After Hours with Lil Buck

After Hours with Lil Buck

The dancer known for his Memphis Jookin moves lends his swag to Sotheby’s.
The dancer known for his Memphis Jookin moves lends his swag to Sotheby’s.

T his holiday season, dozens of auctions at Sotheby’s feature everything from the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skull ever discovered to sneakers spanning fifty years of Nike, from rare Tiffany glass to masterworks of 20th-century design. To honor the festive occasion of simultaneous Luxury and Design Weeks, the auction house invited Lil Buck to spend a night at its New York City headquarters and dance alongside some of the incredible works on offer. The Memphis native – whose big break came when Spike Jonze posted a clip of him dancing to Yo-Yo Ma – didn’t have to think twice in accepting the challenge.

Rachel Small
What was the concept behind this video?

Lil Buck
I approached it as a tour, like I’m guiding people through these different items and actually using my movements to emote the excitement and emotion that’s attached to them – to bring life to these objects in a way that people aren’t used to seeing done, especially at Sotheby’s.

Small
To what extent did you choreograph your movements versus improvise as an organic reaction to these objects?

Lil Buck
It was a combination. I create a framework around what I do. For example, I saw the Maximus Rex and I was thinking about what it makes me feel: It makes me feel this big excitement, it makes me feel a lot of energy, it makes me feel strong, it makes me feel fierce, it makes me feel like I’m sitting right in the middle of Jurassic Park and I can hear that motif [hums theme song].

I can choreograph and come up with something incredible, but the beauty about what I do is coming up with incredible movements on the fly.

Small
I noticed your body language when you approached a group of Tiffany lamps seemed to reflect not only the physical shape, but also the expression of light through stained glass.

Lil Buck
Absolutely. Light is energy. That’s how I approached it – using light within me to bring that to life. You see me creating this energy through myself, that I’m getting from the light. And also this idea of what you can do with light, as far as staccato movements that represent certain types of strobing. The idea was to be able to play with this light and have control of this light in an elegant way – which is what Tiffany lamps are known for.

Small
After you open The Golden Canary and look at that giant yellow diamond, you give the case a pat when you shut it. What were you reacting to in that moment?

Lil Buck
I listen to so much music that certain items seem to have a song naturally. With that lot, the song was Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” It felt like I wasn’t supposed to see this thing – this big, crazy jewel that I’m opening up. It was, “You know how I feel” – just being around this luxurious thing right here. It kind of felt naughty in a way. Like, “Okay, can I take this? What should I do with this thing?” And then I was like, “You know what? I want to, but I’m just going to keep it right here and keep going.” I felt like a spy in a museum.

Small
You seemed to have had a lot of fun with the bronze monkey statues by François-Xavier Lalanne.

Lil Buck
Those two lots reminded me of my childhood. I grew up watching Disney’s Tarzan, and that Phil Collins song “Son of Man” is imprinted in my brain.

Small
In a way, it’s like you’re dancing through history in the wide array of lots featured here, from prehistoric times, with the T. rex skull, to documentation of major scientific discoveries, to contemporary handbags, streetwear and watches. It’s interesting to think about how these various objects are momentarily sharing this space.

Lil Buck
Absolutely. I have a deep appreciation for art. I probably won’t ever see those objects together again. Conversation with those objects through movement, like what I did in that video, helps me really appreciate those moments.

Sotheby's Holiday 2022

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