tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 22, 2014 11:30pm-12:01am EDT
good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. as you may know by now, i'm part of the new cart of "dancing with the stars" which has been both fun and challenging to be sure. the riggers of rehearsal have given me new appreciation for the artistry of dance and it's been my pleasure this week to share conversations i've had with artists who have mastered the art of movement. tonight, we conclude this week's celebration with two young artists who represent a new generation putting their mark on the dance world. ballet's misty copeland, one of a handful of african-american women soloists with the american ballet theater. then charles riley, known professionally as lil buck whose style of dancing is known as jookin' and fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon. we're glad you've joined this conversation with misty copeland and lil buck coming up right now.
♪ penned by contributions to your pbs station. from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ misty copeland defied the ballet pundits who insisted she did not look like a classical ballerina, which was frankly a veiled way of saying african-americans and classical ballet don't mix. she's proved all those naysayers
wrong, acclaimed soloist with the american ballet theater. in australia she performed odele and odet in "swan lake." i asked misty why ballet is considered an elite art form. >> just because i think it takes money, you know, to get the right training and so, therefore, it has been considered an elite art form. >> yeah. >> but -- >> how did it happen for you then? if it takes a bunch of money, unless you're going to tell me you're independently wealthy and didn't know that. i didn't come about that in your research. i see your mom to the side saying we're not independently wealthy. it's an expensive venture. how did it happen to you? >> ballet found me i guess you could say. i was discovered by a teacher in middle school. i always danced my whole life. i never had any training. never was exposed to seeing dance. but i'd always had something
inside me, i loved to kor you grafr a choreograph. i had a teacher when i was trying out for cheerleading, drill team and noticed my talent and suggested i take ballet lessons. i was 13. >> is 13 a little -- it sounds funny to say. is 13 a little old to be starring ballet? >> 13 is a late age especially for women. it's more common with men because you have to get the body before it changes. so that you can mold it. so, yes, i started at a late age, and i decided within a couple of months that i was going to do this professionally because i didn't have much time to get the right training, so i ds decided i was going to devote everything, so for the next four years i trained and then joined american ballet theater. >> how do you, in a space of time where you're already starting late, make up that ground and become good at it? >> finding great training, i
think, is number one. did a lot of research and found really great teachers. and just takes -- i took a year off from school and did independent studies. so that i could devote all of my time to it. but i think that training is the key. definitely. and it's not a sport. and so, we're not supposed to make it look like it's work. or like it's hard. but -- >> it is. >> it's extremely, extremely difficult. >> on a regular basis, what kind of -- how do you -- for those of us who go to a gym regularly, on any given day you're going to feel pain given when the work wroworkout was. on a regular day, how do you feel? are your toes hurting? how do you feel typically? >> there are things your body gets used to. when i was younger, my feet would hurt a lot. you build up callouses and
strength. it's a give and take. the older you get, you may feel pain in wyour back or hips. once you make to a level with a company as prestigious as the american ballet theater, you have to be built for it i think which makes it easier on the body. >> to your point of being in the american ballet theater, i always feel a little, a certain way about african-americans who are accomplishing firsts. and i especially feel that way, you know, these days, here we are in 2011. and there's still so many things that african-americans have yet had a chance to do. so that on the one hand you celebrate misty, you celebrate barack obama, any number of african-americans doing things for the first time. on the other hand, i wonder whether we make too big a deal out of that and if it puts out of that and if it p}tk are n a certain way. that's a mouthful. respond in the way up to
respond. >> i think it depends on the person. i've never felt pressure. i think that i've stepped into, i guess, this role with pride, and i think it's amazing to be able to be, i guess, successful, and get it out there to other black dancers that they can do it. and that i'm here. and, i mean, i've got nothing but warmth from the black community and positive feedback. so -- >> do you see others, other young women, other young men, of color, pursuing this kind of career path or is there still a complete dearth of african-american ballet dancers? >> i've seen more. but -- they're out there.
i just think that they're not being given the opportunities to -- >> be exposed. >> to audition or get into a company of this caliber. but they're there. there are so many talented black ballet dancers out there. they just have to be given the opportunity. >> yeah. so what happens then when your talent, your gift, hooks up with a guy like prince? i mean, everybody knows i love him. that's my guy. but when he gives you a chance to be exposed, puts you in a video, puts you on stage with him, sold out shows at madison square garden, et cetera, eart cetera, what does that do for your exposure, your exposure on a personal level. what's that do for you? number one. number who, what do you think it does for the art form in terms of exposing it, courtesy of prince, to other african-americans? >> i think that it's incredible what he's doing. he has so much respect for every
art form, and i think it's great that everyone at madison got to see, who'd probably never seen classical bail lllet in their l. he's doing a great thing exposing people. hopefully they'll come to the metropolitan opera house and not feel like it's too out of their league or something. >> are there purists in your world who would look at something even though it's with this iconic artist, prince, who look at you on stage at madison square garden and think, okay, she's bastardizing the art form, she's hanging out with prince. that's not what ballet is about. are there purists who get attitude about stuff like that? >> i don't think so. i haven't experienced it. i think it's great for the culture. for it to be, you know, exposed. but also at the same time, i feel like i'm respectful to what i do in my company and it's great that i'm being given these
opportunities with prince, but i'm a classical ballet dancer, at the end of the day, i want to be with american ballet theater performing classical ballets. >> prince isn't a bad dancer himself. >> no. >> the best part of the story for me, and i had no idea until we started doing the research, i knew we had the opportunity to talk to you, you grew up, like, down the road from here. like, who knew that you grew up -- i mean, you're making this hi history. you're on the world stage. literally at the american ballet theater. prince. you grew up in san pedro? >> i did. san pedro, california. >> how is that possible? >> yeah, it's a small town. it's really amazing that i was discovered. and that i've been giving these great opportunities to travel the world and work with amazing artists. and i'm very blessed. >> yeah. so are we because of your gift. the moral of tonight's conversation is, the next time
you get asked, can anything good come out of san pedro? the answer is yes. misty copeland has made history as the first african-american female soloist with the american ballet theater. wonderful company, of course. if you are fortunate enough and if their schedules continue to mesh and you can catch her on the road anywhere with our friend prince, it is a show, and a performance you will absolutely enjoy. misty, congratulations. food to have you on the program. >> thank you very much. >> my pleasure. charles riley known professionally as lil buck can attest to the power of youtube. a dance performance he did of the "swan" with yo-yo ma playing the cello amassed 2 million views. his style of dancing is known as jookin' and won him a devoted following as well as stints with madonna, circumstance tque du s.
on, man. >> thank you. these are some air force ones. they were actually made by the designer named ricardo. >> uh-huh. >> and he's a really upscale designer. he just collaborated with this really kind of a street sneaker wear. they were a gift from madonna. >> a gift from who? >> madonna. she sent them for my birthday. >> oh, how nice. yeah, thanks. >> really nice. >> hey, madonna, i wear size 12. if you want to hook a negro up. size 12. i can take of those, too. that was nice of madonna. let me go from ma ddonnamadonna. let's start with my friend, yo-yo ma, who i adore. how did you and yo-yo hook up? >> it's funny, me and yo-yo hooked up through a guy named damian woetzel, former principal dancer for the new york city ballet, and very good. he still has it, by the way. but, yeah, he actually found a video of me dancing to the
"swan," i believe i was 18, 19 years old. i was still a company member at this ballet studio which i was a part of called new ballet on ensemble and school in memphis, tennessee. and i did performance with the company. and it was for kids in arkansas. we went to arkansas. we drove down there and did a performance. it was to "the swan." i knew nothing about yo-yo at the time. it was a beautiful outcome. the kids loved it. they were in awe of it. their faces were glowing. you could hear it all on the camera. they saw the video, actually his wife, she saw the video on youtube and thought it was amazing and she showed damian and they both thought it was incredible and they were already working with yo-yo ma at the time. they have things called the art strike. they go out and get the arts into schools and different schools, arts and education, and really push that out into the world. with the president's committee on the arts and humanities. so damian and yo-yo ma already
have an established relationship and thought it would be crazy to just have this collaboration with this, like, street dancer. damian reached out to me on facebook, actually. >> through facebook. >> yeah. and told me he loved my style and that he wanted to get me and yo-yo together. i looked up yo-yo. i was like, who's the yo-yo guy? i've never heard of a guy named where, yo-yo. hadn't heard of yo-yo in middle school bathrooms. i found out the amazing things he's a part of and awards he's won and how he was a prodigy at a very young age playing for all our presidents. i thought it was amazing. wow, this was an incredible opportunity. and, i was living in l.a. at the time by the time that they reached out to me. >> right. >> so this is when i was like 19 or 20 years old when they reached out to me. and we just met up. they knew i was in l.a. yo-yo happened to have a concert at the walt disney concert hall.
i met up with yo-yo there. the first thing he said to me is, are you lil buck when he saw me. i said, yes. he gave me this big hug. the only thing he said after that was, i want to try something. he opened up his case, brought out the cello and just started playing. right there in the moment. and i just started dancing immediately. i reacted and you had to be there to see the magic happen for the first time. and after that, we gave each other a hug again and just knew we had that chemistry together and the next day actually is when we did the performance that spike jones caught on camera. >> the very next day. >> the very next day. actually here in l.a. >> hold on. hold on. so you and yo-yo meet one day. >> yes. >> on spot. he bulls out his cello. >> yep. >> says i want to try something. >> yep. >> you just do your thing. and you all recorded it the very next day? >> the very next day they had this meeting for the president's committee on the arts and
humanity. it was at brown lord's place out here. yo-yo was just -- >> hold on, hold on. i'm just laughing that buck thought -- brian lord is the biggest uber-agent. you hung out at his house? >> yeah. that's where the video took place. >> at his house? >> yes. >> okay. go ahead. >> so we were there and i think it was just supposed to be yo-yo by himself, just, you know, for an intermission, a quick nice little intermission. they thought it would be fun to actually throw me in there with him and see what happens with that. the reaction was phenomenal as you saw on camera. you can hear the reaction from the people. >> how do you -- take me back to memphis where it all began and tell me how dance became your muse. how did you and dance develop this love affair? >> well, i've always -- i can tell you right now i've always been dancing. just whether -- i mean, not professional, just moving around, listening to music as a little kid. i always had hyper energy. i was always hyper. i really got into dance when i
was 12 years old. i came home from school -- i came home from school and in the living room my sister was dancing doing this crazy thing with her knees and it looked cool. it looked pretty cool. you know, she was bouncing her shoulders and it was -- and i'd never seen her do this before. i asked, what is this you're doing right now? it kind of looks cool. she said, i'm jookin', my friend from school showed me how to it. me and her made up my first routine in the living room, doing a couple eight counts together and made up our first ever whatever jookin' routine. this is when i was having fun with it but i really took jookin' seriously the next year when i turned 13. >> i should spell this. this is pbs. i should spell it. j-o-o-k-i-n. >> yes, absolutely. just like bookin'. >> bookin' or cookin'. >> we're talking jookin' with a
j. wanted to make sure everybody is on the same page. you and your sister were hanging out. go ahead. >> that's what happened. i saw her. i got inspired her by doing that in the living room. that's when i jumped into it for fun and got really serious with it when i was 13 because that age, the next year i really started seeing it more. in my schools. i started seeing it when i would go out with my friends to different skating rinks, which is skating rinks are like places back where you would see a lot of this being done. you see a lot of jookin' being done in empty parking lots, skating rinks. really not in classrooms at all. it's a dance style that came from the underground streets, underground rap. >> how does the choreography of it all work? you -- >> well, see, the magic of it because it's a freestyle-based dance style. it's all -- it's, like, 40% or 20% originality, maybe 40% originality because we have original steps that make it what
it is, where you can separate it from other dance styles, of course. because jookin' started out as gangster walk, like the gangster walk and it was kind of a line dance bouncy feel and it evolved. to what you see right now, how complex it is. i sort of created my own style within it. >> your ankles are like, they're like rubber. >> yeah, they kind of are. they're super flexible. i found out they were really flexible when i was in middle school, actually. i was doing things like this. a lot with my ankles. >> hold on. do that again. jonathan, did you get this? do that again. >> really double jointed in their arms, i can always do this with my ankles. i used to scare my mom a lot with that. but -- >> god, you scared me with that. >> when i started dancing, you know, i actually -- i wanted to, you know, see -- i told you it's a freestyle-based dance style, so it's like 40% originality and, like, the rest is all your creativity. whatever happens in your mind.
>> i love how you're describing this. before we go farther in the conversation, i was online the other day and saw a piece that, for "vogue" -- >> yeah, i did, yeah "vogue" did a feature on me because i was a part of the new york city ballet, this huge performance of new york city ballet called the 21st century choreographers, the choreographers of the 21st century. they wanted to do a feature on me because i was one of the main dancers in the big show with j.r. he was choreographing, who is a world renowned visual artist. and they did a feature on me in the magazine as well as a video. >> okay. let me -- jonathan, i want to play this video. so much easier for people to see how brilliant his artistic genius is. it's hard to describe it. here's this "vogue" piece i want you to see, then we'll talk about it. ♪zd$
♪ >> i know what i see when i see this. i was so full, when i just saw your gift on display in that way. when you see that, what do you see? >> you know what, most people bring up my work, and my videos and everything, they always mention, like, just like what you said and they mention just my expression, how happy i am when i dance. i see happiness when i look at that video. i see a lot of work. a lot of hard work. to get to that point, man. because i've been dancing every day. every single day. really never missed a day since i was 13. >> yeah. >> i've been doing jookin' every
day. so it's been, like, 14 year now nonstop. >> give me your sense of how you think the exposure toward this art form will lead to greater acceptance of it. i mean, when you're hanging out with yo-where,yo ma. now here you are on pbs. now, what's your hope and your dream for the exposure of this art form? which i hope will lead to greater acceptance of it? >> exactly. my hope and dream, my overall goal for just me, what i'm doing right now, what i'm trying to do, getting this dance out to, you know, bringing it out to the world. my number one goal is, like, for it to be on the -- i want it to be respected and just -- i believe it has the power to be in the same category as, like, you know, modern, jazz, ballet.
you know, hip hop, jookin'. its own thing. you know? i really strongly believe it's such a beautiful dance, and it's such a -- and it's so different because you have the majority control in it. you're not really learning it from anybody else. >> right. >> you learn the basics and from there you tap into your own creativity and get to learn more about yourself. there are teams of jookin'. they have a jookin' team in europe, man. it's crazy how much notoriety it's getting. >> see what they've done in memphis? the whole world. memphis has done that on a whole bunch of different fronts. first blues, now jookin'. say nothing of the barbecue, we owe memphis a great deal. so, i'm going to let you get out of here so you can get back to what you're working on next.
i'm honored to have you on the program. >> it's an honor to be here. >> i enjoy it. just to see the way you work those ankles in person is amazing to me. >> yeah, you know, i try. i do my thing. >> all right. you can call him charles, buck, call him lil buck. any way, he's a bad man. and i have so enjoyed this. i'm sure everybody right now is going to youtube quickly. >> please. >> to watch these videos. that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching. as always, keep faith. for more information on today's show, visit firstname.lastname@example.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with pulitzer prize winning author nicholas kristof. that's next time. we'll see you then.
>> welcome to the program. the united nations general assembly begins its annual meeting this week in new york city. and we talk to a series of heads of state and government leaders. we begin this evening with recep tayyip erdogan, the president of turkey. >> whatever is required in this effort, needs to be done. and turkey will do whatever it needs to do based on its own experience. and we have been sending out warnings for a long time. in syria we had sounded that alarm a long time ago. but whereas the u.s. and syria, as i said at the nato summit, the issue is not only iraq, it's iraq an syria. and so it's important to take the two together. >> the president of turkey for the hour next.