On March 25, 1983, Michael Jackson took one small, backwards step onto a television stage and one giant leap into dancefloor history. The thin, angular pop star was only 24 years old when he took an obscure break-dancing move and transformed it into of the most recognizable routines of all time. Jackson debuted the Moonwalk during his performance of “Billie Jean” during the ABC television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever and the heavy rotation that the song’s music video enjoyed on MTV injected it into America’s pop cultural consciousness. The Moonwalk is so fluid, so effortless and yet when amateurs slip on some old gym socks and try to glide across a kitchen floor, it always turns out horribly. How exactly do you Moonwalk? TIME finds out.
Goal: To learn to Moonwalk
A slick floor
Years of dance training
Step 1: Start with your feet together. That’s easy enough, right
Step 2: Raise your right heel so that you’re standing on the ball of your right foot.
Step 3: Shift your weight onto that still raised right foot so that the left one feels weightless.
Step 4: Lower your right heel slowly while moving your left foot backwards until the toes of your left foot are aligned with the heels of your right foot. If you do it right, it should look like your left foot is floating backwards across the floor.
Step 5: Lift your left heel and shift your body weight so that you’re now standing on the ball of that foot.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5, this time with the opposite feet.
And that’s the Moonwalk. It’s actually a very simple dance and one Jackson didn’t invent out of thin air. Its origins can be traced back to French mime Marcel Marceau’s “Walking Against the Wind” trick, in which he pretended to be pushed backwards by an imaginary gust of wind.
If you’re having trouble, try practicing in your socks. Sure, it’s a little more Risky Business than King of Pop, but the lack of friction will give you a boost until you get the hang of it.
When done correctly, the dance will produce the illusion of walking forward while actually moving back. You can swing your arms with every step, or copy what Jackson did and hunch up your shoulders while grabbing onto your hat. You are wearing a hat, aren’t you You should probably wear a hat.
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