The moonwalk or backslide is a dance technique that presents the illusion that the dancer is stepping forward whilst actually moving backward. The dance move gained widespread popularity after being performed by Michael Jackson on the 1983 television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, and has since become his signature move. The moonwalk has since become the most well known dance move in the world.
The move commonly referred to as the moonwalk today was originally known as the backslide or "walking on your toes". The moonwalk was the name of another dance now known as the circle moonwalk. This step has two distinct types. One is called the turnwalk. This is usually performed very quickly giving the impression that the dancer is walking quickly in a circle. The other circular moonwalk type is known as the 360 or Four-Corner Moonwalk and is often done much slower in a floating
style. This involves sliding a heel back (usually the left heel), pivoting both heels to change direction, and then pivoting the non-sliding heel 45 degrees. Other moonwalk variants include the "sidewalk" or "side glide," in which the dancer appears to glide sideways, and the "airwalk," in which the dancer appears to moonwalk in place. In numerous interviews, Jackson has attributed the dance that he now is credited for, to ordinary children, whom he saw doing a variation of what we now call the moonwalk and he took it that step further to first perform it on Motown 25
where he wowed fans and is now a feature of perhaps his most popular single Billie Jean
. He has also said this about various other dances that he has performed
Backslides have been performed on numerous earlier occasions. The moonwalk was recorded as early as 1943 in a performance by tap dancer Bill Bailey. Prior to Jackson, Jeffrey Daniel was "moonwalking" in a performance of Shalamar's "A Night To Remember" on Top of the Pops in 1982. A member of the Electric Boogaloos performance group, Timothy 'Popin Pete' Solomon, also performed a "moonwalking" move in the Talking Heads video 'Crosseyed And Painless' which aired around 1981. Marcel Marceau's famous Walking Against the Wind routine, was the original influence for which Michael drew from.
Cab Calloway was performing a type of backsliding in the early days of his career. The earliest film record of this is from the 1932 Talkartoon Minnie The Moocher, an animated Betty Boop cartoon that features a live action sequence of Cab Calloway and his band. In this sequence we can see Cab Calloway dance in a style that clearly predates moonwalking, popping and electric boogaloo.
The Red-capped Manakin
of Central America performs a mating dance similar to that of backsliding. During the male's performance, he shuffles his feet rapidly backwards or sideways.