The wait for Disney's reimagining of The Nutcracker is over. Although The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is not a full-length ballet, woven into the plot is a five-minute performance by megastars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin alongside 18 supporting dancers, with a CGI Mouse King moved by jookin sensation Lil Buck (aka Charles Riley). Royal Ballet artist in residence Liam Scarlett led the film's choreography in his first major motion picture experience. "It was a call I didn't expect to get," says Scarlett. "I really am the biggest Disney fan, so I couldn't believe it!"
As the traditional Nutcracker hits ballet company stages across the country this month, Disney presents an updated take with the film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. A fusion of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and The Nutcracker ballet, the movie follows Clara as she unlocks a box from her late mother and is promptly transported into a fantastical world, where she meets a soldier named Phillip. Together, they adventure through the Land of Snowflakes, the Land of Flowers, the Land of Sweets, and the Fourth Realm, where they must defeat the cruel Mother Ginger. But there's still plenty of dance: Misty Copeland stars as The Ballerina, Lil Buck created the movement for the Mouse King, and Zachary Catazaro and Sergei Polunin both make appearances. Dance Spirit caught up with Lil Buck to get the inside scoop.
When we first heard about Disney's live-action film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, we honestly weren't sure what to expect. Would it bear any resemblance to the ballet story we know alllllllll too well? Would it be light and fun, or dark and dramatic? Most importantly, would it involve dancing?
Well, the first trailer for Disney's Nutcracker has arrived, and it appears that the answers to those questions are 1) barely, 2) the latter, and 3) YES—more specifically, dancing by the one and only Misty Copeland. 🙌 🙌 🙌
"If we're serious about correcting the imbalance created by decades of inequality, we have to do more than just be silent." That's how lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson frames the problem of racial injustice in America, especially in the prison system. And dance artists Jon Boogz and Lil Buck have responded to his call to action by speaking out with their bodies.
The two dancers teamed up with Stevenson and artist Hank Willis Thomas to create "Am I a Man?", a short film that depicts a heartbreaking—and all too common—journey through the brutal realities of the criminal justice system. The choreographic storytelling is intercut with commentary from Stevenson, who articulates just how unfair that system can be to people of color.
As you know, French artist JR collaborated with New York City Ballet on 2014's Les Bosquets, a dance that combined ballet and jookin'. It was inspired by a housing project in Montfermeil on the outskirts of Paris—the epicenter of social and political protest in 2005.
I love JR's work. I'm totally obsessed with his Instagram and am consistently intrigued by his politically charged art works, which are often executed on an epic scale. That's why I'm so curious to see what his latest film is all about. Les Bosquets is inspired by the stage production of the same name, and it will premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival on April 18.
So far, I can only tell you that it includes Lauren Lovette in a white tutu and pointe shoes, a ballet corps dressed in mod-ish pop art unitards (looking more like a scary army than a flock of swans), Lil Buck jookin' up a storm and buildings being demolished. How will all these elements be combined in a narrative that tackles racial inequality, poverty and the status of an immigrant in today's world? Who knows? But I'm excited to find out!
Last night, "The Colbert Report" came to a close. But Stephen Colbert isn't one to go out with a whimper. Instead, the final episode of his genius political show featured an epic musical finale, with appearances by about a gagillion guest stars who sang and danced their little hearts out.
Prominent among them were none other than Lil Buck and David Hallberg—who, naturally, had the best dance moves of the entire group. (Hallberg even waltzed with Katie Couric, as one does when one is a dancer standing next to Katie Couric.)
But who has better hair?
Seem a tad random? It isn't, actually! Both of the dance stars made memorable guest appearances on "The Colbert Report" in the not-so-distant past. Last year, Lil Buck walked Colbert through the entire history of Memphis jookin (which is totally fascinating), complete with demonstrations. And back in 2011, shortly after Hallberg announced he'd be joining Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, he got Colbert to don tights for a little balletic duet. Bless you, Stephen Colbert, for calling attention to some of the coolest people in the often-overlooked dance world.
Check out last night's song-and-dance number below—and then take a little walk down memory lane and watch the original Lil Buck and David Hallberg segments. We'll miss you, "Colbert Report"!
Dancers (including director Damian Woetzel, right) rocking out at the Vail International Dance Festival. Photo by Caitie Kakigi.
National Dance Day is this Saturday, July 27—and the town of Vail, Colorado, home of the awesome Vail International Dance Festival, is celebrating in style with a three-hour dance-a-thon fundraiser. (It'll benefit four dance-y organizations, including the Festival.)
While anyone and everyone is invited to participate, the event boasts some serious dancelebrities, too. There'll be performances by Vail IDF artists Tiler Peck, Robert Fairchild and Lil Buck, and internet sensation Matt Harding (from the great/hilarious "Where the Hell is Matt?" series) will be filming for his next video during the event. Not sure your moves are up to par? Lessons in everything from hip hop to line dancing will also be given throughout the day.
The dance-a-thon will run from 4-7 pm at the Solaris Plaza in Vail Village. But non-Coloradans can get in on the National Dance Day fun, too! Click here to learn the official NDD routines, and visit the NDD Facebook page to find dance-y events happening near you.
Gap has featured plenty of mainstream celebrities in past ads. (Remember that adorable Claire Danes khaki commercial?) But we're especially excited about its fall ad campaign this year, because it highlights a couple of familiar dance faces: "jookin'" star Lil' Buck and San Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan.
Called Shine, the marketing campaign recognizes "emerging artists and musicians that inspire people creatively to make their mark on the world," according to the company's chief marketing officer. (Not sure if we'd call Tan, a veteran SFB principal, "emerging," but she's definitely inspiring!) Also on the lineup are musicians Karmin, Lia Ices, the Avett Brothers, Kaki King and Nicki Bluhm.
In addition to appearing in ads in a bunch of national magazines—we found Tan in the September issue of Women's Health!—the group will be showcased in videos and how-to tutorials on Gap's social media outlets. Check out this clip of a Gap-clad Li'l Buck, who's currently the star of the Gap Facebook page, showing off his (crazy amazing) skills:
If you haven't heard of Lil' Buck, you are a) behind on your DS reading! Check him out in our "Most Influential People of 2011" feature; and b) MISSING OUT. The talented dancer is spreading the gospel of "jookin'," a hip hop style that originated in his hometown of Memphis, TN. Jookin' is awesome—and almost impossible to describe. Here's the best I can do: It's a combination of fluid arm isolations, glides and slides, and pointework. You read that correctly: pointework.
Lil' Buck basically blew up the internet last summer, when none other than Spike Jonze posted a video of his mesmerizing take on "The Dying Swan" (with none other than Yo-Yo Ma on the cello). Last night, he grabbed the spotlight again: He performed in Madonna's supersized Superbowl halftime show. And by "performed," I don't mean "step-touched in the back row with 50 other dancers." I mean straight-up stole the show from the Material Girl herself.
There isn't much halftime footage up online (copyright issues, boo). You can, however, catch bits of Lil' Buck's performance—he's the one wearing wings (!)—in this clip (sorry, not embeddable) from his local Memphis TV station. You'll also hear from his adorable ballet teacher, and from the man himself. (I do have a serious bone to pick with News Channel 3, though—local "rapper" shines with Madonna??? Good grief.)
And since, after that appetizer, you're probably hungry for more Lil' Buck, I'll leave you with his amazing "Swan" video from last year:
The year 2011 was filled with show-stopping onstage moments and exciting offstage drama. Whether you were captivated by New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns’ 32 fouettés in Swan Lake or danced along in your seat as Sutton Foster led the Broadway cast of Anything Goes through a series of time steps, there’s no doubt you were entertained. Here are the people who kept us on the edge of our seats in 2011.
Sarah Lane. Photo by Gene Schiavone.
When Natalie Portman won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as a twisted-but-talented ballerina in Black Swan, she neglected to thank her dance double, American Ballet Theatre’s Sarah Lane, in her acceptance speech. Later, Lane stood up to the movie industry by demanding credit for her work.
- New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer danced the Sugar Plum Fairy role in the company’s Nutcracker, last year, and while most gave her a standing ovation, New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay remarked in his review that it looked as though she’d “eaten one sugar plum too many.” Ringer quickly became a role model for women everywhere when she went on “Oprah” this February to discuss the critique and proclaim that she thinks her body is just fine. So do we, Jenifer. Rock on!
- As if Alexei Ratmansky wasn’t already the busiest man in ballet, he just extended his contract as American Ballet Theatre’s resident choreographer through 2023.
- Company tours are a lot of work. This year Ballet Nacional de Cuba embarked on its first U.S. tour in five years, hitting four cities along the way.
- American Ballet Theatre principal (and star!) David Hallberg became the first American dancer to enlist permanently with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet.
The Broadway production of Wonderland. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Everyone wanted to go down the rabbit hole: Productions of Alice in Wonderland popped up everywhere, from ballet stages (The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and Royal Winnipeg Ballet all showed versions) to Broadway (Wonderland was short-lived, but the choreography by Marguerite Derricks was quirky and fun).
- Apparently Harry Potter can sing and dance—or at least his real-life alter-ego can. Daniel Radcliffe drew massive crowds and rave reviews when he starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. No magic wand needed.
The Book of Mormon. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Book of Mormon was easily the most controversial debut on Broadway this year. The show, penned by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Avenue Q co-writer Robert Lopez and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, may have offended some audiences, but it impressed the Tony Award voters and took home nine honors, including Best Musical.
On the Comp Scene
- Joe Lanteri, executive director of New York City Dance Alliance, changed 44 young dancers’ lives this summer when he presented $2.8 million in college scholarships. Go get those diplomas!
- Selecting the DS Cover Model Search finalists is never easy, but this year there were three dancers who stood out: Kaitlynn Edgar, Maddie Swenson and Zoey Anderson. All three hail from the competition circuit, and all three were wildly impressive.
- Melanie Moore won the title of America’s Favorite Dancer on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 8 and landed on the cover of DS!
- When Beyoncé revealed her baby bump at the MTV Video Music Awards, she proved she runs the world—and so do her choreographers, Frank Gatson, Sheryl Murakami and Jeffrey Page. The trio won the VMA for Best Choreography for Beyoncé’s “Run the World” video.
- When Laurieann Gibson wasn’t throwing together award-winning choreography for Lady Gaga, she was starring on her own TV shows on E! and BET. We’re not necessarily on board with her screaming fits and harsh treatment of her dancers, but we do respect her moves.
Amanda and D'Angelo on "Live to Dance." Photo by Monty Brinton.
Paula Abdul’s “Live to Dance” wasn’t a hit, but it introduced us to D’Angelo Castro and Amanda Carbajales, who became the show’s champions. These tiny dancers won us over with their personalities and technique.
- Lil’ Buck may have been the coolest guy to get us talking this year. He starred in Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” video and helped make jookin’ mainstream. His “Swan” performance alongside Yo Yo Ma? Breathtaking.
On the Big Screen
Natalie Portman accepts her Oscar for Best Actress. Photo by A.M.P.A.S.
She may not have done all the dancing as Nina, but Natalie Portman’s Black Swan performance was definitely Oscar-worthy. Plus, she met Benjamin Millepied, her boyfriend-turned-fiancé and father to her child, Aleph, on set.
- While no one can truly replace Kevin Bacon, Kenny Wormald proved that he’s a stud with smooth moves in this year’s remake of Footloose. Plus, his onscreen chemistry with costar Julianne Hough made us want to drag our own boyfriends to dance class.
- In First Position, audiences get a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes action at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC. The documentary and its stars—Michaela DePrince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko and Jules Fogarty, Aran Bell and Rebecca Houseknecht—received rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In Modern Dance
- Bill T. Jones + Dance Theater Workshop = New York Live Arts. We love a good collaboration.
- When Judith Jamison retired as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Robert Battle was handed the reins to the prestigious modern company. We can’t wait to see what he does with the group in 2012.
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If there's one thing that never gets old, it's watching Lil Buck effortlessly glide around as he shows off his top-notch jookin' skills. And if you've been needing a Lil Buck fix lately, you're in luck—he stars in Tritonal's new music video for their song, "Strangers." The crazy-catchy beat is the perfect track for the trademark moves we've all come to love, and the colorful spotlight is a stunning way to showcase Lil Buck's mind-boggling talent. It's a winning combo, and we can't stop watching (and listening). Check it out below!
Have you seen superstar jooker Lil Buck on TV recently? Odds are about 100 percent that either your already have—in that effortlessly cool AirPods ad—or you will shortly. Because hot on the heels (almost literally!) of the Apple spot comes an equally slick new commercial for Lexus. It's got a killer soundtrack: Sia's "Move Your Body." And while it's set to air during Commercial Christmas, aka the Super Bowl, you can watch an extended version right this second.
Titled "Man and Machine," the ad juxtaposes Lil Buck's already cyborg-y skills with the mechanical workings of a luxury car. Didn't get enough of the jooker defying gravity in the Apple ad? Well, you'll get plenty more of that here, too. He shows off his fabulous footwork not just on the floor, but also on the walls and the ceiling.
The TL;DR version: Like pretty much everything Lil Buck touches, it's darn cool. Watch it now—and then squee when you see it come on during the big game. (Oh, and fun fact: The narrator is Minnie Driver, perhaps the most aptly named car spokesperson ever.)
Lil Buck's impossibly smooth jookin has been making us question the laws of physics for years now. But his new commercial for Apple's AirPod, "Stroll," breaks those laws in a more literal way: It has him grooving up the sides of buildings, along shop windows, and on the underside of theater marquees.
AND on the side of a car. Because of course.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, you're probably remembering Fred Astaire's classic "dancing on the ceiling" routine from the 1951 film Royal Wedding. Basically, "Stroll" takes the Royal Wedding number to the streets. And it's not an exaggeration to say that Lil Buck matches Astaire's level of blithe virtuosity. The ad's tagline is "practically magic"; we don't know much about the AirPods, but when it comes to the dancing, we'd suggest doing away with the "practically." It's magic, straight up.
(The song, by the way, is Marian Hill's "Down," which we have a feeling you'll be hearing alllll over the comp circuit in three...two...one...)
Jookin mastermind Lil Buck glides his way through Paris' Foundation Louis Vuitton museum in his latest video—and. it. is. everything. He literally never stops (cue insane footage of him dancing up escalators and stairs) and dances through the entire current exhibit, Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection. The video was shot by director Andrew Margetson and is a collaboration with Foundation Louis Vuitton and Nowness.
Seriously, watching Lil Buck create his art, right next to the abstract art masterpieces, is nothing short of extraordinary. Check out the surreal video below!
Jookin is one of those dance styles we simply can't get enough of here at DS. Something about the effortless gliding, organic transitions and quality of movement makes it one of the most beautiful things to watch. So naturally, we're more than excited every time a new jookin video crosses our paths, especially one featuring superstar Lil Buck (who has a never-ending list of appearances and collaborations, each one more amazing than the last), Myles Yachts and Jon Boogz.
The trio was filmed as the sun was setting over NYC's Hudson River, dancing to Santigold's catchy (and appropriately named!) track, "Chasing Shadows." The result? A stunning display of glides, turns and top-notch improv, which we're watching on repeat. Check it out below: