On Film: The Invention of the Moonwalk

Some mighty fine hoofin:

hat tip kottke

Dancers (in alphabetical order):
Fred Astaire, Bill Bailey, Buck and Bubbles, Cab Calloway, Clark Brothers, Sammy Davis Jr., Daniel L. Haynes, Rubberneck Holmes, Patterson and Jackson, Eleanor Powell, Bill Robinson, Three Chefs (only the feet), Tip Tap and Toe (feat. Ray Winfield), Earl Snakehips Tucker
Video edited by CFJ

Originally uploaded on my former channel on June 2, 2008 and had got about 1,220,000 views until the channel got deleted on December 8, 2010. My 3rd channel got deleted again in July 2013, so here’s the re-upload. The 2nd in my MJ trilogy. The following is the original description I wrote for the video.

My second Michael Jackson related video. Since the first one “Fred Astaire in Smooth Criminal” seems quite well-received, I decided to make another one. This time the theme is “Who devised the moonwalk?”

As some people already know, a dance move called the moonwalk (a.k.a. backslide) had been existed before it became the “moonwalk”. The video features the ancient moonwalkers and other greats who possibly influenced MJ’s style of dancing.

The most well-known dancer as the “orignal moonwalker” should be Bill Bailey who performed it in the film Showtime At The Apollo (1955), which was also featured in the movie Tap (1989). But actually Bill Bailey, pupil of Bill Robinson, performed the very same step as early as 1943 in the movie Cabin In The Sky, which you can see here as well as the 1955 film.

The various scenes used in the video are from 1929 to 1955 (except Sammy Davis Jr. from ’65 and ’67). The oldest one is from Hallelujah, featuring Daniel L. Haynes as a minister pantomiming a train at a prayer meeting. I was totally amazed by his movement when I first saw that movie.

The most influential dancer on MJ’s dancing is no doubt James Brown, but you can also trace the roots and origins of his style to those greats in the first half of the 20th century.

So, the question – Who devised the moonwalk?
My answer is “nobody.” Or all the great imaginative dancers, including MJ, who made great efforts to move foward (should I say “backward” in this case?). I think the moonwalk is not a thing someone suddenly came up with one day. There must have been so many great unknown dancers other than the ones who were lucky to be recorded… In other words, Rome was not built in a day.

Amazed by the dancers in the video?
But there were many other greats. You must see The Nicholas Brothers, The Berry Brothers, The Four Step Brothers, Pops & Louis…etc, etc. YOU HAVEN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET.

Don’t ask the same questions like “Who is the chef on the table!?” – It’s Ray Winfield from Tip, Tap & Toe. If you want to know who’s who and all the film sources, check out my blog article about this video:

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