'Bad' Choreographer Remembers Michael Jackson Choreographer and dancer Jeffrey Daniel worked with Michael Jackson on his hit videos Bad and Smooth Criminal. He also taught Jackson "the backslide," which the king of pop later developed into the famous "moonwalk."

'Bad' Choreographer Remembers Michael Jackson

'Bad' Choreographer Remembers Michael Jackson

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105986636/105988195" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Watch The YouTube Videos

In Michael Jackson's earliest days with the Jackson 5, he performed the same fancy footwork and nimble moves that made him such a thrill to watch all through his career: the spins, the kicks and later, the moonwalk.

Choreographer Jeffrey Daniel, who is in London, worked with Michael Jackson on his videos for Bad and Smooth Criminal. And he claims that the famous "moonwalk" evolved from the "backslide," a signature move of The Electric Boogaloos. He says that Jackson — who died Thursday at 50 — came to Disneyland with "little" Janet Jackson in the early 1980s.

"They stood on the wing of the stage and they watched me dance," Daniel tells Melissa Block. "And then I got a call from him. He said that he would like to get to get together and ... go over the dance moves and that."

Daniel says even Jackson didn't get the moonwalk right way. "No one" does, he says.

"It's like the matrix, everybody falls the first jump," Daniel says. "But it's something that you work on and master. Because you have to feel where your body is, you have to feel how you're pushing off, you have to feel how you're floating back. Everyone's body is different. No one can teach you how your body weight should be distributed — you have to work that out on your own."

Daniel says he was struck by Jackson's athleticism and entertaining ability when he was a child and a teenager.

"And then to see him take what we were doing and then take it into his arena — take it into the next stratosphere — it was like, 'Wow,'" Daniel says.

He called Jackson's way of hopping on his tiptoes and seemingly hanging in space "mind blowing."

"He pulls different things from different people, from Sammy Davis, Jr., a bit of Elvis, a bit of James Brown, some Bob Fosse, Fred Astaire, what's happening on the streets," Daniel says. "So he's a combination of all of those things and he mixes them all up."

Daniel says he and his fellow choreographer were influenced by The West Side Story when they were choreographing Bad in a subway station. But Daniel says he was trying to keep the dance "current and contemporary," like getting the whole group to do the Michael Jackson scoot across the floor.

"It's like a train coming across the screen ... and that's the effect I was looking for and it worked," he says.