Percussion dancers entertain at Piney Ridge Elementary CARROLL COUNTY DIVERSIONS


January 15, 1993|By Maureen Rice | Maureen Rice,Contributing Writer

A foot-stomping good time was had by all.

The Fiddle Puppet Dancers, an internationally known percussion dance group, visited Piney Ridge Elementary School on Wednesday.

"I didn't like it much, but it was good," said Andrew Davis, a second-grader, smiling widely. Not liking the dancing didn't stop him, or anyone else, from enjoying a virtuoso performance of tap, clogging, "hamboning" and music.

Audience participation was a must. The fiddling called to twitching feet. A demonstration of hamboning -- rhythmic percussion using only body parts -- allowed all to clap and beat their chests.

"I liked the hamboning the best," said 7-year-old Annie Zollers. Jonathan Adams agreed, demonstrating a chest beat.

Percussion dance, less well-known than ballet, modern dance or aerobics, appears easy. But even a simple-looking hambone movement is more difficult than it looks.

"Percussion dance is the only kind of dance where the dancer is also a musician," said Eileen Carson, director of the troupe, explaining that percussionists play the "beat" of the music, usually with a drum or similar instrument. In percussion dance, you don't need a drummer.

All types of percussion dance performed Wednesday were accompanied with a brief history of the art.

"We like to think this type of dancing started with people coming out of work and just feeling good, and dancing because of it," said Ms. Carson. Clogging began in Appalachia, probably with coal miners, who wore the protective shoes.

"Whoever it was probably just started dancing, doing steps he'd learned at home, and found out what a wonderful sound it made!" she said.

The Fiddle Puppet Dancers, until recently called the Puppet Cloggers, began in 1979.

"We've been working in schools almost since we started," Ms. Carson said. "But we only bring a few people to the schools. The larger group goes to exhibitions."

The group was invited by the school's cultural committee.

"Mrs. [Norma Jean] Swam, our vice principal, had seen the group before," said Pam Boyle, PTA Cultural Affairs Committee representative. "She liked it, so we asked them to come. We hope the kids will have fun."

Did they have fun? Well, have you ever seen a group of schoolchildren who didn't like to spend an hour clapping their hands, beating their chests and banging their heads?

You wouldn't have found one here, either.

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