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How “the robot” became the greatest novelty dance of all time

The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5
Getty Images

You’ve seen it in Step Up 3D and on countless YouTube channels. Its stilted movements have been included in performers' dance routines for decades. "The robot" is one of the most recognizable novelty dances, but its history is anything but mechanical.

Before the dance was set to music, it was part of a mime act. Robert Shields, a mime, included the robotic movement in his routine in the 1960s. This style also became inspiration for dancer Charles Washington. Set to funky music, the robot graced the stage of Soul Train and made its way into the Jackson 5’s choreography for their 1974 hit "Dancing Machine." Check out the video above to learn more on how the robot pop-and-locked its way into the history books.