Mike Seeger's Talking Feet -- a 1987 Smithsonian documentary
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Uploaded on Jan 18, 2011
Full 87-minute documentary --online -- by Mike Seeger (1933-2009), folk musician and folklorist. Filmed during two weeks in 1983, Link for the film: http://www.folkstreams.net/film,121 (This youtube posting is in honor of a great friend Allen S. Kraps in Ohio.)
Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance - Flatfoot, Buck and Tap (DVD - April 24, 2007) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000OCY7O4/
Book (Paperback: 152 pages, 1/29/1993) http://www.amazon.com/dp/1556430809/ Compiled by musician/folklorist Mike Seeger and dancer Ruth Pershing, .... Southern dancing involves a great deal of personal style and innovation as dancers create the rhythm of old-time country music—talking blues, bluegrass, hand-patting and western swing. Traditionally, people have danced at corn shuckings, apron hemmings, weddings, and house parties. Nowadays, clog dancers compete at festivals and competitions. Talking Feet is a precious record of the experience of old-timers and an inspiration to younger enthusiasts who want to absorb the tradition and make it their own.
List of the 15 dancers along the filing locations, descriptions/times of each segment in the documentary http://www.folkstreams.net/context,182
This clip is of D. Ray White (1927-1985) of Boone County, West Virginia; this family has been called the "Wild Whites of West Virginia," with his son Jessco being featured in films for both his dancing and outlawish behaviors.
More of D. Ray (the complete segment of him from Talking Feet, 12 minutes):
More of both D. Ray and son Jessco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnAgEw...
Mike Seeger was born in New York and grew up in Maryland and Washington D.C. His father, Charles Louis Seeger Jr., was a composer and pioneering ethnomusicologist, investigating both American folk and non-Western music. His mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, was a composer. His eldest half-brother, Charles Seeger III, was a radio astronomer, and his next older half-brother, John Seeger, taught for years at the Dalton School in Manhattan. His next older half brother is Pete Seeger. His uncle, Alan Seeger, a poet, was killed during the First World War. His sister Peggy Seeger, also a well-known folk performer, was married for many years to British folk singer Ewan MacColl. His sister, singer Penny Seeger, married John Cohen, a member of Mike's musical group, New Lost City Ramblers. Mike Seeger was a self-taught musician who began playing stringed instruments at the age of 18. More: http://mikeseeger.info/
From Mike Seeger:
I wish I could have had a video recorder with me down through the years, along with my tape recorder. I would have recorded Elizabeth Cotten dancing the "Frisco" or "Ball the Jack." Or "Junior," Hazel Dickens' cousin, doing a moonwalk-like slide as we played bluegrass in a basement apartment in Baltimore. Or Don Reno in the 1950s, when he took a frenetic, stepping break in his New River Ranch performance of the classic bluegrass instrumental "Rawhide." Or at that same country music park, Kentucky Slim (with Flatt and Scruggs) and Chick Stripling (with Bill Monroe) as they did their minstrel/vaudeville dances and routines, barely out of the black-face era. I would have ﬁlmed the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers, who in the early 1960s were performing some of the ﬁrst precision clogging, which was, in a sense, a complement to bluegrass: an ensemble stage presentation based on solo homestyle traditions. I would like for you to have seen Cousin Emmy in her sixties, doing a Kentucky buck dance, only to be upstaged by 250-pound Cajun accordionist Cyprian Landraneau, also in his sixties, who "limped" out on stage and let ﬂy some vigorous Louisiana stepping. I wouldn't have been able to ﬁlm an occasion at a Manassas, Virginia, bluegrass tavern, when a huge ﬁght broke out after a waitress tried unsuccessfully to stop a man from dancing a few good-natured steps near his table. (The music and dance stopped, but the ﬁght continued outside. I guess some non-dancers have a different physical response to music.) I would have certainly spent days ﬁlming my favorite old-time North Carolina dancer, Bill McElreath, back in the sixties, with his variety of styles and multitude of steps. It seems wherever I've gone that there is country string music-homes, taverns and country music parks-dancing has always been there.
Traditional Southern dancing has been virtually ignored by makers of documentary ﬁlms and is treated lightly by TV, which generally shows only brief shots of dancers and focuses more on dress than on body movement. It is signiﬁcant that this is the ﬁrst document of Southern dance, when there are scores of ﬁlms dealing with music, crafts and other folklife subjects.
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