In this episode, you’ll hear the origin story of Rodney Clay Sutton, recognized as a Master Folk Artist in North Carolina. You’ll also take a deep dive into Appalachian Flatfooting & Clogging traditions, and the general dance history of the Carolinas.
With a lifelong career in music and dance, Rodney is both a preserver and an innovator in Appalachian Percussive Styles, and was an early member of the world-renowned Green Grass Cloggers.
We spend time talking about Rodney’s influences and early life, the evolution of the dance stylings of the Green Grass Cloggers, walking the line between tradition and innovation, and how some of the steps and dances in the GGC repertoire came about.
Other topics include:
Welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. I’m your host Carla Govan and Appalachian musician flatfoot dancer, Mama creative and dreamer from Kentucky. I’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. Grab your mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger, and pull up a chair, because it’s time to get your dream off. That’s what dreamers do. Welcome dreamers, I’m so excited to bring you this interview with one of my dance mentors from whom I’ve learned so much from eastern North Carolina, Mr. Rodney clay Sutton. And it’s a special interview because he talks a lot about the evolution of the style of dance that he saw happening in the Carolinas in the 60s in the 70s. Up until now, and he just has a wonderful sense of storytelling. He knew a lot of the elders that he learned from personally. And I think that adds a richness and a depth to his stories and to his dance education. And we really nerd out on some of the styles and the steps, and the ways that people create categories around this form of dance. And also, we get into learning how to be more culturally sensitive in this moment in American history, both in the ways that we think about the dance and the ways that we teach this dance form and even down to some of the step names. So I know you’re going to enjoy hearing from Rodney and this excerpt is from a zoom interview I did with him live on Facebook. So let’s just go ahead and dive in. Welcome to everybody who’s watching either live or after the fact My name is Karla go over. I am a Appalachian musician, a dancer from Eastern Kentucky. And I am sitting here with my dear old friend, Ronnie clay Sutton, who is from North Carolina and is a master of traditional dance forms from the Carolinas and has spent his life studying and learning from the elders and passing on what he’s learned. So thanks for being here. I’m really excited to chat with you. Yeah, looking forward to this. Yeah, so we have several purposes today. One of them is to talk about some steps that you have passed on and that I in turn have passed on and many other teachers who have passed on that. We’re undergoing processes of being renamed for issues of historical accuracy and cultural sensitivity. We also want to hear if we can a little bit more about your history, and your experience in the dance form and some of the some of the things that you’ve done in your lifetime. I know that my students are particularly interested in talking about all the different influences that came together to create Appalachian dance. So that’s something else we might touch on. And then you know, I just have other random questions. And if anybody has questions, as you’re watching this live, if you want to throw them in the chat, I think I can hear them so I’ll try to try to ask those of Rodney as well. So why don’t we get started by just having you tell us you know where you’re from and how you came to this dance form. I am from eastern North Carolina, far away from here in the mountains and Duplin county to be exact in a little community in Duplin county called outlaws bridge. I have relatives on my dad’s mother’s side of the family that had the last name of outlaw crossbows was named after that. And for the most part, they were pretty good people they weren’t outlaws but this is really raised and there was quite a dance community there and in eastern North Carolina, where on weekends there will be old time music and then probably a quicker change the bluegrass and parts of the mountain areas but eventually you know well back then people were playing my dad played it dances I would go to from US born 1950 By the time I was old enough to dance they knew I was interested in say they’re always dragged me out when they needed another man to fill up the nets so another partner and that was through dancing. That was what they were called it’s gonna be a dance I don’t even know if they will say square dancing but it was the big circle dances and it was called just like the ones in the mountains with certainly a promenade and in circling up for you know two couples doing the same figures right left brand you know birdie indicate age, all of those Traditional figures were the same ones that they were dancing in eastern North Carolina. Well, that’s so cool Eastern Kentucky too. And I know that so yeah, we had circled and we didn’t do square dances either circle. Yeah, nobody ever did square dances until well, the very first dance I ever called was when I was 14, and a Western square dance color with, you know, the, you learn like a dance called Jelly Bean, or you learn a dance that was prompted with cue sheets, and the color would have a microphone and 40 fives. And so because of so many people in my community, and my family interested in dancing, that was a new thing. You know, it’s like really popular square dances, Western square dances in the 40s and 50s. And so, we were taking a class through color came in, I can’t recall his name, but it is a caller. And he it was like a 10 week class for the community college. And on the night, we were supposed to graduate. He had the flu, and he sent his wife with the record player and the call sheets. And one side would be just the music. The other side would be the music, what the calls. And so we have a microphone on every day said, my neighbors my family said hey, why don’t you call this dance and the dance was called just because and so that was ever called the dance was when I was 14. And I was much memory brands and I wasn’t too nervous. Well, that’s, that’s awesome. So you have deep roots as a as a circle, dancer, square dancer, whatever, mountain folk or folk dancer. And then it did did the percussive dance start to happen about the same time or did that come later? There were already numerous people in my community including my dad and my uncles and aunts that were already doing sometimes they would call it Buck dancer, sometimes they would call it clogging. And what are my neighbors Mr. Face and Smith who live about maybe seven miles from me. I didn’t realize until years later that he was one of basketball marlim Sports best friends. And that he had Mr. Face and Miss Suzy led all the dances around. He used to set up all these other quote, dances, square dances, weekly dances and neighboring communities. And he would get up he’s, he’s featured in a film I wish you know, I’ll make it available we get ready to put it out that the green grass clovers were in that my brother in law film in 73 and 75 at Fiddler’s Grove, where the green grass bloggers had won the world championship. And that’s when we started meeting these other old timers but Mr. Faison would be featured at these pillars conventions and get up and dance and he was he was like he kind of clowned around when he dances he would do these old Charles to moves crossing his hands or the cross his knees and he would do all this hopping around stuff. But he could really but dance he would love times. At the dancers they might say we will get face and Smith up to do some cloggin tonight or the next week next to those school building. They won’t get Mr. Face enough to do some button dancing tonight. They never said flat footed. I never remember never call it flat for them. This was from his earliest dances like I remember going to he would always get up almost every week. And he seemed like he was the only one. It wasn’t until I joined the green grass bloggers and we went to a family reunion and lightning wells and some people were there playing music that my dad and other uncles and aunts got up and we’re basically bunk beds and clogging. And you realize that was the first time you realize that they knew how to do it? Yeah, yeah. Because they didn’t know that. I mean, that’s Eileen and I were at a family reunion probably in 75 or 76. And all of a sudden we were out there clogging and then my dad got up and then other uncles and aunts he had nine brothers and sisters, and a lot of them had gone to Haywood County did a little Universalist church that was up there. Featured in Cold Mountain Hinman’s chapel. Okay. And so there was a church there we raised at that lowest bridge Universalist Church and so they would go back and forth and the young people would go to the mountains from Atwells bridge. The people there would come down to the mountain sometimes to work in Baca. And so they would definitely got exposed to the more mountain version of it. When they were going on these trips back and forth in the summers. Yeah, it’s amazing how much cross pollination there always really has been between these different countries. Do these different cultures, different ethnic and racial groups, as this dance form has gradually evolved over the years but just real quickly because I do have some listeners that maybe don’t know who the Greengrass cloggers is that you mentioned and I just want to just take a moment to say that the Greengrass cloggers is a I’m sure you can you can tell about it more than than I can. But clogging group that was all the rage in North Carolina in the 70s and 80s. And has just influenced so many different clogging groups throughout the United States. Just one of the really influential groups that is still going today and has had so many different iterations. I’ll let you talk about it. I just wanted to, for the people that didn’t know have never heard of it. Just kind of know that will be the next step and the next step. Am I progressing? And learning? Yes. And so the green grass cloggers. This is last year 2021 was the 50th anniversary the green grass cloggers. And I joined them in 1972 right after they had won the world championship. There’s just so much to say about it. But Dudley coat the founder of the green grass bloggers who just celebrated I guess we did celebrate Dudley’s life on the one year anniversary of him dying of COVID on March the 12th of last year. But he, and that’s what we talked about this name change to coming up. But Dudley had gone to a couple of the pillars conventions at Union Grove, North Carolina, or at Fiddler’s Grove, and had seen a clogging team and from the mountains and maybe probably more than one and was just, you know, as we would say, he was eaten up by, you know, a system, you know, he just was determined he was gonna learn how to do it. And so he got all excited and learn kind of a step, but they were doing more the freestyle mountain style of percussive dancing, where they were all on the same brother the same beat you still dance that very same way here in Asheville, North Carolina. And, but he he got enough of the step and there was a team there that was maybe doing some kick some high kicks. And so deli came back and he decided he was going to go back to Fiddler’s grove at the World Championship of clogging and compete the next year. And 1972. And they competed and they won the world championship of plogging. What an origin story. Wow. And but the interesting thing was, was that when he went back to 14, he didn’t know big circle dancing. He didn’t know that that’s what everybody else was doing. He had seen it, but he didn’t really know. So he went looking for some dance figures. And there was just happened to be this internationally famous square dance caller, Betty Casey, whose husband had gone to East Carolina University to teach chemistry. So while she was there, she was teaching square dancing to education majors, and a lot of Greengrass bloggers, were, you know, in education department, right. And so they were taking some workshops and Ws Betty case if she was showing some figures, what she knew was Western square dance squares. And so all of the early Greengrass clogher choreography, was doing precision steps that mostly bring rests made up and putting them in to the choreography of these western square dance figures. So they go back to this competition, where they will be 2025 teams all doing the same thing, all doing dancing out of the big circle getting into little groups of fours. And they got very repetitious watching team after team after team. And all of them pretty much were progressing. It’s a lot of them were sponsored by us. Some of the mills that were spinning mills making thread and yarn with threads, and cloth. And those teams would have big signs that in front of their stage when they were performing or dancing scene sponsored by the such and such hosiery mill or mill, and, and they would give them material for the costumes. And so they were very, very uniform. The men and the women both have matching outfits. And a lot of times it will be a theme that we’ve run through what the women were wearing and the men were wearing. And so these teams do come out there and then came a bunch of hippies from out of the mountains down in eastern part of the state with long hair and beards and women with Calico dresses but a lot of those women were wearing Kremlin’s stuck, the dresses stayed out and made them look like they were swirling whether they were swirling or not or toiling And so it was just a total different dynamical what people were seeing on the stage when they were watching green rest dance. And then when they were watching those other teams dance, and the crowd just went bananas. I mean, we were kicking up over our heads and hollering and walking around and and in the crowd would respond all those first two or three years. Every time we would hit the stage, they would just go because they’ve been watching the same thing over and over and it was something different new. And so it’s 72, Greengrass, cloggers won first place at the World Championship of clogging. And I joined a team. I saw them dance soon after that. And I met Earl White, who the famous step that we could talk about what’s happening was rain grass, was like, nobody was telling you, you can’t be making up new stuff you can’t be creating. He was like, it was so new to a mall. And they were so far removed from the tradition that they got. Somebody would make up a step and Sara will come to practice and say I’ve made a step was put it in the routine, but he didn’t name it anything. So they would just say well, let’s do URL step here. And then it became and so that’s then Jerry made up a step and so to say, Okay, we’re going to do Jerry’s here. Or Karen made up a step and it’s called Karen’s kick. And so they were just but it was somebody come and say hi, mom. I’m gonna be famous one day I’m gonna make up the squad next step and I’m also gonna have to do I have to know though is there a Rodney is there? Not really there was one written up in a book. That’s another funny story. Any Fairchild on if you ever knew who she was, she danced with I think the lumberjack cloggers up in. In New York, you’re Ethica. And she put out a book little small printed book and like in the 70s and add a step in there to she saw me do but it was I didn’t make it up. And it was a step that Doug Baker from us really kind of made famous. But it was never called her Doug Baker either. But she put it in the book. It’s called the Rodney federal puppets. We’re doing a workshop in England with this group of cloggers. And they said, Show us the writing. And I said there’s no step. And the next day they brought this book and handed it to me. And when I read the step must do it. They had somebody in their group that could do it. And Sue’s they did it. Well, that’s the step that Doug Baker made. Well, it’s, it’s an interesting sort of snapshot of everything in the full process, you know, everything that gets mixed around, and that gets renamed or somebody imitates it, it doesn’t do it just the same way and it changes over time. But But what you said I think is especially significant in this instance, in that sometimes people coming in from outside of tradition wind up being innovators because they don’t have the same taboos or the same sense of well, this is the way we’ve always done it and it takes things up. You know, sometimes sometimes we’re better sometimes for worse, but I think in this case, you know, the green grass cloggers. As I’ve you know, I’ve traveled all over United States at this point, and I make clogging groups in different Denmark and in the UK. And like always, I’ll find somebody doing a what I would think of as a Greengrass lager step, you know, that I learned to associate with the group. You’ve mentioned this while ago, Carla, and that is that, you know, it’s like when Greengrass so we went back to compete where we competed 73 in there’s one team the southern Appalachian cloggers. We never beat them in a competition. And then 74 We went back and southern Appalachian cloggers weren’t there and we still we want again, but dancing totally out. We should have been dancing in a precision category, but they didn’t really have one. Or at least they did. We didn’t know it. And then by 75 They sent out this they actually asked Greengrass to participate in it and Brian DeMarco says come the leader we were so anti organization we were so anti establishment we were you know anti everything anti war anti voting on anything and so to go and meet up with all these people that were trying to make these rules about how you had to do it was nothing that we get chose not what Brian chose for the Green Restaurant to participate in. But the next year, our prevent boy and Autumn square up is what this competition was called sighs the World Championship. He we got a letter saying well if you want to compete this sort of figures you have to do and you have to get in a big circle and you have to get into small groups of four and a loving the things that was a steal is that traditional style of mountain big circle clogging and anchoring, and we we’ve got video from that team. 75 the year that we went back to compete the last year we competed when we tried to adapt. And that’s like them, but we’re still done. The only thing that we did say you couldn’t do a basic step all the way through and NAS precision steps, but you can see in this video that we were trying to fit into what they were gonna judge us on. Right. And, and that year 75. Out of all those teams Greengrass didn’t even we didn’t, you know, make the top three or top five. Right and we didn’t place and we just decided then that was a bunch, you know, none of us were excited about the pressure of going in and being in competition. And but the other thing that happened about this, so Greengrass quit competing, and we started getting invited to the National Book Festival in the Philly Book Festival, and the festival was up in Canada. And everywhere we went, we would teach workshops, and nobody until 75 really on the team could really break down the steps. They would just use the old monkey see monkey do method stand behind us see if you can pick this up and let in most places, and by then there were some video cameras coming out. We’d go to Philly and dance in the oh, we won’t get paid much. But at least we’re getting our travel stuff covered in the next year where you go to Philly and they would be the Cane Creek clovers. No, they weren’t over there at apogee and stuff. Mill Creek cloggers. And then they would say oh, we got a local teams dancing. And that would happen to us over and over. And people were like prep plant these little seeds in these plugin teams. It’s the 70s. It’s the folk revival. There was so much enthusiasm, our workshops will be packed. And so and then each one of those teams when they would go out and dance people would look at it and so this whole thing which Greengrass is style was a hybrid. It was brand new, the sync, sync, synchronize steps to the square dance choreography had never been done. But we didn’t realize we were creating something new when it was happening. We just knew that those people that were in the organizations of the World Championships and stuff, were just kind of pushing us out. And we decided to quit kind of fighting it and just said to headwaiter, we’re gonna dance for the fun of it. And then it just started out, started taking off and and then the end result is 50 years later, we’re still dancing in the green grass style. And that style has, you know, all these other offshoot teams, the Federal puppets that Eileen Amy and Eileen Beth’s divert, Eddie and I started in 1979 was a four person group dancing, you know, still more precision steps, more intricate steps, things that I mean, I’ve really been wanting to do and Greengrass and they they weren’t willing to make room for hers or creativity. And so we moved on. And so a lot of the little puppets dancing to couples, that choreography got really involved in other dance teams. And in England, there’s been like 113 groups in these last 40 Some years in England’s got almost all of them in England, that danced out of respire by Greengrass, but most of them learn from the wild goose chase cloggers, Emily Minnesota Minneapolis Greengrass, never I don’t I don’t know if we ever went to England as the team. But these other offshoots of Greengrass were going over their teaching workshops, and they were learning from them. And I read I read Bernstein, I’ve heard people from England say, Oh, I learned this tip from Ira. Yeah, well, no, no, he but as far as team dancing, sure, yeah. Again, and then, you know, our dance with federal puppets for one year in 83. And then he went off on his own, but the federal puppets with England numerous times, like the time when it was people were saying, and so it was just, it’s just about sharing, and then all of these teams just sprouted up in England, and a lot of them turned into more of the federal puppet style because he couldn’t always get enough men and women to dance and the more traditional male female couples, and so they turned out to be in a lot of all female teams there in England way before there were all female teams here in the United States. It’s just it really is kind of mind boggling. What a huge ripple in the pond. The green grass cloggers have been and it kind of reminds me of the way that the the round P style of banjo and fiddle the credit Cockerham and the Tommy Jarrell to me I associate the DA aspera of the green grass cloggers dancing with that music because especially you know, in Kentucky we we didn’t quite have the same kind of depths of dance traditions that you seem to have in North Carolina which I kind of blame religion for. But But music we did and so I grew up with all this like super intense immersion in all kinds of fiddle tunes. But when I started going out into the world into like, you know, the the old time scenes out west and like Portland and Seattle and the old time scenes in the DC area, and Boston and Brooklyn, all I’m hearing over and over and over again is rampage rampage. Graham like you guys, there’s Kentucky fiddled you know, but it’s like, that’s what that’s what really caught fire for a while there. I think people are are broadening out now, but it’s interesting. Well, the one thing I will say about the Greengrass cloggers is that I don’t I still can’t remember a single time we always dance to live music. We always support the music. And if we get a gig, we make sure there is a band to play for us. And you know that through the little puppets and put works? Yes, we always NASA live music and our workshops are done with live music. And because that’s where the inspiration comes from. It’s all about percussion. Yeah. And so we’ve honored that all the way through this 50 years and still do. And if we somebody wants to get bring us to dance, they say well, we don’t need a band, we’re gonna play records, we’ll say we’re not gonna do it. Musicians or we won’t, we won’t come and perform for you of that sport. Well, that’s definitely something that you know, you and Eileen have influenced with me too. And as as a musician, I totally concur. And I emphasize with my students is this is about dancing with loud music. This is about the relationship of the steps with the music and so I emphasize that a lot and you know, it’s you’re talking about the competition, but when I’m when I’m telling my students you know, I’m mix up, shuffles and what you know, the walking step, I mix it all up. I’m not a purist really, when I’m dancing, but I always tell students now if you want to go do a flat putting contest somewhere, you better not shuffle and you better not lift your legs up high. But that’s one reason that I usually don’t like to participate in the contests either because I don’t it’s like this can be really rigid about this is supposed to be this way and we’ll just look what competition does. And same thing with the traditional Irish dance the shadows go style dance, which is you know, you know this, but other people might not I tell people to share knows is to Irish dancing in the river dance, like flat footing is to the modern precision clogging teams. Yeah, and the old form, style and competitions is what changed all of that. And the Michael flat Lee’s and the people that took off as the you know, in the competition world in Ireland Irish stepped dance is just a whole nother major thing to go into look at. But the same thing happened with 1975 When Greengrass tried to like adapt to what these people were going to say, Well, if you’re going to compete, this is what you have to do. And we just went well, you know, we’re having fun and people are enjoying it and, and we’re just not gonna do it anymore. And so, but it continued, because of that they started writing down all these rules and labeling everything. And they had slaughter lab that she had to attend to be able to teach and they started certifying all their teachers, and they will come to Augusta, and the guy ate whatever his name was the guy that was the head of the login squares. Oh, shoot, oh, downing you know, square dance competition world, and he would come there. And he came a couple of times and stood up at Augusta and told the people there they were wasting their money. We weren’t certified teachers. And they should only go to workshops where these people had gone through clogher lab and then it would then those groups of people they all had this big break company had the ones that were from the clogging Hall of Fame and the clogging something else and then if you competing against them one of those groups you couldn’t compete in the other one it just became just like, you know, like the international world champion boxer or the internet Federation of boxing or though whatever Federation was. Yeah, well, I hate I don’t want people to think I’m bad mouthing anybody that encouraging people to dance. I always get worried. that people don’t think I’m sitting there saying, well, he’s so judgmental or he’s like, you know, saying well, only what they do as long as people are dancing, and getting people to dance. But what I do want stand for and will call people out on if they tried to say what we’re doing is not as important as what they are, and, and won’t give us the same leeway of saying, Well, this is just a different style. They have a different approach than what the plug in competition world has been doing. And they just keep pushing. And now the 29 time champion, ballymount clutters and precision clock dance competition world. Or it almost looks like cheerleading and acrobats, they hardly do any there wasn’t a while they’re the one team that wasn’t involved do the old traditional Southern Appalachians, big circle dance, to just have it in their repertoire to show what it used to be. But they never danced the live music. And and they are really bought into this whole thing about there is a right and wrong way to teach and to do the steps. And if you want to compete and win, like they have for 29 years, then you have to do it. Monday. Good. Right? Well, my students all know, you know where I’m at philosophically, which is it’s, it’s about developing your individual style, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s about the relationship with the music. I did notice that there’s some questions in the in the comments, and it’s kind of related to what we’ve been talking about. But somebody’s asking, you called it book dance is that how is that different from flattening and clogging? And obviously, I know it’s true of YouTube is one of the questions I get asked the most. And one thing that’s come up recently is that there’s a bunch of Tennessee Buck dancers in my Facebook group, and they’ve been posting samples of what they call but dance which is different than what my understanding of both dance was from hanging out with people from North Carolina. So why don’t you just if you don’t mind, give us your breakdown of clogging versus flat footing versus Buck dance in how you think the terms apply or don’t apply, you know? Well as people that are you know, joining in I’ve never seen talking feet in its own folk screams Have you ever pointed them to that? Link in the book I know some of them have seen it but because but anyway. And throughout their Mike Seeger, Ruth Pershing asked every one of those 20 some traditional dancers from North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and all around. What’s the difference between clogging Aflac and putting button dancing and everyone, um, have a different answer. And there’s no way to describe it. You can go still the fillers, conventions, and some of them say, We’re just most of them now just everyone have a dance contest. But other ones would say this is going to be a flat foot contest. Yeah, Robert, Robert Dawson was big on the fact that well, if it says flat footed, you can’t pick your feet up this far off the floor. He can’t do this. And he’s got an air clog and they shouldn’t be, you know, they’re like not doing what this competition is about. And so flat footing, be closer to the floor. Not repeating steps over is no like, you know, sequence you don’t do any kind of basic steps and accents and stuff. If you’re that’s what I think of as clogging, I usually think of blogging as being a team dance. But you can do clogging steps individually. And then flat footing is more of a freestyle and improvisational style of dance where you’re just reacting to the music in any way you want. And, but usually keep your feet now flatter, closer to the floor. You know, but I guess back to your point, and then Buck Gnassingbe the old time used to mount Aereos this group of these four really big men, they always would have all these overalls. And they would make the the dance the stage just shake when they were bugged. So they think it’s very heavy footed and just kind of clunking around, but some of them were pretty good. They were always on time. But it was no finesse about it was more about seeing if they could shake and turn the microphones over on the stage, or how big and how loud and you know, arms up in the air and coming down real strong and stuff. And they were what I’ve always thought of as the real traditional button essay. But back to the competition that they have these national restart not freestyle but competition style dance cloggin competition, they now I mean, I just did a little workshop for the Bally mountain cloggers. And a freshman there had grown up dancing in the studio in Spartanburg. And she says well, this is what flat footing is. Does she does the accepted flat puts down and then just add and then this is the button next step. So they’ve got them all name and then they’ve got all the names of the French Canadian steps and they’ll say well this is this is she she showed what the accepted way that Bailey mountain teaches an Irish them and so they’ve got them all pretty much in a category you do them exactly this way. And we they can teach them over and over but when they say this is a flat footstep, I went, Okay. Well in Kentucky, you know, I danced with a white sugar appear and what they call a basic, they call it a buck basic is a clogging basic where you do it on the weight bearing foot followed by pity Pat’s. Yep. So you I mean, probably what you’re done. Your Mama said the other day, she says, Well, we have a clogging basic and we have a flat footing basic and we have, you know, Southern Appalachian basic and so but they’re all steps that have been very standardized and you know, but Greengrass is step is very standardized. And the reason that I love sharing is i That’s how I teach all my flat footing classes as it goes to people that come there with nothing and no background and dance, and have never tried it before. You’ve got to start them somewhere. And I can now teach the green grass blogger basic step to just about anybody that can walk out on the floor in 15 minutes. They might not have their stuff for now, but they’ve got the backbone of that stuff, calling it the Greengrass cloggers. Basic is just shuffle step two step. Yeah. So that’s yeah, that’s what I learned from Eileen, which was identical to the one I grew up with except we rocked back. Yeah, at home. Instead of keeping the tone near the weight room foot you rock studio and competition cloggers. Teach that as rock back. And reason I do not ever ask people right back is when you start dancing fast. Your feet are right underneath, you’re not rocking back. But they do that to get that weight shifting. And one of the things that is help, you know, to try to figure out how to get people to feel that weight shift without doing that exaggerated rocking back was, you know, I think it’s what’s really allowed me to not people don’t feel quite as intimidated. I don’t know. They people have different style ways of teaching. And if they can get people dancing, I’m all about it. Yeah. Well, I have one more question about this, which I think maybe it will segue us into to some of the step nine stuff that we’ve been talking about, which is that, you know, I have heard some people saying that they find the term bug dancing objectionable or insensitive, because it is often linked back to the custom of calling enslaved male, African men bucks. And that that’s potentially where the name came from. And so they to call the dancing that we’re, you know, like commemorating that part of slavery. And so, I tend to not say it just because I’ve never really thought of myself as a dancer. So I just say black fitting and clogging. But I know some people that are really deep in a tradition that they grew up calling Buck dancing, it’s maybe more. Well, if folks watch that video that Mike Seeger filmed in 83, it took like two years for ever come up, maybe even longer the video and I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in it. And then he did let the federal puppets we would only dance team, but he would not let us do precision steps and do any formations and it causes about individual dancing. And one of the best things in there I think is Amy sorely dancing. The mics banjo one, short and bread. I think it’s what he’s playing. But the African American dancers, Fritz Holloway, and oh my gosh. blues player. Oh, I cannot believe I can’t think of a thing right now. Anyway, and now Jimmy hittin the 3ds African American dancers in there. And in rural part of central North Carolina and the Piedmont. That’s they call it button dancing, but it’s the black button that’s in his trunk, the black tradition, and they refer to it as that, but it’s done. It’s done the blues, they’re there during doing their butt dance into to the blues. Well, it’s interesting. And, you know, I guess it’s just really a time that we have to we’re trying to parse through all these things and you know, sort through the sometimes complicated history and, you know, as muse, the musicians and the dancers, I feel like have had been making connections across ethnic, financial cultural lasts lines for a long time, as this music evolved, and at the same time, you know, there’s there’s always been strands of racism. And so it’s just we’re untangling a really dark and complicated history in our nation. And of course, that’s true in this style of dance and music. So that kind of leads us into one of the name changes for one of the steps that has been widely disseminated by the Greengrass bloggers which formerly was known as the Indian. So do you want to talk about that? Sure. So back to Dudley, co founder of the Greengrass blogger’s when he was putting together the group and they were coming up with these new steps, the Indian was one of the very first steps that Dudley put together. And he never got any credit for it, it was kind of just considered like the Greengrass clogher signature step. And like I said, nobody was coming up and saying, I want to make up a step and I’m gonna name it the Rodney or you know, whatever. And so, but that step from the beginning, Dudley called the Indian, and he called our very first routine that the green grass bloggers dance, and the World Championship. The routine was called the Indian after that step. And then during the course of, you know, 40, some years, probably around in the late or 30 years, some year and a 40th year, every once in a while somebody would come up and say, Well, you know, we don’t, you shouldn’t probably using that term to refer to the step. And delegate always say, and I know he felt that all the way to the end was that he would felt like it was paying tribute to this connection with Native American or First Nations peoples dancing. But it’s really I still think it’s very hard to trace, anything that Greengrass did directly back to the especially the Cherokee dancing. But in the 30s 40s and 50s. There were a lot of Cherokee members of the Cherokee tribe and, you know, western North Carolina, that danced on plugging teams in Maggie Valley and Haywood County, but it would never just doing what the people from the white communities would do, but they would join in and dance and some of them were really good. And build them, some of them on his his videos, his two brothers from Cherokee. But Dudley, you know, just made this step up. And it’s so much fun to do, and it has a particular sound. And I would say to people that say, Well, this is like, you know, mimicking what Hollywood thought we should think Native American drumming was, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And, you know, I was saying that all the time. And I didn’t realize that that might be, you know, people were being insensitive to him. And so, we were just kind of I asked questions, we would try to find out if anybody what the general consensus was, is, you know, should we change this name or not, and a lot of people within the team, were not, didn’t think it was offensive, because they felt like, if it’s coming from our heart, and we know where we’re coming from, then it should be okay. And then as we’ve learned, it’s like, you cannot tell people how they should accept your, you know, Appalachians or their you’re giving them credit for something, you can’t name it, they can name it. Right. So just because you didn’t intend for something to be received a certain way. It might, that might not mean it’s not received in a certain way. So right before COVID in 2019, one of our newer members just really said, I really think it’s time for Greengrass to make this change. And, and so, you know, just you know, who the minute were to begin with, he didn’t want to do it. He thought, well, there’s nothing wrong with this. And that’s now part of tradition. But as soon as he heard the explanations, and we had a big discussion, contacted a lot of authorities on Cherokee history and dancing and really reached out and tried to do our research on it. He, you know, he started understanding, well, if it’s if it offends or hurts one person’s pride or whatever, then it’s not worth us doing it this time to change it. And we were trying to say, well, what are we going to change it to? And I said, Well, no dummies never had a stem name have to write down but he started his own thing. And so just made it amazing as amazing transition to go from renaming that step from the Indian and to the deli. And another reason that we did it was because other dance teams were changing the name on their owns, right so. Cane Creek cloggers and Apple Joe cloggers, both to come up with names Some of them that’s still the same teams, and they called in and people were trying to figure out how to make it sound like the sound. So they’ve got the steam engine, the steam engine, the steam engine, or something else. And so it’s all these different people were renaming it, refusing to call it the engine. It was getting once and what’s more further removed from giving any credit to Dudley and Greengrass for being the, you know, folks that were so willing to share this with everybody. And now, it’s going to be a slow process to try to get folks through, rename it, but we do in other aspects of our lives, we become sensitive to other people’s pronouns or systems, other people’s ethnic heritage is and try to make sure we’re not doing anything that makes them feel like we, we don’t care what they think. And so why not err on the side of caution. And so that’s part of part of our intention here today is to help disseminate that message into the world, that these that step is henceforth known as the deadly and in fact, I will post a video of it in my Facebook group so that people can see it and learn it if they don’t know it already. Just to kind of put that out there. You kind of fudged the name you can kind of say that Dudley that Dudley Dudley or something. But anyway, you got to get all those sounds in there. So and one thing that you know, it’s like Greengrass, and Leanne Smith, who dances with the both the Asheville team and the Greenville team. So there’s these two components of the green grass cloggers, and have been since the road team that founded there’s still a team down in Greenville, North Carolina for years got referred to as the home team. But for a lot of times after, quote, The rotating quit dancing, they were still doing more gigs and dancing and creating new choreography that a lot of people in Asheville didn’t even really know was happening. And so they they deserve a big pat on the back for really keeping the team going for a part of time during the 90s When people in Asheville had kind of quit dancing. But so we have points out that, you know, it’s like this thing about changing the name what wasn’t just about the name of the step, but we also had a routine the one that we won the world championship with it was always called the Indian. Okay, so, but all of the rest of the Greengrass cloggers routines were named after a major square dance figure in it the tea cup change, which was a Western square dance for a couple formation. And so the other there’s other routines we look at when we call the pivot, we’ve got one called the rainbow stroll. And so a lot of those early other groups, routines that we did were named after figures. And so the prominent figure in the first routine that we had called the Indian is the grand square. That’s the same grand square used in Contra dancing and, and English, English quadrilles. So we’ve also renamed that routine to the to the grand square. So it’s routine man square, and the step is to double. Excellent. Well, I believe there is also another step that you can kind of rename a little bit rebrand. There’s a rebrand on that step. So there’s this step that I still feel like changed. People that were clogging and people that were learning to improvise more than anything else. He gave you a whole nother approach to making resonance with your feet. And that was the step that really the federal puppets that Eileen and I and Amy in particular, when it was deciphered, Roberts stepped a walking step. And we saw him doing this step over in Tennessee, about 35 miles from his house, he lived right at the North Carolina and Tennessee State Line. And he would drive 35 miles every Saturday night for 28 years. He claims he hardly ever missed the night and was dancing at this place called slaves pasture outside Elizabethton, Tennessee. And when you would go there, this floor full of people will be under flatfoot and all around and a lot of them you know look like they had all like learned a step from that community because they were dancing so similar. And then we see Robert he’s by far the best one out there. And so, you know, well known to him and he was have these parties back over his house 35 miles away that were infamous dance parties. And Amy and Eileen were able to figure out rubber step and even at out so that it could be used in teen dance same precision dances so he could dance in unison together with it. But Robert did a very one sided and he would only do the pullback and the flap on his left foot, and almost a shelf on his lap. And so they even step out, made it teachable in, in workshops, and it just gave, it just changed everything because it was not about shuffling and doing that bring rest basic man, it was a way to give people another tool to improvise. And when you got where you can do the walking step myosin even, of course, Wales on know both sides, and then mix that in with your clogging steps and stuff that really helped people have a new approach to being able to improvise and become a good flatfoot dancer. Yeah, it gives you all the notes. So you get the half notes you get I mean, you get the quarter notes and eighth notes on the 16th note. But we called it the Tennessee walking step, because we saw Robert doing it over there in Tennessee. And it was so many people out there that he’d been going there for so long, that we’re mimicking him. And we thought it was from that area then come to find out later on. Without him there, they would have been doing his that step that he became so famous for. And so, once again, we’re now on and I’ve been on this, you know, role to try to get Robert that step now referred to as the Robert Johnson walking step, or at least just the walking step, tennis ball. But it’s a hard thing to change. I was talking, my buddy Nick Garrison has to take a class from him. You know, we’ll talk about it. And then we start, you know, teaching something you’ve been doing it for like 2030 years. It just comes out. But it’ll change. It’s just just like everything else we’ve been talking about and trying to correct our insensitivity is that something that’s a whole different realm. You know, the whole picture more so than just this dance step still, you start in those spaces and move forward and every time you teach it, and he will say Oh, yeah, well used to be the Tennessee law and stuff. But now I still like to give Robert Wright and I like to call it Robert Johnson wonky stuff because it really did change. It just changed what Greengrass was doing and what we were spreading around what a little puppets were doing. And we’ve taught so many workshops around everywhere that you know, other other teams were teaching workshops to as they grew. And all of those teams sprung up everywhere, but most of them didn’t have that influence of Robert so that didn’t come about till really little public spread that more than probably anybody else. Yeah, well, I never met Robert actually. And I never saw the Greengrass cloggers, dance other than on video, but I feel like my dancing pose so much to both Greengrass Congress and Robert Dodson. Because I learned so much from Eileen. And yeah, and that’s just woven all through my dancing and through my teaching. And so it’s really grateful to be able to kind of spread this to my students, because they’re, they’re certainly learning we’re doing a lot of Dudley’s, and we’re doing lots of walking steps. Robert, I’m just Yeah, I was just so excited to find out just how much your teaching and stuff are taken off online during COVID, and just tipping my hat to you. And, you know, I, I taught some zoom classes, I found them challenging, but it was something to do and people were interested in. And I’m trying to, and you know, just like you I’m sure you got some of our friends from, from across the pond, a lot of people around the world that are get up at like 12 o’clock in England and take my seven o’clock dance workshop. And so they just, they just want to learn and we’re so eager, and and I will just continue to tell people this, like, you know, learn from as many different people and especially if you’re having any kind of a challenge getting started. Now, there’s more really good teachers out there that have taken time to bring stuff down and can explain it. But back in the early days, that’s why we would go and watch all these old flat footers and try to pick up different ones from difference and none of them could teach what it was to teach Robert that none of they don’t have a clue. And this might where you can look at them and kind of try to figure out what they’re doing. And then mimic them and you can’t give them credit. But that’s why right now this thing about given deadly credit and given Robert some credit for how much of a role they played in what we’re all benefiting from now. And so it’s it’s amazing. We just discovered a video of one of our other main mentors were Watson senior and walk the heel to the barnyard slide the you know, little puppets, you know, signature ending to every show that we ever did to Arkansas Traveler. All of that came that step came from Willard Watson. And Willard was the old time. First really flat foot dancer that really inspired us. And it was so little video of him dancing. And then well, just at the Appalachian studies conference this weekend, Willard Watson, seniors great grandson, and I are doing this apprenticeship mentor grant through South art through the North Carolina Arts Council. And this past year, I’ve been teaching Willard the third is great granddad’s left footsteps. For those of you that don’t know, the backstory, he had been estranged from his father, and he didn’t realize that he came from this incredible dance lineage. And so Rodney has been able to reintroduce the grandson to his grandfather steps. It’s such a beautiful story. That’s why say another generation, even though he’s the third is Willard Sr. Never named any of his sons JR. He’s, you know, just a great grandson. Okay, great, great grandson. But anyway, that’s it. It’s been wonderful. And he’s, he’s amazing. He is so enthusiastic about it. Not only dancing, he said this, our presentation on a dancing he’d ever done was slightly some of those dance games when he got these things in your hand. But he was making a move. He’s really, really into, like, trying to get his coordination. And he’s done amazing practices during the week. And it’s just been another thing that’s kept me very excited about through COVID. Just look forward to this continue to share nice, nothing I’d rather do is I know I really glad that you’re still out there doing it. I know one of the reasons that I went a little deeper in the course that I created is because I had a lot of people say to me, Well, you know, I keep taking these workshops at these fiddle festivals and stuff. But I keep learning the same four steps. And like, I want to learn more than just, yeah, well, the thing that makes it hard every time is like though most of these workshops, at least festivals and flavors conventions are for people that haven’t tried it at all. That’s right, only rarely do they say we’re gonna do an intermediate flat flooding workshop or Yeah, or in advance. Yeah. And so that’s gonna happen. And that’s, and that’s why Zoom is so great. Because now you can go and seek out these different people and their different styles and learn from them, and see all the many different things that can be done. But, you know, it’s like, so there’s just lots and lots of steps out there, and people creating new scopes all the time. But it’s still pretty much within that framework of, you know, ring risk Quadra basic and Roberts walking step, and then variations from them. I’m not saying this, but it pretty much can be traced back to those two things. Well, the other thing that’s really nice about it, and I appreciate Rodney is just learning from people who have been immersed or from or grown up in the traditions their whole lives, because that, that adds a layer and a depth that especially when you’re replaceable, I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn from somebody who’s from somewhere else, not at all. It’s just You should also make sure you’re learning from some people that come from a living tradition, because there’s just there’s a special special sprinkle that they bring to it. And I really appreciate hearing all the stories of, of the elders that you learn from that are also I consider my my ancestors. You in that I’m in those those dance lineages? So one question I have is if people want to connect with you more or learn from you, what’s the best way to stay in touch? Is it like Facebook? Or how do you how do you keep connected to people? I’m not as good as I wish I did, but probably through my website, and I’m trying to do a better job of keeping it ominous. Rodney clay sutton.com Okay. And we’re at the green, you know, or green grass bloggers Facebook page really kind of like follows up on what we’ve got coming up, which has not been a whole lot because of COVID. But we’re getting ready to post this letter that we’re going to send out. In we’ll send it to you and on the name change your official light wording of how we’re going to explain that and request people that are teaching and the Greengrass clogher style to please start using the Dudley instead of Indian and please start using the rubber dots and walk through steps with it. Absolutely, I would think I forgot Carl, please let me say this done. John D. Holman was the famous blues guitar player that’s dancing and talking feet. And I said Chris Holloway that he was there and out you may but John John D. Holman. He just died this past May and like 97 years old. And if you watch that segment of it, it’s it really shows the similarities with what the black community in the Piedmont of North Carolina we’re doing. But the differences because when you hold your body in a way that they are reacting to blues, as opposed to federal genes, but how to make her get out there and do her heritage bikebiz into, you know, a banjo tune is goodness, just different, just really show the differences in it. Awesome. Well, I can put all these links to talking feed into the different websites, both in my Facebook group and to podcast listeners. We did have one more question and this seems like a good one to kind of go out on to end our interview on. Somebody is asking if you have a favorite fiddle tune to dance to. Well, I sure got a chance to dance. There’s some good ones this weekend at the Appalachian studies conference and one of Robert Dawson’s favorite tunes is Sugar Hill. But I also read I like tunes that have some slippery sloty parts to him because the slide and I’m using cornmeal, which we got from Robert DODDS Yes, for so you can slip and slide around, but tunes that have this little parts where you can just slide across the floor and invited into the phrase. My one of my favorite ones is cackling hand and so a good version of the cackling hand Sugar Hill most of the time you’ll find people that know definitely Sugar Hill Sure. So yeah, so I’m getting ready to use that in a performance this weekend. I get to dance to one tune sheet okay Adams is going to play banjo for me to dance awesome. Sounds great. Well, and I’ve got a tip for a sliding tune if you’ve never danced to I know Eileen love dancing to laughing boy by Buddy Thomas from Northeastern Kentucky. But there’s a buddy Thomas tune called Blue goose three TT it’s got this little slide at the beginning of the measure. It’s really satisfying to dance to yeah, check it out there’s out there I just don’t top my head. I should have a nice start putting them in my poem does. flatwoods that I Malaysia really good, really good teams, simple ones. that are you know, it’s more. You don’t you don’t need so many brilliant nobody teams. I mean, the condenser doing and Stop fiddling. And you know, but it just doesn’t make me want to dance. It doesn’t make me want to get up and put those rules across the floor. If there’s no slides because if it’s just tickets ticket ticket ticket ticket ticket ticket ticket ticket, like it was just straight 16th notes. Where’s the fun in that? Yeah, there’s a lot of fun in there is fine, but it’s always fun or Yeah, for more syncopations me and Eileen need to joke about you know, how when people would be playing, like having a String Band or dressing up like they thought it was a Yeah, Appalachian, you know, and I don’t know if this was an old joke that she brought forward or if we just made it up, but we would we’d go out to each other and say, Hey, I’m Appalachian, or than you are. Yes. Right. Yeah. Yes, like I’m having more more fun or than you are too. Well, it’s so much like for being with us. I’m going to I want you to hang on the line for a minute but go ahead and sign off to our to our live audience. Thanks so much for being here with us and I hope you get to catch Rodney live in person probably over in the Carolinas. What are you playing at this weekend? Is that the next weekend, the world hesitant anyway, I got selected to be in the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. And induction ceremony thing is Saturday night. And so the 14th year they’ve had some other really good winter Watson seniors in it. Sam queen, the guy that started with the dance at the White House with Kenyan Queen of England, I think 39 They only do a dancer every few years. Bill Jamison was 2016 Greengrass quadros were in inducted into it. So it’s you know, it’s really nice. It’s a great honor. There’s some really wonderful people in there. I mean, they got everybody from the first year Hear from Dolly Parton and Doc Watson Earl Scruggs, two famous people this year there’s the blue sky boys, which was the brother of you wet group, Jim and Jesse, a couple of local people, this little player named marcus johnson who I don’t really know. He and I are the only two that aren’t being there made it before we quote success. So congratulations. It’s well deserved. Thank you. Yeah. So it’d be great. So they played this tune and I said of everything your play tonight Sheila. I want us to do sugar and it was one of Roberts favorite Sugarhill robbers, witches so that sounds awesome. And I want to be I have I’ll have listed I’m putting it on there right now my facebook page but I am teaching this week long camps as one road gathering. And taking kinda like Eileen and footworks place they’re doing another week but common ground on the hill and Westminster to walk Michael’s camp. So we’ll see how many people show up at these things. I think people are interested in getting back out. I think they are too so otherwise if you want your knockdowns look on the Sugar Hill. jaybird Dean mountain flopping up and down pretty girl in sugar tree shaking the sugar down. This episode of What dreamers do is sponsored by the online Appalachian flat fitting unclogging Academy, the only course of its kind and the most comprehensive step by step program available for dancers learning this style. I teach beginning and intermediate students the steps and skills they need to dance to traditional mountain music so that they can be confident joyful dancers and improvisers unlike others who just teach the same handful of steps or who just teach routines. I give you not only a bountiful library of steps but a framework for understanding how the steps fit together with music. Learn more about the academy and get started for free with my video tutorial. The three essential steps for Appalachian flat flooding in cloggin. Visit www dot Carleigh gov.com Today is the Infinity contain named in the zone this
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