Lil Buck is a mover and a shaker, the self-titled “ambassador” of Jookin – an intricate footwork dance style. Jookin evolved from Gangsta Walking, popularized on the streets of Memphis TN, about 30 years ago. Lil Buck learned to dance with his sister in his living room, moved onto classical ballet, and then onto street performing in LA. These days, his freestyle footwork impresses onlookers beyond the street.
On stage at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Lil Buck took four beautifully exaggerated steps in slow motion. He was improvising to a string quartet. The well-heeled audience had probably come for Yo-Yo Ma but they gasped when Lil Buck accomplished a signature move, gliding smoothly across the floor as if levitating. He moved so that the notes seemed to vibrate up his body, his sneakers squeaking as he pirouetted.
“I think he’s a genius,” Mr. Ma said after the show. A video of their duet to Camille Saint-Saëns’s “The Swan” went viral in 2011; they have since performed it around the world — “one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Mr. Ma said.
Two tuxedoed men seem to shatter the laws of physics, forcing time to slow and speed. Their bodies curve in ways that would stagger Newton. Theirs is a playful, gravity-defying dancing duet.
Virgil Gadson bounces and bends as though he has replaced every bone with licorice sticks. And, Julius Chisolm slips across the floor more smoothly than the slide on a trombone.
Improvisation is what they call “their natural science”. Chisholm says, “Music takes control of me. I’ll be chilling, and a beat will come on. I understand life when I’m dancing.”
“Every Christmas for decades, the leggy, legendary Rockettes have tapped their way across the stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, stirring images of drummers drumming and lords a-leaping. But the dancers faced a perennial challenge – their tap rhythms were often muted in the 6,000-seat enormity of the world’s largest indoor theatre.
Efforts to boost the beat of the feet in their signature Twelve Days of Christmas number – using, say, directional microphones or body-pack transmitters – were ineffective, awkward, or too visible. Enter Quantum5X, a Canadian firm best known for developing rugged wireless technology to capture the crash of basketball giants and the cacophony of hockey hits and baseball slides.
The solution? To mount tiny microphone-transmitters onto the bottom of the Rockettes’ tap shoes, picking up the beat so faithfully it could be amplified over the theatre sound system. Call it Rockette science – a classic case study of how innovation is born of necessity and improvisation.”
“Boosting the beat of a famed dance troupe’s feet” By Gordon Pitts, Globe and Mail. December 21, 2011