Home Music Music Lists

Rolling Stone Readers Pick Their 10 Favorite Dancing Musicians

Watch clips of Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Madonna and Prince in action

Michael jackson moonwalk moonwalking best dancer rock list weekend

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Rock, hip-hop, R&B and pop all evolved out of music designed for dancing, and so it should come as no surprise that many of the greatest musicians of all time happen to be world class dancers. With this is mind, we asked our readers to name their favorite dancing musician of all time. Here are the results.

By Matthew Perpetua

Play video

8. Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson may not have the widespread cultural impact of her older brother Michael, but she is a brilliant dancer in her own right, and has arguably had a greater long-term impact on the choreography of contemporary music videos. Her 1989 video for "Rhythm Nation," in which she and a quasi-militaristic ensemble dance in some sort of urban dystopia, set the template for hundreds of videos to come in the Nineties and aughts.

Play video

7. Madonna

Madonna is entirely synonymous with dancing. If she's not singing about dancing or making music for dance floors around the world, she's dancing in videos or on stage. Just as Madonna is responsible for bringing elements of several underground dance music genres into the mainstream with her pop hits, she has done the same for several dance styles, most notably voguing in the early Nineties. It's actually sort of hard to pick just one Madonna video to showcase her dancing – we went with the clip for her early hit "Holiday" because it's so totally focused on her movement and serves as a fine example of the singer's tough-girl physicality.

Play video

6. Prince

The most iconic images of Prince usually involve him playing a guitar, so you'd be forgiven if it slipped your mind that the R&B legend happens to be a world class dancer. In this incredible footage from around 1980, Prince is brought up on stage by Michael Jackson during a James Brown performance, leading the pint-sized pop genius to upstage both men with surreal, wildly imaginative moves.

Play video

5. Lady Gaga

Though dancing is arguably the least of Lady Gaga's many talents, it is a central component of her live performances and visionary music videos. "Bad Romance" boasts her most inspired choreography along with some of the most indelible images of the singer's career to date. The best bit is the velociraptor-like monster arm motion, one of the most instantly iconic moves of the past decade.

Play video

4. Mick Jagger

A lot of the physicality that we associate with rock stars today can be traced back to Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, whose fluid motions and sassy rooster strut set the template for the likes of Freddie Mercury, Axl Rose, Steven Tyler and countless others. This clip of the Stones performing "Jumpin' Jack Flash" circa 1968 presents Jagger in his prime, though much of the footage is unfortunately focused above his waistline.

Play video

3. James Brown

James Brown may be the most physical singer of all time, a man who spent pretty much every moment on stage over the course of five decades in constant motion. Brown's music developed largely in response to his dancing, with his band developing entirely new styles of funk and rhythm to suit their singer's ecstatic movements. These new beats ended up becoming the foundation of funk rock, house music, hip-hop and beyond, making Brown one of the most influential artists of all time.

Play video

2. Britney Spears

Britney Spears took a whopping percentage of the votes in this poll, clearly establishing the pop starlet as your favorite female dancer. The music video for the 2001 hit "I'm A Slave 4 U" is prime Britney, with the singer deliberately subverting her still-girlish appearance with overt, unapologetic sexuality.

Play video

1. Michael Jackson

It should come as no surprise that the King of Pop won this poll by a significant margin. Michael Jackson's superhuman level of talent extended to an uncanny and utterly natural gift for dancing. On top of possessing remarkable grace, Jackson was also wildly innovative. In this clip from the Motown 25 special on March 25, 1983, the pop legend debuts the moonwalk, a backwards gliding motion which would become his signature move and one of the most famous dance techniques of the 20th Century.

Show Comments