Michael Jackson R.I.P.
For a great personal account of the whole thing, I'd like to refer you to Combat Jack.
As you might (or might not) know, Michael Jackson learned most of his dancing from Jeffrey Daniel - including the legendary moonwalk. Jeffrey Daniel started his career as a dancer on the TV show Soul Train and later became became known as a member of the disco/dance group Shalamar. Here's Jeffrey Daniel performing Shalamar's biggest hit "A Night To Remember" on the British show Top of the Pops in 1982:
Check out the first appearance of the moonwalk on TV, at about 1:40 into the video. When it comes to breaking, I have always been a big fan of the West Coast styles: popping & locking & slides & glides, i.e. all that pantomime and robot stuff that you see Daniel performing. He was probably the first to bring that street style to popular attention.
Needless to say, it was up to Michael Jackson to perfect it ... but if you review his dancing you will be surprised how many breaking moves he actually incorporated. The moonwalk is taken from the legendary Bucharest performance:
Ironically, there is a second person who claims to have taught Michael Jackson the moonwalk: Michael Chambers aka Boogaloo Shrimp. While that claim might not be 100% true, Boogaloo Shrimp is possibly the only dancer who could hold up against Michael Jackson: His liquid style was just incredible. As an L.A. native, he was also influenced by West Coast popping & locking. After appearing in "Breaking & Entering", a documentary on early 80s L.A. breaking and hip hop, he had his commercial breakthrough starring in the 1984 Hollywood production "Breakin". Here are 2 of my favorite scenes:
Here's a fun fact about "Breakin": If you carefully watch the following scene and resist the temptation to only look at Lucinda Dickey, you will spot an extra in a black bodysuit, busting some of the wackest moves ever seen. Yes, it really IS Jean-Claude Van Damme:
P.S. As I am writing this (2 a.m.), somebody is blasting "Beat it" in the street. YEAH!