Charles ‘Lil Buck’ Riley named Vail dance fest artist-in-residence
May 11, 2011
VAIL – Memphis-born street dance prodigy Charles “Lil Buck” Riley will be the artist-in-residence at the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival. He will perform in International Evenings of Dance I and II on Aug. 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater; UpClose: Premieres on Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Vilar Performing Arts Center; Dance for $20.11 on Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater; and Dance TV on Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.
At just 22 years old, Riley is revered as one of the world’s top street dancers. He specializes in Jookin, a Memphis-based freestyle dance characterized by intricate footwork. Riley was first exposed to Jookin at age 13. He vividly recalls a man sliding effortlessly across a carpet to the overwhelming praise of his onlookers and immediately began learning the style from top Jookers on the street and in empty parking lots. He constantly looked to his teachers and dancers on film and television – such as Michael Jackson and Michael Chambers – for inspiration. His style is also influenced by the two years of classical training he received at the New Ballet Ensemble and School in Memphis, and he refers to Jookin as “urban ballet,” noting a similar smoothness about the two techniques.
After establishing himself in Memphis, Riley moved to Los Angeles with only a train ticket, $20 and a dream – to expose new audiences to Memphis Jookin. His goal was to find a way to use his dancing “to show that Memphis is more than just barbecue and blues; to show that it has a very beautiful art that started from the street,” he said. To this end, Riley currently directs a dance crew called New Styles Krew, which is composed of Jookers, poppers, b-boys, contemporary dancers, modern dancers, tap dancers and graffiti artists. He is also working on a theatrical Jookin production, which he hopes to tour with a live symphony. Riley’s aim is to educate people about Jookin so that it can spread, thrive and evolve.
Riley also collaborates with Vail International Dance Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In April 2011, he worked with Woetzel, Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble in a demonstration and workshop at Inner-City Arts in downtown Los Angeles for more than 100 students from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Riley says, “It was so beautiful because when I was a kid, I wasn’t introduced to the arts like that. I fell in love with what they do. It’s so amazing that kids get these opportunities. The kids thought it was beautiful. They are so eager to learn. The children are the ones that keep it going, so we need to teach it to the youth.
“That day, I performed a piece where I danced to the music of a bagpiper from The Silk Road Ensemble. My feet listened to the bagpipe, and my feet went crazy.”
Through his work with Woetzel and Ma, Riley has become a YouTube sensation. In April 2011, Spike Jonze taped a performance of Riley performing “The Dying Swan” to Yo-Yo Ma’s accompaniment, and within days, the video approached one million hits on YouTube. Riley will continue to work with Woetzel and Ma. On June 7, 2011, he will perform with Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble at Central Park/Mainstage in New York City for SummerStage’s opening night performance.
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In August 2011, Lil Buck will perform in five unique programs at the Vail International Dance Festival. He will be joined by two other Jookers: Keviorr and Riley’s cousin, Ron.
“I can’t even imagine what you’re going to think,” he says, “It will be strong and theatrical, and Keviorr and I are going to do a ‘battle,’ which is raw dance.”
As the 2011 artist-in-residence, Riley will also choreograph a world premiere in Vail, which will be unveiled at the UpClose: Premieres program. Riley will also be featured in the Dance TV program.
For more information on Lil Buck’s appearances at the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.vaildance.org. Follow @VailDance on Twitter and like Vail International Dance Festival on Facebook for news and announcements.