How Memphis Jookin Dancer Lil Buck Made His Hometown Dance Scene Go Viral
When Michael Jackson turned into a bunny in the "Speed Demon" video—that's what did it for me. My older sister and I spent hours watching his tapes, trying to learn the choreography. I was 10 years old, growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, and whenever the music came on, I was moving.
I remember the first time I saw Memphis jookin in its true form. It was at the Crystal Palace skating rink in Memphis, and I saw a dancer named Bobo—he was incredible.
PC Tim Salaz, courtesy Lil Buck
Jookin may be scarce in other places, but it's been in our culture in Memphis for more than 30 years—it's part of our music, our lifestyles. I trained myself well enough to be a backup dancer. I thought that was the most lucrative living you could make—dancing next to Lil Wayne or Busta Rhymes, smiling, looking all fly, knowing the artist personally. I knew I wanted to move to L.A. and I knew I had the skills. I knew I could be a game changer.
Then it started to happen. Janelle Monáe saw one of my videos on YouTube and asked us to perform in her "Tightrope" video, which was nominated for Best Choreography at the MTV Video Music Awards. Then I met Yo-Yo Ma, and our performance together, The Swan, went viral.
After that, I earned a spot on Madonna's tour, and fulfilled a longtime dream of dancing in an Apple commercial. With a friend, I even launched a film production company, Movement Art Is (MAI). We produce short films that touch on social issues through movement and dance.
My goal was to get Memphis jookin to a place where everyone knew about it and could learn it. And it's happening. People are asking for it on audition notices, and they reference me!
PC Tim Salaz, courtesy Lil Buck
When I dance, I feel invigorated. It's like a sense of freedom. I still feel like that young kid just introduced to dancing—I still have that same passion, and that's what keeps me going. When I'm dancing, I'm in the most blissful state of my life.
What I love most is the reaction. We all experience so many emotions, but through dance, I'm able to help people open up and unlock those feelings. My dream now is to use dance to connect to people on a deeper level than just entertainment. I believe dance has the power to change the world for the better.
And I'll be dancing forever. I may not always have the same skill level, but even if I'm not dancing physically, I'll always be dancing mentally.
The Primetime Emmy Award nominations are out! Congrats to the seven choreographers who earned nods for their exceptional TV work this year. Notably, that work was made for just two shows, "So You Think You Can Dance" and "World of Dance."
And there was a particularly remarkable snub: While the dance-filled hit "Fosse/Verdon" earned 17 nominations across many of the major categories, Andy Blankenbuehler's fabulous Fosse remixes weren't recognized in the Outstanding Choreography field.
Here are all the dance routines up for Emmys:
"Dancers can do everything these days," I announced to whoever was in earshot at the Jacob's Pillow Archives during a recent summer. I had just been dazzled by footage of a ballet dancer performing hip hop, remarkably well. But my very next thought was, What if that isn't always a good thing? What if what one can't do is the very thing that lends character?
Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.
At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.
When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.
"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."