We’re going to take a look at learning the Michael Jackson side moonwalk! Take a look at my free short online lesson first and then get ready to jump into the lesson below!
The next dance step we’re going to take a look at is called a “glide”. We are going to try and glide toward the side giving the illusion that we are floating on air, effortlessly. A glide is very much related to popping and is very similar to the moonwalk, but has more of an effortless, smooth quality to it. We will be using our feet to push, pull and turn to create the illusion. This move was popularised, again by Michael Jackson but has recently been attempted and varied by pop artists like Justin Timberlake and Usher, who have tried to add their own unique interpretation to the step.
I personally like the smooth yet sharp quality of Michael Jackson’s glide. I like to call the step the “side slide” and it is one of my favourite steps, as it is quick and easy to perform after it has been mastered. Feel free to vary it and add your own interpretation and ideas to the move.
This is essentially a street dance step and consists of pretty unnatural body movements. Which adds to the illusion, as it looks like it is impossible to do, but only adds to the surreal effect. It’s important to remember to learn one step at a time.
Firstly, break down the move and isolate each component; next master each one; and later join them together. Isolation is the key to this step; that is, moving different parts of your body independently of the rest. This requires focus and practice. But after a little practice it becomes second nature – you’ll start enjoying it once you’ve practised so much that you stop thinking about the steps, and just let your body go with the flow.
As with every step or piece of choreography, try and allow the music to flow “through” you as opposed to dancing “on” the beat. One way of doing this is to literally imagine you are part of the music or an instrument in it, like a drum. Most important is practice and methodical conditioning. So let’s have a closer look at the “side slide”…
Stand with your back straight and your chin up. Place your feet shoulder width apart pointing diagonally outwards.
- Bend your left leg at the knee and in the direction that your foot is pointing while raising your left heel off the floor. Keep your body up right and straight. You should feel the muscles in your left thigh working as they take your weight. It’s important that you do not lean over. Keep your spine and upper body completely straight as you lower your self into position.
- The pivot: You’re now going to pivot on your left toe and right heel so that both of your toes are pointing inwards. Transferring your weight on to the left toe, swing your left heel toward the left. The position of your toes does not move, in relation to the floor.
- At the same time, transfer the weight on your right foot, on your heel, swinging your toes in and to the left, raising your toes slightly off the floor. The heel of your right foot should not move its position in relation to the floor. Pivot both feet at the same time, with speed, keeping your back straight and your knees bent, as in the previous step.
Your left knee will be bent and your right straight. Snap your left knee back, and your right knee forward, so that this is reversed. Your right knee should push slightly toward the left at a diagonal and your left leg should snap toward the right at a diagonal.
It’s important that you keep your knees bent and back straight, as you will be tempted to straighten up. Keep the form of the first step throughout and keep low. When executing the leg snap, do not move any other part of your upper body (imagine an Elvis Presley shuffle!)
- Right angle: To prepare for the sliding motion you should turn your right heel in towards the other leg, while keeping your toe in contact with the floor. You might feel slightly unstable, temporarily, but it’s important that you keep your form.
- The slide: You are now going to use your right foot to slide to the left. As you push off, turn your left foot in the direction that it is sliding and take the weight onto your left toes to stop the slide. When you push off the right foot, remember that you are to transfer equal weight off your right foot, into the left foot. From there you should slide the foot into the floor and toward the left. You will create friction with the ground. It is that effort that will create the illusion that you are gliding. Remember to keep your back fully straightened and to transfer the weight through your legs and heels, in a snap. A “push, slide and snap (right heel down on the “snap”)” motion. You might be tempted to raise up the toes of the left sliding foot, but keep them pushing into the floor and down at the same time as you slide toward the left in a swift sharp movement.
The heel drag:
Drag your right heel toward your left foot while pivoting on your left toes. Your heel should slide along and into the floor in a straight line (approx 20- 30 cm). When you pivot
on the left foot, remember that the position of your toes do not change in relation to the floor and you are raising up, and swinging the left, your left heel simultaneously with the heel drag on the right foot.
The toe flip:
At the end of your heel slide, flip your right foot so that your toes are touching the floor and your heel is raised. Your foot should move in a swift movement, without moving in relation to the floor. You should imagine that you are pushing your right heel forward, while raising it, on the pointed foot. Keep it in, and tight while keeping the form of the rest of your body.
From this position you are now going to push off into another slide. Push down and into the floor with your right foot whilst sliding your left foot away. Remember to push your
left toe in the direction you are travelling and keep your back upright and straight at all times. Also keep in mind that it is an equal weight transfer via the floor! The friction and effort is a good thing, which you will get used to, but it is essential. If this is not an effort then you’re sliding into the floor incorrectly and should push harder into the floor, so that it is!
Repeat the heel drag as before by sliding your heel inward to the left while pivoting your left toe inwards. At the end of the movement flick your toes down and your heel up once
Join it up!
You now have all the necessary footwork to pull the side slide off, but next you have to join it up into one continuous line by accurately repeating the moves to build up speed and
smoothness. It’s important that before you attempt to join it up you master each step individually as well as focusing on isolating parts of your body. So that when you pivot (for example) the step has no effect on any other part of your body or your position or stance.
Throughout this move (especially when learning the mechanics of the step) it’s important to remember that the movements of the legs should not have any effect on your upper body or spine and that you should stay low and keep your body relative to the ground through the steps. It’s also important that you master each step before attempting to join them up, so that when you do join them up, it is a natural progression to the slide. At this stage the weight transfers should be very mechanical and you should become very aware of your weight and where you are placing it through your body.
The slide works because you are using weight transfer in a very unnatural way, which creates the illusion. It takes a while to get used to. With perseverance you will
The upper body
To complete the step add some upper body movement. Keep your arms straight and bring them to the front of your body with your fingers together pointing outwards and your palms
parallel to the floor. Next, move your arms up and down from the shoulder. Add in a rotation so that your arms look like pistons driving the motion through the slide and the rest of your body. Do this at the same time as you are rotating to enhance the illusion.
Keep your back straight and make a circular movement in a clockwise direction with your head. Be careful not to jerk your neck, keeping the move smooth and steady. Really stretch
your neck forwards, pushing your chin forward and down and then around in the circular motion. Focus on keeping your head completely straight, so that you do not tip in any direction. You can do this by keeping your eyes looking straight ahead and focusing on pushing the move with your chin and under neck area rather than your head. If you focus on your chin and under neck area, while still keeping your head upright, you’ll be able to extend your head further forward and around in a clean simple motion, without it looking awkward.
Remember, practise makes perfect! The side slide needs a lot of practice to master, but if you put the effort in and focus on each step and try to understand the mechanics of the motion…you’ll soon be busting the side slide everywhere!
There is no doubt that this seems like a complicated step, but with practice and training it really does become second nature and a joy to perform and watch.
As with most dance steps there will be a certain point when it just feels right and it “clicks” into place (after practice). It may seem impossible before this point, but it is
so important that you focus and keep going. It is a misconception that popping and locking are difficult and that only some people are able to do it. As with everything, if you break it down and practise each step slowly, then it will come together and in the end you will be able to do it with accuracy and confidence.
By Anthony King ©