Some say Jookin’ was born in 1988 at a Humes High School dance, the same high school that Elvis Presley attended. Known then as Gangsta Walking, the dance has since evolved from being more of a line dance to a solo free form. Dancers would practice and perfect their style in parking lots, driveways or in the street and then took their moves to the clubs where they would show off to beats by local Rap artists such as Al Kapone, Three 6 Mafia, DJ Spanish Fly, and DJ Squeeky.

The dance itself is mesmerizing. From gliding across the floor to sharp isolations and “bucking” movements that are all completely in sync with the music. This is where one of the most famous Memphis Jookers got his name. Charles ‘Lil’ Buck’ Riley learned how to Gangsta Walk as a kid at the Crystal Palace skating rink located in South Memphis back in 2003. After joining the Memphis New Ballet Ensemble (NBE), Lil’ Buck made Jookin’ famous in the YouTube video recorded by Spike Jonze on a his cell phone of The Dying Swan in which he performed with Yo Yo Ma on the cello. Since then he has traveled around the world making appearances on the Ellen Show, dancing along side Madonna in the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show and featured in commercials for Apple, Versace and Lexus.  

Lil’ Buck has paved the way for more Jookers to find their place in the dance world. LeAnthony Douglas is another story of a dancer mixing urban Jookin’ with classic ballet. Born and raised in the Orange Mound neighborhood, where he first saw the New Ballet Ensemble perform at his school in the 3rd grade. “It was cool because they looked just like me.” After studying with NBE, LeAnthony will be the first male to attend the Governor's School for Arts and will attend college in the fall. He will be the first in his family to attend college.

Watch LeAnthony Douglas and Molly Walker from New Ballet Ensemble dance their way through Memphis landmarks.  

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