How the Moonwalk Works

How to Moonwalk

The moonwalk looks effortless when done properly, but it's actually quite tricky to perform well.
The moonwalk looks effortless when done properly, but it's actually quite tricky to perform well.

The moonwalk is considered an intermediate to difficult dance move; if you don't have dance experience already (and even if you do), it may take you awhile to master this step. However, once you get it, you'll forever be able to impress people with your skills. You need to practice the moonwalk on a smooth floor, wearing socks or very smooth-soled shoes and comfortable clothing.

To start, stand very tall and straight with your feet together. Then, step your right foot forward and keep that leg perfectly straight. Bend your left knee and bring your left heel off the floor. While keeping your right leg straight, your right foot parallel to your body and your right heel flat on the floor, drag your right leg backward until the toes of your right foot pass the heel of your left foot, then stop. The power of the movement should come from the ball of your left foot; if you push at all with your right leg, it won't appear to be gliding. As your right foot drags, your left heel should lower simultaneously.

Once your right foot passes the heel of your left foot, switch your knees. Straighten your left leg and press your left heel to the floor. Bend your right knee and lift your right heel. This time, drag your left leg backward.

Sounds simple enough, right? Like most things that look effortless, the moonwalk is tough to master. Keeping your leg straight and your foot flat while dragging it requires a lot of balance and precision. If you bend the dragging leg, lift the heel of that foot off the floor or take the toes of either foot off the floor at any point, you'll spoil the effect. The timing of lowering one heel while dragging the opposite foot must also be exact. The moonwalk should look like you're floating; it should not be jerky or appear as if you're pulling your body backward. With practice, you will build up to doing the movements to speed and without thinking about them.

Michael's version of the moonwalk had more arm motion; when performing it, he usually swung his arms back and forth as the opposite leg slid backward. He also often popped his head back and forth and hunched up his shoulders as he moonwalked. Both additions make the illusion of walking more convincing.

There are other floats or slide dance steps that are related to the backslide, including the side slide, the circle slide and the forward slide. Once you master the backslide, you can start working on expanding your slide steps. The next time you see someone moonwalk -- or do it yourself -- you'll know that it's not just Michael Jackson's move, but also the product of more than 70 years of dancing evolution. That's almost as amazing as the moonwalk itself.

Related Articles


  • Acocella, Joan. "Walking on the Moon." New Yorker, Vol. 85. Issue 22. 2009. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. (Aug. 24, 2011)
  • Bailey, Bill. "1955 Moonwalk." Stars of Tap. Online clip. Internet Archive Community Video. 2001.
  • Barrault, Jean-Louis. "Airwalking scene from 1945 film 'Les Enfants du Paradis.'" Online video clip. YouTube. Jun 22, 2007.
  • Brooks, Mel. "Silent Movie." Crossbow Productions. June 1976.
  • Daniel, Jeffrey. "Soccer AM: Still got the moves." Online video clip. YouTube. Feb. 14, 2007. Originally broadcast on Sky Sports.
  • Daniel, Jeffrey. "Street Dance." Online video clip. YouTube. January 24, 2009. Originally broadcast on BBC Blast.
  • DiLorenzo, Kris. "The Arts. Dance: Michael Jackson did not invent the Moonwalk." The Crisis. Vol. 92. Issue 4. April 1985.
  • Electric Boogaloos. "'Funk Styles' History and Knowledge." The Electric Boogaloos. 2008.
  • Jackson, Michael. "Billie Jean - Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever." Online video clip. YouTube. March 17, 2010. Originally broadcast on NBC on May 16, 1983.
  • Jackson, Michael. "Moonwalk." Doubleday. 1988.
  • Jaxson, Cooley. "How to Moonwalk." Online video clip. YouTube. April 30, 2008.
  • Nelson, George. "Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson." Da Capo Press. 2010.
  • Paget, Matt. "The Best Dance Moves in the World -- Ever." Chronicle Books. 2008.
  • Poon, Kina. "Remembering Michael Jackson." Dance Magazine. September 2009.
  • Shalamar. "A Night to Remember - Performance on 'Top of the Pops." Online video clip. YouTube. March 27, 2011. Originally broadcast on BBC 1 in 1982.
  • Suddath, Claire. "How to Moonwalk Like Michael." Time. June 25, 2009.,8599,1907320,00.html
  • Tarraborrelli, J. Randy. "Michael Jackson: The magic and madness." Birch Lane Press. 1991.