File May Be Corrupted: Inquiries in Jig, Clog, and Sand

•February 10, 2020 • 4 Comments

It’s thesis time! As I may have mentioned, I am currently in my third year as a graduate student in Temple University’s Dance MFA program. My thesis concert is this weekend, so if you have been considering a trip to Philadelphia and want to see some live dance and music, now is the time…

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I am sharing the evening with two friends and fellow graduating MFAs, Dawn States and Ying Yu (pictured above), and I will be joined by Emily Oleson, Robyn Watson, and Jake Blount. The shows are Friday and Saturday, February 14th and 15th at 7:30pm at Temple University’s Conwell Theater.  Tickets are available here. 

File May Be Corrupted: Inquiries in Jig, Clog, and Sand, is a critical exploration of the historical and current connections between tap dance and Appalachian flatfooting and the ways that they serve as discursive rhythmic expressions of self. The piece is also a reflection on what my own teachers and mentors have passed down to me, the imperfection of memory, complexities of affect, and questions of attribution. It explores the conversant musicality that is so important to tap dance and Appalachian flatfooting and to their roots in the jig and clog dances of the 19th century. Echoes of the social violence of racism enacted through blackface minstrel performance continue to weigh on us as modern percussive dancers, but we seek ways to dance through the deeper questions of sadness, avoidance, and shame.

I feel incredibly grateful to my collaborators who have given so freely of their time and artistry for this project, and excited to share what we have made…

Robyn Watson

Robyn Watson is a native of Philadelphia and began dancing at the age of five. She began her training at La-Cher-Tari Dance Studio and later at Wissahickon Dance Academy. By the age of ten, she was asked to join Tap Team Two and Co and served as a member and choreographer until 2002. She has had the opportunity to perform with noted artists in the discipline of tap dance including Dianne Walker, Germaine Ingram, Savion Glover, and the late, legendary Mabel Lee. Robyn was featured in the May/June 2005 issue of Dance Spirit Magazine as one of the “20 Hot Tappers, 20 and Under.” Watson received her B.A in Theater from Temple University, where is also currently serves as an Adjunct Professor in their dance department. She has served as a costume designer for several high schools and production companies in the Philadelphia region. In 2016 served as the tap instructor for the broadway sensation “Shuffle Along.” Recently, she has been able to collaborate and perform with the Grammy award-winning singer/musician Rhiannon Giddens. For the past ten years, she has had the opportunity to work and study under the direction of Tony award-winning choreographer, Savion Glover. Robyn is currently a resident artist at the Painted Bride Art Center where she is creating “The Blackbirds’ Suites” a trilogy of tap dance narratives that address black women’s identity throughout American History. Besides being a professional dancer and choreographer, Robyn is also a theatre and dance educator throughout the country.

Jake BlountJake Blount is an award-winning banjoist, fiddler, singer, and scholar based in Washington, DC. He is half of the internationally touring duo Tui and a 2020 Strathmore Artist in Residence. He has studied with modern masters of old-time music, including Bruce Molsky, Judy Hyman (of the Horse Flies), and Rhiannon Giddens and Hubby Jenkins (of the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops). Although he is proficient in multiple old-time styles, he specializes in the music of Black and Native American communities in the southeastern United States, and in the regional style of Ithaca, New York. In 2016, Blount became the first Black person to make the finals at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop), and the first to win in the traditional band category. In the following year, he received his B.A. in Ethnomusicology from Hamilton College and released his debut EP, “Reparations,” with award-winning fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves. He toured Scandinavia and released a CD with the Moose Whisperers in 2018. He opened several shows for MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Rhiannon Giddens the same year and joined Libby Weitnauer to form the duo Tui while on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. In 2019, Tui released their debut album, Pretty Little Mister, and Blount claimed first place in the banjo contest at Clifftop with three tunes from Black banjoists. He is now working toward his first full-length solo album. Blount has shared his music and research at the Smithsonian Institution, the Old Songs Folk Festival, and Berklee School of Music, as well as numerous other venues and institutions. He teaches fiddle and banjo privately, as well as at camps like the Augusta Heritage Center’s Old-Time Week, the Ashokan Center’s Old-Time Rollick, and Earful of Fiddle Music and Dance Camp. Jake Blount plays a five-string Nathaniel Rowan fiddle and banjos made by Seeders Instruments, Renan Banjos, and Deanocraft Custom Banjos.

Emily Oleson (Kwame Pic 1)Emily Oleson is a co-Artistic Director of Good Foot Dance Company and a crossover dance artist whose work frames American social dance to include a broad range of styles, genres, and histories. Her work has included performances with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Aulney-All-Blues festival in France, the Newport Folk Festival, Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out Stage, and collaboration with Urban Artistry and Baakari Wilder on The Meaning of Buck Dance in conjunction with a U.S. State Department tour in Russia. She received her B.A. in Dance at James Madison University, her MFA in Dance at the University of Maryland, and pioneered the first undergraduate degree devoted to American vernacular dance at Davis & Elkins College. Emily is currently an Assistant Professor at James Madison University for the 2019-2020 academic year and is pursuing a Ph.D. at Temple University, researching social dance, race, and regionality.

 

I very much hope you can join us this weekend!

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Save the Date! (MFA Thesis)

•October 2, 2019 • 1 Comment

It’s been a crazy ride as a grad student at Temple University, but the end is drawing nigh. My thesis concert, File May Be Corrupted: Inquiries in Jig, Clog, and Sand will be February 14th and 15th, 2019, at Conwell Theater on Temple University’s main campus here in Philadelphia. I’ll be sharing the evening with two other students from my cohort, Dawn States, and Ying Yu.

This piece explores historical and current threads connecting Appalachian flatfooting and tap dance to their roots in the jig, clog, and sand dances of the 19th century American stage. I begin with the following research questions: Where do the Irish and African diasporas intersect? What do we do with the legacies of blackface minstrelsy? How can these dances be re-contextualized in service of change and social justice? How does the improvisatory nature of tap dance embody conversant musicality?

Expect a multimedia immersion in banjo tunes, stories, personal narrative, and critical inquiries into the what, how, who, and why of American percussive dance…

Hope you can join us!

New Good Foot Promo Video

•May 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

New Choreography…

•February 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Introducing “Leaning In,” a new dance piece created in collaboration with Emily Oleson.  Exploring weight-sharing and the seeking of compromise, the piece incorporates tap dance vocabulary and theatrical elements to show some behind-the-scenes glimpses of our creative process. Check the link to see what I have been up to in the Dance MFA program here at Temple University!

 

Celebrate Good Times, Come On…

•January 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I’ve come to a Sudden and Startling Revelation, which is not so much a New Year’s resolution as it is a general life-idea (see earlier post about combating the winter blues)… Revelation as follows: holidays are awesome. We should be celebrating the *hell* out of them; with family, friends, food, and music; all the time—as a bold tactical decision to lead better, happier lives.

I’ve traditionally been kind of a grouch and/or lazy and unmotivated to “do” some holidays (I typically “forget” to plan a Halloween costume in advance, ensuring that I will either not dress up, or throw on a mask at the last-minute), but here’s the thing—and lets be real for a minute—everyday-life can be hard, depressing, and lonely. So my goal henceforth is to make a simple celebration out of whatever, however, whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and the goal here is not to stress yourself out with more obligations, the point is to celebrate as often as possible, in a way that makes you feel good, with as many or as few people as you like, just to carve up the grind a bit and make things a little happier.

If it’s a problematic holiday like Thanksgiving, well… rewrite the script. Make it better. Have Indigenous People’s Day, or take your family to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or I don’t know, whatever. Make SOMETHING out of it. Maybe something new with a dash of something old thrown in for fun.

I am jumping on this idea immediately and planning a supper for twelfth night. My dad and stepmom are coming to visit and I’m going to cook something special. Feast of the Epiphany much? Yes, please.

Also, I’m going to keep listening to my Christmas music mix for at *least* a few more days.

Celabratory Glass of Bubbly

Flute-to-Text Poetry

•December 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Who knew that making poetry out of flute tunes was so much fun? (Note, this also works with lilting. More on that later…)

Research Blog: Carolan

•March 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Carolan

 

This semester, I am completing my undergraduate degree in multimedia performance studies at Davis & Elkins College. As part of my thesis project, I have created a research blog in support of the performance portion of my studies. The latest post (an introduction to Turlough O’Carolan) is up now. You can read it here.