He’s Baryshnikov in sneakers, Jean-Michel Basquiat for the dance world. He’s Charles ‘Lil Buck’ Riley, a phenom in an obscure Memphis variant of hiphop dance called jookin who has vaulted into the cultural stratosphere as smoothly as he spins on his sneaker-clad toes. Buddy and collaborator with Madonna and Yo-Yo Ma.
Star of Youtube and New York City Ballet galas. And all smiles on his first visit to Miami last week, teaching a master class in jookin for YoungArts, demonstrating an unlikely combination of joyful attitude and grace.
“In jookin we like to show off — yo, check out the kicks, I know you don’t got em!” a wriggling, grinning Riley tells 12 startled dance students from New World School of the Arts and Miami Arts Charter school, in a studio in the YoungArts complex in downtown Miami. Then he’s preaching grace and control. “I want you to really feel elegant,” he says. “I don’t want to hear your foot — I want you to barely graze the floor. You wanna be floating.”