Lil Buck Brings 'Memphis Jookin' to Tribeca Film Festival

Photo Credit: Invision/AP/Shutterstock
April 29, 2019

By Carlo Versano

Charles "Lil Buck" Riley has made the transition from Memphis street dancer to global ingenue for brands, musicians, and filmmakers look easy. The same can't be said for the intricate style of dance he's most famous for: Memphis Jookin.

Speaking to Cheddar Monday alongside Louis Wellecan, the director of the new documentary "Lil Buck: Real Swan," Riley said he wants the new film ー premiering this week at the Tribeca Film Festival ー to bring attention to the dance form as well as the city from which it has sprung. "The world gets to know about Memphis and what we have to offer," he said.

Wallecan, in his first U.S. interview, said, "The first time I entered the dance studio and I saw Lil Buck dancing, I really knew I wanted to make a film about him."

Riley made the transition from amateur to professional dancer after a video shot by the director Spike Jonze went viral, showed Riley with Yo-Yo Ma, jookin and employing a toe-stepping technique similar to the pointe work of traditional ballerinas. Riley has since performed with the New York Ballet and Cirque du Soleil, starred in an Apple commercial, toured with Janelle Monae and Madonna, and amassed a following on YouTube.

But "Real Swan" is Riley's first opportunity to show the "deep and rich history" of the Memphis street dance and its thriving community of amateur performers. Wellecan said Memphis itself is a character in the documentary.

From here, Riley said he wants to mentor younger dancers and advocate for dance and arts education.

"Lil Buck: Real Swan" is being screened this week in New York City. Check showtimes.

For full interview click here.