Justin does it. So do Usher and Missy. Nearly every time you flip on MTV you can see an R&B star shifting seamlessly between toe and heel, sliding over the floor’s surface in an effortless glide. It looks easy, but it takes skill and time to master the illusion of floating across the stage. A variation on the glide made history when Michael Jackson moonwalked, and now the original is turning up in hip-hop choreography—and commercial dancers are expected to know how to do it. Here, DS gives you tips to perfect this elusive move, starting with a prep exercise, then breaking it down step by step.
Break It Down
The glide is difficult to master because it features the continuous flow of seemingly inseparable components. However, “it’s really a series of subtle and tense weight shifts,” says hip-hop choreographer, teacher and dancer Rhapsody. So, to understand the move as a whole, break it into digestible parts.
Side-to-side preparation exercise:
- Begin with feet parallel in sixth position. Your shoulders should be back and weight should be in the middle of your feet.
- Move weight to the balls of your feet, expand your chest like you’re blowing up a balloon and move your arms straight back. Slide your right foot forward in an S-curve to the right until you’re in a standing lunge position. Your chest should be puffed forward, with your neck slightly jutting in that direction as well. Arms are up to you; we’ve shown the right arm going out with the foot. Your right foot will be in a forced arch, giving the illusion of leaning forward; the left foot acts as your anchor.
- To return to center, contract your stomach and slide your right foot back to parallel while bringing your arms to your sides. Repeat with the left foot.
Continuous Direction Glide:
- Start with feet parallel in sixth position. For a glide that moves toward the left, dig your right toe into the floor.
- Push your left foot away, letting it slide along the floor. “You should be in a deep forced-arch lunge,” says Laya Barak, hip-hop teacher at Steps on Broadway and Dance New Amsterdam.
- Rotate your right foot inward, pigeon-toed, lifting your toe up. At the same time, shift your left foot so that it faces left, toe digging into the floor, mirroring the initial position of your right foot. You should be in a locked toe-heel position—weight on the left toe and right heel.
- Slide your right foot in toward your left toe. Switch heels quickly: Your left heel returns to the floor in parallel while your right foot rotates back out and pops onto a forced arch. Dig into your right toe and slide the left foot back to begin again.
Watch Your Weight
“The glide’s most important component is definitely an understanding of weight shift,” says Rhapsody. “You have to drive forward with your toe to give the illusion of moving [smoothly] through space. There should be a swell of energy like a pendulum, a hover at the top of the move when you reach one side. That makes the glide dynamic.” Throughout, your chest should move fluidly in the direction of each digged toe.
Feel the Stretch
While Barak agrees that the shift is important, she also stresses understanding tension. “The best glides feel like you have an invisible rubber band from your right shoulder to your left foot that stretches as you slide your left foot away and resists as your feet come back together,” she says. This tension creates fluidity and strength. And when you’re switching heel pops just before a new section of your glide, that tension maintains the flow.
- To cultivate a cleaner line, practice digging your toe in and finding a deep forward lunge before adding it into the glide.
- Master the side-to-side glide exercise before moving on to the continuous direction glide. The motion and intention is the same.
- Experiment with the step. Add your own personality with neck swivels and chest isolations to make the glide look more robotic. Or, add hard shoulder locks to make the glide tough and staccato.
- Try moving your glide in a circle. Extend the lunging leg to the back open diagonal, and as you shift your weight back toward sixth position, rotate your hips 90 degrees until you’re facing the side of the room. Repeat to face back, then the side, then front again to complete the circle.