Lil’ Buck: Real Swan @ Tribeca Film Festival

Timing is everything. Dancer Charles “Lil Buck” Riley practically had his career made because famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma saw him dancing to Camille Saint-Saens “The Swan” which led to them performing together and film director Spike Jonze posted a video of the performance. That was the beginning of Lil Buck’s rise in the dance world. Soon he was very much in demand by big names.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee Charles Riley had his first introduction to dance at the Crystal Palace Roller Rink. Each night after the roller skating ended a dance party broke out. The primary style of dance was jookin’. Once Charles saw it he was hooked. It became a life long passion.

Jookin was birthed from the street dancing style called Gangsta Walk. It involves fluid movement combined with bucking. A marriage of contrast. Practicing it night and day, soon Charles or Lil Buck became the accepted best dancer of this style in his age group.

Always looking to inject something new in what he was doing, Lil Buck was awarded a scholarship to start studying ballet. Soon he was combining ballet and jookin. The meshing of classic with street caught everyone’s attention and set Lil Buck off on his career.

After that video of “The Swan” went viral, it led to Lil Buck touring with Madonna and choreographing and dancing in Janelle Monae’s Tightrope video. His reputation grew and talent is in demand, but he still remembers where he came from and as such has taken on mentoring young dancers from Memphis.

The greatest of artists have always strove to carve out their own paths. Coming up with new styles or innovations in their chosen art forms. Because he has entered the jookin arena and changed things up, Lil Buck has become one of the few global stars in it.

Someone who advocates strongly for the arts and arts education in schools, Lil Buck is active in many ways in the arts community. He especially wants people to learn about jookin and its roots. That it came from the streets of Memphis. Something beautiful came from an area where many would not feel safe walking around in. Educating people that something that should be considered as art can come from the streets. Documentary highlights how integral that the culture and community of Memphis was and is in this dance style.

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