High-brow performance met street culture as world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma collaborated with Los Angeles-based dancer Charles Riley a.k.a. Lil’ Buck for a presentation of “The Dying Swan.” The performance pairs Ma’s expressive, emotionally-wrenching bow strokes with Riley’s fluid, surreal body movements.
The show, presented by L.A.’s Inner City Arts to over a hundred grade school students, highlighted the need for more government-sponsored art programs in schools. Quoted on “Colorlines”, Ma stressed the importance of the arts to society, explaining that “the best way to build innovation and creative imagination—and the most efficient way to do it—is actually by movement, visualizing, sound.”
The way in which Riley, a twenty-two year old dancer who is the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival’s Artist-in-Residence, contorts his body to Ma’s melancholy melody is something I have never seen before. Apparently Riley’s contorted body movements are known as “jookin'”, a dance style that sprang from his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
As another special treat, the students received a private lesson from Riley himself on the art of moonwalking a-la-Michael Jackson, while Ma set the mood with a little tune known as “Billie Jean.” Now, where was I for this?!
Check out the video below to see the full performance.