Many Magnificent Moonwalkers
Many magnificent moonwalkers inspired Michael Jackson to live his life with purpose. The greats who danced before him paved a pathway for Michael, which allowed him to take-off running, determined to play his role in HIStory. Michael was born with wings for feet, and a heart bursting with courage, joy and enthusiasm. He studied the unique moves of silent film stars, and those of classic and modern entertainers from a variety of genres. MJ’s favorite mentors and teachers, both on film and in-person, included the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marcel Marceau, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cab Calloway, Bill Bailey, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., David Bowie, Jeffrey Daniel, as well as populations of indigenous peoples with their tribal dances.
CLASSIC STEPS, SLIDES AND MOVES
In the current generation, “Moonwalk” has become synonymous with Michael Jackson and his phenomenally successful song and dance performance, Billie Jean. However…
“There are many recorded instances of the moonwalk. Similar steps are reported as far back as 1932, used by Cab Calloway. The [on stage] origin is the pantomime exercise “Marche sur place” created by mime masters Etienne Decroux and Jean-Louis Barrault and first recorded on film for Children of Paradise in 1944/45). In 1955 it was recorded in a performance by tap dancer Bill Bailey. He performs a tap routine, and at the end, backslides into the wings. The French mime artist Marcel Marceau used it throughout his career (1940s through 1980s), as part of the drama of his mime routines.” ~Wikipedia
Throughout his teen years, Michael Jackson was a big fan of Soul Train, a long-running musical variety television show, on which Jeffrey Daniel had been a featured performer. Michael was a big fan of Jeffrey Daniel’s dancing. Jeffrey had developed unique robotic and marionette-like dance moves which became his signature style by 1982, before MJ shook the house down with his own expression of the “backslide” move. In fact, MJ had hired Jeffrey, who taught him the “backslide.” After the Motown 25 performance in 1983, what had been previously called the “backslide” was forever renamed the “Moonwalk.” Jeffrey remained a part of MJ’s choreography team for numerous concert tours and music videos, over many years, while Michael continued to develop and expand his own unique song and dance repertoire.
“The “moonwalk” or “backslide” is a dance technique that presents the illusion of the dancer being pulled backwards while attempting to walk forward…it became popular around the world after Michael Jackson executed the dance move during a performance of “Billie Jean” on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever on March 25, 1983. It subsequently became his signature move, and is now one of the best-known dance techniques in the world.
Original “Billie Jean” Performance ~ Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
“An illusion is involved in creating the appearance of the dancer gliding. The leg being pulled up moves the leg behind it back (with the toes still touching the ground) and transfers the weight on to it. The leg with weight on it goes up and the other leg is drawn back in turn. These steps are repeated over and over. Variations of this move allow the backslider to also appear to glide forwards, sideways, and even in a circle.” ~Wikipedia
This creative video, edited with much artistic license, is as humorous as it is enticingly believable!
Music journalist, Ian Inglis wrote that MJ “encapsulated a long tradition of African-American movements” in the original Billie Jean performance. The audience went wild during Michael’s moonwalk, and from then on, it became his signature move for Billie Jean. It was said that Michael’s rendition combined Jackie Wilson’s athleticism with James Brown’s camel walk.
TWO ROCKETS LAUNCHED
During the summer of 1969, Michael was almost 11 years old. Soon, he and his brothers, The Jackson 5, would STAND on the TV launching pad of The Ed Sullivan Show, and blast off through sonic waves into a world hungry for change.
In July of that same summer, astronaut Neil Armstrong wriggled out of a square hole in the Eagle spacecraft, and became the first human to touch the moon’s surface. Armstrong’s famous statement reverberated throughout the universe: “That’s one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind.” Soon after, Buzz Aldrin climbed out, and remarked, “Beautiful! Beautiful! Magnificent desolation.”
The parallels are thought-provoking. Two rockets launched toward unknown stardom. Two groups of astronauts experienced a journey to unfathomed heights, destined to alter the course of their lives, and the lives of humankind. Each carried a torch illuminating insights and new perspectives. Two events catalyzed awareness of perceived spacial and racial boundaries; two more angles from which to herald in the impending, and inevitable, paradigm shift.