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Day 21: Backsliding, moonwalking, popping and locking were precursors to modern street dance (with videos)

28 Days of Black History

By Coshandra Dillard

If you’re a Generation Xer, you are probably still entertained by watching old movies with popping, locking and break dancing. While considered a fad, you’ll see those same dances, in some form or another, in today’s R&B and pop artists’ performances.

Before there was Chris Brown, Usher, or even Michael Jackson, street dancers created a hodgepodge of moves that would eventually lead to break dancing and then contemporary hip-hop dance. Remember Fred “Rerun” Berry from “What’s Happening?” He was one of the original members of The Lockers, along with Greg Pope,  Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones from Breakin‘ fame, Toni Basil of “Mickey” fame, Bill “Slim the Robot” Williams, Leo “Fluky Luke” Williamson, and the creator of locking, Don Campbell.

This group took the art of “locking” their movements, leaping, falling to the floor, and of course, doing the robot, to Soul Train and other popular dance shows in the 1970s. Before long, it was a craze. Even the Jacksons got in on it.

Backsliding or moonwalking  was another form of street dancing, and has been attributed to Derek “Cooley” Jackson, Geron “Caszper” Canidate and Jeffrey Daniel of the group Shalamar, who taught Michael Jackson the dance.

Although they’ve made a lasting mark on dance culture and taught popular artists how to move, The Lockers and other street dancers such as Electric Boogaloos usually aren’t credited as professional dancers or choreographers.


Watch The Lockers in action on Soul Train:


The creators of the moonwalk appear on Soul Train:


By the 1980s, pop locking evolved into break dancing:



This crop of innovative dancers stand on the shoulders of other entertainers. Check out these moves from Cab Calloway circa 1932 starting at 2:35:





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