Dancing through the decades

April 5, 2013


Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk” celebrated its 30th year on March 25. Many popular dance crazes have followed in the years since, including the “Harlem Shake” (below) performed by Matt and Kim, and the “Macerena” performed by Los del Rio.

The 30-year evolution of famous choreography


Staff Reporter


Thirty years ago on March 25, 1983, a stylized backward slide sent the world into a craze.


Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk” performance at “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” captured the attention of the world.


As Michael Jackson’s signature move and one of the most well-known dance techniques in the world, the moonwalk has led to many dance crazes, but its origin came from another famous dancer.


Beverly Maggio, a kinesiology instructor, said Jackson’s moonwalk came from Bill Bailey’s 1955 backslide performance.


“Michael just gave it notoriety,” she said. “He perfected that move, made it smoother and became the king of the moonwalk.”


As a dance instructor, Maggio teaches dance moves that celebrities have popularized. “Madonna made Voguing a dance craze when she performed it in the ’90s,” she said. “It was created by Willie Ninja and used as a way to compete during fashion shows by the gay community.”


Like Jackson’s and Madonna’s, several of today’s dances come from yesterday’s style with a twist. “Over the past 20 years, there has been a line fad including the ‘Cha Cha Slide,’ ‘Cupid Shuffle’ and recently the ‘Wobble’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ that are all an ode to ‘The Hustle,’” Maggio said.


“‘The Hustle’ was a step dance where you would make steps to the left, then right and turn,” Maggio said. “It was the original line dance.”


Footage of the dance craze the “Harlem Shake”, performed by the pop group Matt and Kim. – Photo courtesy of YouTube

She said dance is a hand-me-down art, where dancers take something old and add on to it, making it new again.


“Choreographers of today have to pull from dances of yesterday and add that pop,” Maggio said.


Maggio said pop is what made the moonwalk so famous.


“Michael added flare with his presentation,” she said. “That black sequined jacket, short pants, white socks and single sparkled glove brought the performance to life.”


Maggio said since that March night, there have been several dance crazes to come and go.


The ’90s gave way to the running man, a hopping or sliding step done at a fast pace to simulate a runner, popularized by Janet Jackson during her “Rhythm Nation” movement and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”


That decade also produced a phenomenon with the “Macarena” dance; the “Macarena” was a Spanish song by Los del Rio.


Maggio said accompanying a new dance with a song helps to make the artist and dance a hit.


“Dance and music are allies,” she said.


Footage from the music video for the song “Macerena”, performed by the Spanish Latin Pop duo, Los del Rio. – Photo courtesy of YouTube

Maggio also said dance trends now are popular only with the help of songs.


The 2000s led to many dance inspired songs like “Harlem Shake,” “Chicken Noodle Soup,”  “Crank That Soulja Boy,” “My Dougie” and “Teach Me How to Dougie.”


“Crank That Soulja Boy” went on to become a No. 1 hit, being the first song to sell 3 million digital copies in the U.S.


The “Dougie, ” like many before, inspired other dances like California’s “Jerkin” and “Cat Daddy.”


Maggio said as dance continues to evolve with recent fads like “Twerkin” and the “Harlem Shake,” dance crazes will reemerge.


“Dances change only to remain the same,” Maggio said. “Dances change as people use them.”


Email comments to kms042@latech.edu.


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