A Review of Talking Feet


More than three years ago, Mike Seeger and Ruth Pershing released a wonderful video, called Talking Feet, about solo step dancing in the Southern mountain regions. This book is a companion volume to the video, and provides invaluable information on the dancers, their steps, and the communities where they learned their dancing.

Both clogging enthusiasts and serious scholars of vernacular dance will find this book enlightening and entertaining. It contains a complete background to the making of the video, including the project methodology, explanations of the type of dance that was documented, and advice to future dance documentarians. Information is provided on the sites of the filming, including the Mabry Mill in Meadows of Dan, VA, the Carter Fold in Hiltons, VA, and The Stomping Ground in Maggie Valley, NC. Biographical sketches of each of the 24 dancers filmed appear in the book. Like the video, the book has the dancers speaking in their own words about their dancing. The book contains many remarks by dancers that did not appear in the video, and which further complement it. Ruth Pershing has compiled “style profiles” of most of the dancers, and “footlature” indicating characteristic steps of the various dancers.

A surprisingly wide variety of dancing is found among the dancers, considering the relatively small part of the country that was studied. Differences and similarities are noted, especially between the buck dancing of the black dancers of the Piedmont region and the dancing of the mostly white dancers of the mountains of Western North Carolina. Attention is also paid to the contributions of Native Americans to this form of dance. Interviews and panel discussions include some better known dancers, such as Rodney Sutton, Burton Edwards, and John Dee Holeman. Just as important, however, are the remarks of people such as John Reeves, Fris Holloway, and Eula Rogers, who grew up in communities with generations of dancing traditions.

Both the book and the DVD are musts for the clogging enthusiast’s personal collection.

Both are distributed by:

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