There is a movement afoot in Memphis. It involves dance, music, and culture from different times and places coming together to form hybrid works of art. On Saturday, January 12th, the U Dig Dance Academy will form a trio with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Memphis in Innovation: Beethoven & Bernstein. The program is presented at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts as part of the MSO’s First Tennessee Masterworks performances.
A distinctly Memphis-styled dance, called jookin’, has evolved from hip hop and rap culture over the last 30 years. The dance involves sleek, sliding footwork and immense body control as dancers glide and move almost effortlessly around the floor, sometimes even going up onto the toes of their sneakers.
Tarrik “U Dig” Moore, founder and C.E.O of the U Dig Dance Academy, has been one catalyst helping this dance form grow in technique and audience. In addition to running the academy, Moore has made how-to videos to teach others the basics of this style. South Memphis native, Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley, has also brought national attention to jookin’. Riley, who now lives in L.A., has been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Janelle Monae’s video Tightrope. He was a street dancer who eventually attended New Ballet Ensemble and learned ballet moves to expand his dance horizons.
Moore and Ballet Memphis are interested in fostering connections between the academy’s street dancing, traditional ballet, and classical music. The upcoming Innovation performance comes on the heels of U Dig’s dance to The Nutcracker during the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s holiday pops concert last month. Moore considers this modern style of dance “urban ballet.”
From its hip-hop beginnings to more traditional venues, Memphis jookin’ is proving to be current as it grows in popularity. U Dig Dance Academy stresses to students that dance goes beyond being a solitary activity. They believe it’s a positive lifestyle choice that requires dedication to practice and perfect moves.
The company says studying dance directs energy in a positive direction and offers the health benefits of exercise, which in turn, develops positive lifestyle habits. Plus, performing in conjunction with other dance and music companies can build cultural bridges, showcasing work to a wider, more diverse audience.
All choreography for the upcoming performance will be world premier as the once innovative music of Beethoven and Bernstein meets dance, a mix of classic and current rhythms.
The program will include:
• Beethoven’s Twelve Contredanses • Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes • Bernstein’s On the Town • Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A Major, Op. 92