility must apply… I theorize the origin to be warfare/personal combat. Maintenance of “ma-ia” (fighting interval) is critical anywhere/anywhen. Moonwalking would permit adjustment of distance while maintaining guard and attention.

  3. “if from African rooted dance, then utility must apply.”

    The moonwalk is a weapon. It can stun at 20 paces.

  4. #7 “The moonwalk is a weapon. It can stun at 20 paces.”

    Little known fact: close to 70% of Africa’s land area is carpeted. Moonwalking is an effective way to build a static charge, after which you can then touch your enemy’s nose, giving them a minor shock.

    This technique eventually led to the invention of the taser.

  5. My girlfriend’s brother is a dancer, hip-hop and breakdancing. He was even on that MTV dance crew show and, as I was forced to watch it with her family, I wonder how many of those young kids took the time to study the history and evolution of the dances they practice. I see a lot of them doing those glide moves (I’m sure there’s some technical hip-hop word for it) and it would be a shame if the depth of their knowledge only came from the latest music video.

  6. I recently watched a film called ‘Swing Time’ with Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. There’s a particular scene in which Fred is dancing with three ‘shadows’ (actually I think they were in fact his own shadow dancing with him). Sure enough, in a couple of the MJ tribute videos there is pretty much the exact same scene done by MJ..

    I think it was from ‘smooth criminal’ live (possibly from the post about the shoes recently..)and it was the ‘bojangles’ segment of Swing Time.

    Very cool.

  7. Jackson was very aware of the classic dancers in a number of styles, from what I’ve heard. Absolutely nothing wrong with learning from the best and then finding a way to make it your own.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but I do recommend the _Dance_In_America_ segment entitled “Everybody Dance Now”. It does a very nice job of showing how everything from break to ballet to tap to … well, just plain everything … found its way into this kind of performance dancing.

  8. “Say, Michael .. . could you moonwalk over to the Stop ‘n’ Shop for a quart of milk?”

  9. I recall reading interviews in the 80’s, when Michael Jackson said Fred Astaire was a major influence on his dancing.

    That Motown special was NOT the first place Michael performed the moonwalk. At the very end of this homage video, about the 4:22 mark, he does an early version of it-

  10. If you can find it — look for Dick Van Dyke in an early TV appearance walking against a strong wind.

    I believe it was a scene used in Pioneers of Television, seen on PBS.

    It was *identical*. I cannot find it online.

  11. lovely montage of tap.

    what people forget is that behind every step michael jackson took, there was a talented choreographer or two. jeffrey daniels (bad) and the late tony award winning michael peters (thriller & beat it – he’s the guy in the white jacket) are a couple of the best known who gave jackson his signature moves.

  12. uh, breakdancers had been “moonwalking” for awhile before MJ did it on TV and the mainstream had an orgasm and acted like he invented it.

    a type of manikan bird does it better than anyone though.

  13. Last Friday CBC’s ‘As It Happens’ interviewed the man who taught Michael Jackson that particular move:

    Well, most of us never got the execution quite right. But Jeffrey Daniel did. He was, in fact, the first person to perform a move he called “the backslide” — but which the world came to know as “the moonwalk” — after Mr. Daniel taught it to Michael Jackson.

    The clip is here:

  14. I think reproduced is more accurate than inspired.

    Inspired would indicate that he did something noticeably different.

  15. Paul Turnbull beat me to it. Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar performed the “backslide” during a great 1982 performance on Top of the Pops: (and the JD vs. MJ commentroversy on the Top of the Pops youtube video is very entertaining!) Nevertheless, many people had been performing moves of varying degrees of similarity even before then. Still I hadn’t realized it had gone back this far. Nice video.

  16. Yep, good stuff. Also watch Singin’ in the Rain and you’ll see a lot of MC Hammer’s moves.

  17. I was kind of surprised to not see ANY of Gene Kelly in the vid – it’s well-known that Kelly was a strong influence, and they were mutual admirers. Jackson’s white socks in videos like Billie Jean were inspired by Gene Kelly, who said that this drew the viewer’s attention to the feet.

    Not to be the guy who says “but what about so-and-so?!”, but…I can’t help it. Too big a fan of Gene Kelly to not put in my plug for him. ;)

  18. my wife and i were shocked years ago watching bob fosse in the little prince as it looks like mj copied his movies verbatim, as this youtube video shows if you watch the whole thing:

  19. #25
    The dude at 44 seconds in (Cab Calloway?) is definitely doing what we basically call the modern Moonwalk, probably somewhat before MJ was even born.

  20. but and i think you’ll ALL agree: NO-ONE does it as well as MJ!!!

    he made it his own and did it the best. R.I.P MJ

  21. That was a GREAT clip!! I laughed my buns off! VERY entertaining but still not Michael! True RAW talent is always the best thing to watch! Thank you!

  22. All great dancers, but before Michael Jackson was around, the closest thing I ever saw to his “moonwalk” was a bit by the French mime, Marcel Marceau, of a man walking against the wind.
    I’m sure that was Michael Jackson’s inspiration.

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