One of the issues I always have with So You Think You Can Dance is the selection of guest judges who come in and critique brilliant contestants, but Nigel Lythgoe and the producers have really stepped up their game this year and for the third round of auditions for Wednesday night with jookin expert Lil Buck joining the judges at the Atlanta auditions. Instead of asking random celebrities who have little to no experience with dance, we've gotten ballet dancer Misty Copeland who gave brilliant critiques to both technical and non-technical dancers, Christina Applegate who basically deserves a permanent spot at the judges table and other brilliant guest judges like actress and former dancer Jenna Elfman and Broadway veteran Billy Porter. Lil Buck is sure to continue the SYTYCD guest judge winning streak considering his amazing story that is only matched by his incredible talent.
Charles "Lil Buck" Riley was born in Memphis, Tennessee and discovered jookin when he was just 12-years-old when his sister showed him a few moves in their living room that she has learned from someone at school. He became obsessed with the dance, he told Time Out New York it took over all of his hobbies; soon he was jookin all over the place from the bathroom while he was brushing his teeth to the supermarket. He was soon discovered by a local ballet teacher and founder of Memphis' "New Ballet Ensemble" Katie Smythe who put him in ballet classes and encouraged him to continue jookin while incorporating other styles as well.
From different YouTube videos and performances, Lil Buck was soon getting noticed all over the dance world. In a rather incredible twist of luck, in 2010 the artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival Damian Woetzel saw one of the YouTube videos and arranged for Lil Buck to dance a piece called "Dying Swan" accompanied by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the an event from Opening Ceremony in New York City. What Woetzel and Lil Buck didn't know was that the dance was recorded by director Spike Jonze who put it up on YouTube and got Lil Buck noticed even more.
Lil Buck has now travelled all over the country and the world introducing people to jookin and performing incredible routines. He's worked on projects with Janelle Monae and even performed on the So You Think You Can Dance stage when she sang her song "Tightrope." Buck also performed with Madonna during her Superbowl Halftime show and did a routine on The Ellen Show. Another highlight from Buck's career: He got to dance Cirque du Soleil show Michael Jackson: One. Buck even modeled in an editorial for GQ Magazine called "How To Kick Your Jeans Habit".
He was also asked to travel all the way to China to perform Swan Lake again accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma. The entire trip was recorded documentary-style and put up on YouTube yet again. It's long but pretty incredible. Buck was so well-noticed by now that he was invited to be on The Colbert Report to not only talk about his experiences with jookin and his time in China, but also to perform some moves and show a few to Stephen himself.
There's no doubt Lil Buck will be able to bring his unique perspective on dance to the judges table and with his dance technique knowledge, he'll also be able to critique in detail when necessary. There's so much to learn about the world of dance and I'm excited we all get to experience a little more from someone as cool as Lil Buck.