#DancerDose – Lil’ Buck

July 12th, 2020 by Elizabeth Radabaugh

Hippin’ and Hoppin’? Bippin’ and Boppin’? Well, our #DancerDose of the week, Charles Riley, also known as Lil’ Buck, is all about Jookin’ and Jivin’ his specialty street dance!


A Memphis Dancer

A Chicago native, raised in Memphis, and currently based in Burbank, California, Lil Buck has been dancing since he was six years old. At the age of 12, he discovered “Jookin”, which was the style that ultimately changed his life. “Jookin” is a Memphis dance style that Lil Buck first came across when his sister showed it to him in their living room. He remembers it being a crazy “bouncy-bounce” motion with shoulders and knees. He took the advice from his sister to learn the style and went to the Crystal Palace, a skating rink in Memphis, where dancers gathered to practice this fun dance.

Lil Buck

Source: artsmeme.com

The Road to Mastering “Jookin”

Lil Buck’s way of mastering Jookin was by dancing every day. He had mentors such as Marico Flake, Daniel Price, and one of the most influential- Young Jai. Young Jai started the first actual Jookin DVD called Memphis Jookin Vol.1, which Lil Buck was also a part of. This DVD series introduced the dance style to the world.


Going Back To Basics

Jookin requires total control of the body. In some cases, the body suddenly pops up from the floor to standing. Sometimes there is an isolation of the arms or toes, along with careful gliding of the body. So, when he was offered a scholarship to the New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis to study ballet, Lil Buck took it to further enhance this control over his body. He studied for two years with NBE. When he studied at NBE, he first performed “The Dying Swan”, a collaboration with his ballet teacher, Katie Smythe, a solo originally and famously made for Anna Pavlova.

Lil Buck

Source: sozoartists.com

Lil Buck and Yo-Yo Ma

Lil Buck

Source: Syracuse.com

In 2011, a video of Lil Buck doing an interpretive performance of “The Dying Swan” with Yo-Yo Ma went viral. People were fascinated by the stunning performance of the fusion between a so-called “urban dance style” and “classical music.” Lil Buck and Yo-Yo Ma have performed together around the world since then and have inspired many across the globe. Lil Buck’s career has taken off since them. He was a featured dancer in Janele Monáe’s “Tightrope” music video, Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show, and appeared as a star soloist in the debut of a ballet by the French artist JR at Lincoln Center.


Watch Lil Buck’s solo of “The Dying Swan” here to see the intricate movement of Jookin and how he has perfected the style.


Do you know a spectacular dancer that we should showcase?

Email wow@starquestdance.comthe dancer’s name and why you think they should be featured!


Juna Shai is a writer for StarQuest. She’s from Tokyo, and loves coffee, coffee, theatre, and coffee!