Footworks' Musical Director
Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble has been a big part of my life ever since I met Eileen Carson (now my wife) in 1989. They started off as The Fiddle Puppet Dancers, a hot little clogging quartet that was an offshoot of the Green Grass Cloggers who were one of the first groups to bring clogging to performance stages across the US in the folk and old-time boom of the ‘70’s. The Fiddle Puppets were immediately innovative in that they modified the big four-couple figures so they’d work with only two couples, and they started creating their own unique
and high energy routines. They saw other percussive dance traditions at festivals and started to learn these from the masters and add them to their repertoire. The group changed their name to Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, and under Eileen’s Direction they evolved into a non-profit arts organization that did full theatre shows, arts-in-education programs, and collaborations with the likes of Irish dance Champion Liam Harney, legendary South Philly hoofer LaVaughn Robinson, Tim O’Brien, and Claire Lynch.
This was a bit of a mecca for me. They always performed to live music, so I started participating and eventually became their Musical Director, helping with arrangements, interfacing with the Director and musicians, and occasionally
writing music for the shows. I used skills I’d learned with The Tony Rice Unit and became their Road Manager which was a special challenge because dance shows have a lot of moving parts and casts could range from twelve to twenty-five. I’d done some clogging before my association with them, but these folks were the gold standard and they inspired growth in my style and steps. I’d always just freestyled before, but before long I was experiencing the rush of learning and performing routines onstage with these fun and incredibly talented dancers.
From Eileen I learned valuable lessons in stagecraft, presentation, performance values, and arts in education that I carried to many other endeavors that I pursued in my professional career. She sees where people have potential and she places challenges before them to help them realize that. My journey with them has helped give me insight into the evolution of American music and dance, and in turn, it has helped me understand and value the many currents that have poured into me, making me the artist that I have become.