December 30, 1984 12:00 PM

If ever you can’t remember how old you are—for whatever reason—take this simple test: Sit in the full-lotus position and focus on the word moonwalk. If the first image that comes to mind involves Buzz Aldrin galumphing across the lunar landscape, you’re probably over 25. If, however, moonwalk makes you think of Michael Jackson slidin’ and glidin’ backward across a stage—while his body creates the illusion that he’s walking forward—then, congratulations, you’re still a member of the Pepsi Generation. Ever since he first eased across the screen in his Blame It on the Boogie video, one small step for Michael Jackson has become one big fad among his younger faithful.

Yet as closely as Jackson may be identified with the delightfully illusory move, he didn’t invent the moonwalk—nor did Aldrin, for that matter. Victor Mercado (a/k/a Shaft of the Supreme Rockers, one of New York’s premier break-dance troupes) says he first saw someone doing the “back float [the street name for Jackson’s moonwalk] years and years back. I learned it about four years ago. Jackson does it good. Not perfecto, but he’s okay.” Mura Dehn, a choreographer and filmmaker in her 80s, recalls dancers performing a similar move “in the Savoy Ballroom in the ’30s. But it was different—much simpler. Now they prolong it, exaggerate it, make it slower. It looks more spectacular.”

Especially when Jackson does it. Thin, taut, angular, he’s built to moonwalk—and his tailored lamé jackets don’t hurt, either. But moon-walking is not just for the glitterati. As Dehn says, “It’s spectacular—but it’s easy.”

If you want to learn how to moonwalk, you can take the space shuttle—or you can turn the page.

FLOW FOR IT!

SLIP ON YOUR LOAFERS and find yourself a patch of floor or some sidewalk. Get comfortable. Otherwise, says Shaft, “You could maybe mess up your toes.” Shake out your arms and loooooooosen up. Stand with your right foot slightly ahead of your left foot, right knee bent, weight on your right toes.

1. NOW SWITCH that weight to your left toes, bending your left knee.

2. MAINTAINING the pressure on your left toes, slide your right foot back. Drop the right heel when it passes the left foot, but keep on sliding until the right foot is comfortably behind you while still flat. Like it so far? Are you leaning forward? Are you moving backward? After all, we are working on an illusion here!

3. BEND your right knee so the weight shifts to the right toes.

4. SLIDE that left foot back, dropping your heel as it passes the right foot. Keep on pushing your left leg back until it’s behind you. Comfortable is the operative word here—we don’t want any shattered illusions.

IF YOU’RE BACK WHERE YOU STARTED we’re in business. Let’s do it one more time. Switch your weight onto the left toes and start pushing your right foot back again. Don’t forget to drop that heel. Nice and easy, there. All together now! Weight shifts to the right toes, push your left foot back, heel drops and keep on sliding. Got it? Of course not! Did you learn to walk on this planet in just four steps? Read, shift, push and slide until your body finally learns the steps.

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU’RE TOO CLOSE because you’re still holding the instructions. To arms! Try swinging them with each step, or scrunch up your shoulders, hug your sides and move just your hands. Now find yourself a mirror or a store window and try it. Reflect a moment: Did you ever see a moon walkin’? We think you’ve got it!

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