norman lebrecht

September 08, 2023

Lil Buck – The Swan

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One of the most original dance artists performing today, Charles “Lil Buck” Riley embraces multiple styles including Memphis Jookin’, ballet, hip-hop, and modern.

He has performed and collaborated with artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe, and Lizzo, but here he takes on one of the big guns of the classical ballet repertoire, The Swan, from Camille Saint Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.

This is best known as a classical ballet solo, The Dying Swan, made famous by the great ballerina Anna Pavlova. Lil Buck has abandoned the original choreography by Mikhail Fokine, entirely reworking it in his own vernacular dance, but retaining the underlying emotional content and story of a large bird at the end of its proud life, without losing any of its original character.

I am a huge fan of Lil Buck. He is a brave dance innovator who treads his own path and always makes me want to follow him down it. Recorded at Jacob’s Pillow.

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By mrtrv