Memphis Gangsta Walk Meets Romantic Classical

Mike Melli , 24 Feb 2013
Classical ballet trained street dancer Lil Buck (Photo ©2011 Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail International Dance Festival)
Classical ballet trained street dancer Lil Buck (Photo ©2011 Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail International Dance Festival)

Every now and then you come across a new art form that completely blows you away… welcome the romantic classical-gangsta walk! On last Thursday’s episode of the Colbert Report, Memphis street dancer Lil Buck (born Charles Riley), performed his unique fusion of romantic classical & jookin’ (a derivation of the original Memphis gangsta walk). Following an immediate Google search, I came across this video where Lil Buck performed his interpretation of the iconic ballet routine, The Dying Swan, alongside revered cellist Yo-Yo Ma (whom masterfully played French composer Saint-Saëns’ cello solo, Le Cygne, from Le Carnaval des Animaux).

Needless to say, viewing this video warranted a more thorough search, and I came to find some amazing videos of Lil Buck kicking ass in Memphis dance battles, dancing in hit music videos, and touring with Madonna on the MDNA tour.

Read on to see more of this gifted, ground-breaking dancer.

The gangsta walk street dancing style originated in Memphis some thirty years ago, and has produced many offshoots. Lil Buck’s style is called jookin’, which puts increased emphasis on footwork by adding advanced stepping and slides.  Check out this video of a jookin’ dance battle between Lil Buck, and fellow jooker ‘G-Nerd’.

And here’s an awesome footwork-only video tribute to Michael Jackson (to the tune of Billie Jean)… imagine if MJ had come across Lil Buck!!

In the classical word, he was discovered while practicing hip hop and jookin’ dance moves in an open practice room of a Memphis area ballet studio. When the head instructor happened upon his talent, she immediately offered him a scholarship to study ballet. It was here that Lil Buck created his Dying Swan routine, which he later performed at the Vail International Dance Festival (where he was chosen as an artist in residence).

Classical ballet trained street dancer Lil Buck (Photo Erin Baiano, Courtesy VIDF)
Classical ballet trained street dancer Lil Buck (Photo Erin Baiano, Courtesy VIDF)

In the commercial world, Lil Buck has been featured as a dancer in Grammy-nominated R&B artist Janelle Monáe‘s hit song, Tightrope.

And he also performed as a backup dancer for Madonna at last year’s Superbowl Halftime Show (and on her global MDNA tour).

Lil Buck has been named as one of Dance Magazine‘s Top 25 to Watch, and is garnering international attention… even more-so now, thanks to the “Colbert bump”.

For the latest in jookin’ follow Lil Buck on twitter.