Ruth Leon recommends… Lil Buck – The Swan

Ruth Leon recommends… Lil Buck – The Swan

Ruth Leon recommends

norman lebrecht

September 08, 2023

Lil Buck – The Swan

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One of the most original dance artists performing today, Charles “Lil Buck” Riley embraces multiple styles including Memphis Jookin’, ballet, hip-hop, and modern.

He has performed and collaborated with artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe, and Lizzo, but here he takes on one of the big guns of the classical ballet repertoire, The Swan, from Camille Saint Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.

This is best known as a classical ballet solo, The Dying Swan, made famous by the great ballerina Anna Pavlova. Lil Buck has abandoned the original choreography by Mikhail Fokine, entirely reworking it in his own vernacular dance, but retaining the underlying emotional content and story of a large bird at the end of its proud life, without losing any of its original character.

I am a huge fan of Lil Buck. He is a brave dance innovator who treads his own path and always makes me want to follow him down it. Recorded at Jacob’s Pillow.

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  • V.Lind says:

    That’s very fine, but it is incomplete — starts halfway through. There is a complete version, from the Vail International Dance Festival, on YouTube, and I recommend it.

    I had never heard of “Memphis Jookin,” but there is a Lil Buck piece from the Kennedy Center on YT called Memphis Jookin, and it is a very, very impressive piece of dance. I never heard of Lil Buck before, but a quick trip through Google explained jookin as street dance, also known as Gangsta Walk, and Lil Buck as someone who has some credentials. None of this is usually my cup of tea but I can admire good work when I see it, and I enjoyed these.

  • Jimbo says:

    He’s been dancing this for almost 15 years or so. Tired