How Did Michael Jackson Learn to Dance: Unlocking the Icon’s Moves

Michael Jackson, known as the King of Pop, was not only a musical genius but also a pioneer in the world of dance.

His innovative dance moves and unique style captivated audiences worldwide, revolutionizing music videos and live performances. Learning to dance was an essential aspect of Jackson’s career, and his signature moves like the Moonwalk and Smooth Criminal lean have left a lasting impact on popular culture.

From a young age, Jackson was exposed to various dance styles and influences through his involvement in the Jackson 5 alongside his older brothers.

His dance talent continued to evolve as he watched and was inspired by legendary performers and choreographers like James Brown, Fred Astaire, and Jackie Wilson. As his solo career took off and entered television performances, Michael Jackson started to innovate and develop breakthrough dance moves that quickly became his signature.

Collaborating with numerous choreographers and dancers, Jackson continuously practiced and refined his technique, allowing his dance style and movement to evolve throughout his career. His dedication to the art of dance combined with his unparalleled talent and hard work has made his legacy an everlasting one in both the dance and pop culture world.

Michael Jackson Dancing

Key Takeaways

  • Michael Jackson’s exposure to various dance styles during his early life and inspirations from legendary performers contributed to his unique dance talent
  • Development of signature moves, collaborations with choreographers, and continuous practice shaped his dance style and technique
  • Jackson’s impact on music videos, performances, and pop culture solidifies his legacy in the world of dance.

Early Life and Family Influence

Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana. He was the eighth of ten children in a working-class family with African American roots. His father, Joe Jackson, was a steel mill worker and a talented musician, while his mother, Katherine Jackson, nurtured the children’s musical development.

The family’s small, cozy two-bedroom house buzzed with artistic energy, setting the stage for their successful careers in the performing arts. Joe Jackson was a strict disciplinarian, driving his talented children to excel at their craft and instilling a strong work ethic. This played a key role in Michael’s early exploration of dance.

The Jackson 5, consisting of Michael and his four older brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon, started performing in local venues when Michael was just six years old. As lead singer, Michael’s talent shone brightly, capturing the attention of Motown Records, who eventually signed the group in 1968. The Jackson 5 released a series of hits, paving the way for Michael’s transition into a solo career.

Family influence, especially from his brothers, played a significant role in Michael’s interest in music and dance. Through his experiences with the Jackson 5, Michael was exposed to various dance styles and performances, allowing him to develop his own artistic identity. Immersed in a vibrant artistic environment from a very young age, Michael Jackson’s incredible journey as a dancer and performer began, making him a star that would change the course of dance history forever.

Michael Jackson Super bowl

Legendary Dance Inspirations

James Brown

Michael Jackson drew inspiration from various artists, one of which was James Brown. The King of Soul had a profound effect on Jackson’s dance style, as seen in his sharp footwork and incredible energy.

Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson was another major influence for Jackson. The dynamic performer was known for his powerful vocals and athletic dance moves that captivated audiences and inspired Jackson to develop his own unique style.

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire’s elegant and fluid dance technique also had a significant impact on Jackson’s movements. With his flawless execution and unmatched grace, Astaire set an example for Jackson as a true dance legend.

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly was renowned for his powerful, masculine style of dancing that blended ballet with modern dance, something that Michael Jackson admired. Kelly’s skillful and expressive choreography played a crucial role in shaping Jackson’s dance vocabulary.

Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr., a multifaceted performer, was known for his incredible tap dancing and remarkably versatile stage presence. Jackson greatly respected Davis for his talents, incorporating elements of his dancing into his own performances.

Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard, and Harold were famous for their acrobatic and precise tap dance routines. Their exceptional artistry left a lasting impression on Michael Jackson, who infused similar energy and synchronicity into his own dance moves.

My Michael Jackson History World tour ticket 1997

TV Performances and Breakthroughs

Soul Train

In the early stages of his career, Michael Jackson performed on the TV show Soul Train, showcasing his talent to a wider audience. His appearances on the show helped pave the way for future iconic dance moves and styles.

Motown 25

The TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever marked a significant moment in Michael Jackson’s dance history. It was during this live performance that the world witnessed the moonwalk for the first time. The moonwalk, also known as the backslide, became one of Jackson’s most iconic dance moves and a defining moment in popular culture.

Jackson’s remarkable performance of “Billie Jean” during Motown 25 captivated audiences and solidified his status as the King of Pop. Through TV appearances like these, Michael Jackson revolutionized the art of dance and left a lasting impact on future generations of performers.

Check out this Youtube video that shows this iconic performance.

Signature Moves and Choreography


The Moonwalk, a signature dance move of Michael Jackson, was adapted from the “backslide” and introduced by professional dancer Derek “Cooley” Jaxson. The King of Pop initially incorporated this move into his choreography in carefully selected moments, often followed by a spin.


Michael Jackson brought the Robot dance to a wider audience in pop culture. With jerky, mechanical movements, it created the illusion of being a machine. He showcased this dance style in various performances, further solidifying his impact on dance history.


The Spin was another iconic element in Michael Jackson’s choreography. Executed with precision and flare, his spins were often incorporated as transitions between moves. The Spin added an element of excitement and visual appeal to his performances.


Popping, a street dance style that originated in the 1970s, was popularized by Michael Jackson as well. Characterized by quickly contracting and relaxing muscles, this dance move created sharp, staccato movements. Jackson’s mastery of Popping added another dimension to his rich repertoire of dance moves.

Gravity-Defying Lean

In the music video and live performances of “Smooth Criminal,” Michael Jackson amazed audiences with his Gravity-Defying Lean. During this move, Jackson and his backup dancers tilted their bodies forward by 45 degrees from vertical. The illusion of defying gravity was achieved by shifting the fulcrum from the sacrum to the Achilles tendon, a testament to his incredible talent and innovation in dance.

Collaborations with Other Dancers and Choreographers

Jeffrey Daniel

Michael Jackson collaborated with Jeffrey Daniel, a renowned choreographer and dancer. Daniel taught Jackson “the backslide,” which later evolved into the famous moonwalk. Together, they worked on hit music videos like “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal,” showcasing impressive synchronized movements and innovative rhythms.

Janet Jackson

Michael Jackson also collaborated with his sister, Janet Jackson, on performances and music videos, such as “Scream.” Their partnership brought dynamic energy and artistic vision to the projects, elevating both their performances as dancers and artists. Their combined talents pushed the boundaries of dance, showcasing complex routines and captivating stage presence.

Backup Dancers

Throughout Michael Jackson’s career, he incorporated skilled backup dancers into his performances. These dancers not only added depth to the stage, but also highlighted the intricate choreography that was characteristic of Jackson’s style. By working closely with these performers, Michael Jackson continued to develop a unique blend of movement and rhythm in his dance routines.

Michael Jackson White Socks

Impact on Music Videos and Performances

Michael Jackson’s innovative dance moves undoubtedly revolutionized music videos and live performances. The artist’s attention to detail and unique vision translated into unforgettable experiences on stage and on screen.

His album “Off the Wall” marked the emergence of Michael as a solo artist, setting the stage for his iconic presence in the world of music and dance. The release of “Thriller” in 1982 pushed the boundaries of music videos, significantly elevating the medium.

The “Thriller” video was a turning point for the music industry, becoming a groundbreaking piece with its cinematic narrative and choreography. It played a pivotal role in making music videos a crucial aspect of an artist’s creative expression.

In relation to MTV, Michael’s influence was remarkable as the network was initially hesitant in playing black music. Jackson’s success bridged that gap, allowing diverse content to be more widely accessible on the platform.

“Beat It” showcased splendidly coordinated dance sequences, and “Billie Jean” introduced the world to the mesmerizing moonwalk. These iconic moves set Michael Jackson apart, inspiring a generation of artists and dancers.

In the realm of pop music, Michael Jackson’s videos and performances embodied innovation and the fusion of genres. His unparalleled dance skills and timeless artistry shaped the evolution of music videos and live performances, solidifying his impact on the entertainment industry.

Influenced by Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s innovative dance style has left a lasting impact on the world of dance, inspiring countless artists. His unique approach to movement and rhythm has transformed dance into a form of artistic expression.

As the King of Pop, Jackson popularized many dance moves throughout his career. The moonwalk, one of his most iconic moves, is still emulated today by dancers worldwide.

Beyoncé, a noteworthy artist influenced by Jackson, often cites him as a key motivator in her pursuit of musical excellence. His impact on her as both a dancer and performer is evident in her stage presence and energetic choreography.

Pop stars of various generations have also drawn inspiration from Jackson’s dance prowess. They have integrated elements of his style into their own routines and cultivated an appreciation for groundbreaking dance techniques.

From seasoned professionals to aspiring dancers, Michael Jackson’s influence on dance is undeniable. His legacy continues to inspire and shape the future of movement and self-expression in the realm of dance.

Continuous Practice and Technique Development

Michael Jackson’s journey of learning to dance began at a young age, as he was heavily influenced by the extraordinary talents of other legendary entertainers like James Brown and Jackie Wilson. As part of The Jackson 5, Michael gained valuable stage experience and honed his skills.

Continuous practice played a crucial role in shaping Michael’s dancing prowess. By putting in countless hours of effort and dedication, he eventually developed his innovative style that enthralled audiences globally.

To further refine his dance techniques, Michael worked with professional dancers who introduced him to new moves. One such example is the iconic moonwalk, which he perfected after learning the backslide from Derek “Cooley” Jaxson.

It wasn’t just about the dance moves – Jackson was meticulous about body movements and expressions. He believed in the power of subtlety and incorporated this belief into his dance, making his performances mesmerizing and unforgettable.

A master of experimentation, Michael Jackson continually evolved his dance style by drawing inspiration from various sources, such as street dancers, tap dance, and even martial arts. This fusion of elements ensured that his dance remained unique and fresh.

In conclusion, Michael Jackson’s ability to learn and excel in dance can be attributed to his unwavering dedication to continuous practice and constant technique development. His brilliance as a dancer continues to inspire generations of performers to this day.

Evolution of Movement and Dance Style

Michael Jackson’s dance style evolved over time, initially drawing inspiration from artists like James Brown and Fred Astaire. His movement signature, a blend of precise footwork, fluidity, and dynamic energy, transformed the world of dance.

Jackson’s training in dance began as a member of The Jackson 5 and continued during his solo career. He was well-known for studying and refining his technique; he would relentlessly break down and study his favorite performers’ moves to improve his own style.

Incorporating elements of street dance, jazz, and pop culture, Michael’s movement innovations showcased his natural sense of rhythm. He popularized dance sequences like the moonwalk, which became synonymous with his name and influenced generations of dancers.

As the King of Pop’s career progressed, he continued to push boundaries in his choreography. Collaborating with top choreographers like Vincent Paterson and Lavelle Smith Jr., he created visually stunning performances adhering to his ever-evolving style.

Through his constant exploration and determination, Michael Jackson revolutionized the dance landscape. His influence remains prevalent in contemporary dance and pop culture, illustrating his lasting impact on the evolution of movement and dance style.

MJ’s Legacy in Dance and Pop Culture

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, revolutionized the world of dance and entertainment through his unique and innovative moves. As the lead singer of the Jackson 5 since 1969, his influence on American youth culture was immense, earning recognition from the US Congress.

His iconic dance move, the moonwalk, took the world by storm in 1983. This dance style has continued to impact and inspire generations of performers. In addition, Jackson achieved seemingly impossible moves in his music video “Smooth Criminal,” demonstrating exceptional skill and grace.

Though the artist faced many personal challenges, his spirit shone through in his performance. His distinctive choreography showcased a blend of emotional and technical aspects, making Michael Jackson a true dance icon.

In the realm of pop culture, Jackson’s contributions to music, dance, and fashion have left an indelible mark. His unique style and creativity have set high standards for aspiring artists in the entertainment industry. Indeed, Michael Jackson’s legacy in dance and pop culture will continue to captivate and inspire fans for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who inspired Michael Jackson’s dance moves?

Michael Jackson was inspired by various artists and dancers throughout his career, including industry greats like James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and Fred Astaire. He also drew inspiration from street dance moves and popular dance trends at the time.

When did Michael Jackson start dancing?

Michael Jackson started dancing as a young child, performing alongside his siblings in the family group, The Jackson 5. They began to gain fame and recognition in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What age did Michael Jackson begin dancing?

Michael Jackson began dancing around the age of 5 as a member of The Jackson 5. His innate talent and natural rhythm were evident from an early age, contributing to the group’s success.

What is Michael Jackson’s dance style?

Michael Jackson’s dance style is an amalgamation of various influences, including jazz, tap, contemporary, and street dance styles. He was particularly known for his innovative choreography, signature moves like the Moonwalk, and remarkable ability to smoothly transition between dance genres.

Who taught Michael Jackson dancing?

While Michael Jackson was largely self-taught, he did collaborate with numerous choreographers and dancers throughout his career. One notable example is Jeffery Daniel, who taught Michael the famous Moonwalk, which became one of the most iconic dance moves in history.

How did Michael Jackson practice dancing?

Michael Jackson practiced dancing relentlessly, honing his craft over countless hours spent in rehearsal and in front of the mirror. This dedication to his art resulted in his remarkable mastery of various dance styles and contributed to his legendary performing abilities.

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