Lil' Buck performs during the YoungArts Salon. Photo by World Red Eye.
The question to dancer and choreographer Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley laid out what many in the room had been wondering: “How do you do this? Are you Superman?”
“I’m really glad you asked. The cat’s out of the box,” Riley deadpanned, without missing a beat. “I came here from Saturn …”
The audience at the sixth National YoungArts Foundation Salon exploded in laughter. The Tuesday night conversation, one of a series sponsored by Knight Foundation, provided a short introduction to Riley’s graceful and athletic style. But for anyone familiar with his astonishing mix of classical dance and jookin’, a style of hip-hop dancing developed in Memphis, Tenn., the question, and the answer, sound perfectly logical and possible.
In full flight, Riley, 26, glides across stages with a liquid ease. He mixes fluid movements with sharp angular breaks, and arms evoking classic ballet swan gestures. He constructs narratives mixing freestyle steps and en pointe work in high-top sneakers, often bending and twisting his ankles in impossible angles. At pauses, his body seems to vibrate to the music like a plucked string.