Staying in step, Footworks offers rhythm for the sole

August 13, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Rhythm is everywhere, especially when Footworks is in town.

Those in the percussive dance troupe from Annapolis use their hands, feet, shoes and even empty water bottles to tap out rhythms from the Appalachian Mountains to South Africa.

Tomorrow night, they'll be stomping, clapping, clomping and clickety-clacking at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts for a one-night performance.

"It's a wonderful percussive dance ensemble," said Carol Treiber, executive director of the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County. "Some of the pieces are so innovative, some of the footwork they're doing. When you leave their program, you're tapping your heels and toes."

The dance moves Footworks has been doing since 1979 have been popularized recently by hit shows such as "Riverdance" and "Stomp." The Annapolis group's repertoire includes traditional Irish and French Canadian step-dances, Appalachian, Scottish and English clogging, South African boot dancing and African-American hambone and body percussion.

Think of it as an international old-fashioned hoedown.

"People from all over different cultures pound their feet and slap their bodies," said Eileen Carson, the group's artistic director. "It's like the original instrument."

Included in the 10-member troupe are three musicians on acoustic stringed instruments -- the banjo, acoustic guitar and fid- dle. While they're playing, the dancers are moving, clicking their heels and toes, crossing their feet like scissors, jumping and stomping. Their rhythm resonates clearly in the Maryland Hall auditorium -- it only takes five pairs of feet to sound like a stampede.

Shoes are a big part of the program for the dancers. Tomorrow's performance requires changes from rubber boots to taps to wooden-soled clogs to bare feet -- seven changes in all. But that's as flashy as Footworks gets.

"It's our bodies, our breath and our sweat," Carson said. "There's no special effects, just us."

Carson said she uses the dances from other cultures to show the similarities and evolution of dance. For example, in a traditional Irish step -- like the ones seen in "Riverdance" -- the dancers stand tall with their arms straight and chins up while their feet and legs do the work. Do it American style -- adding the African influence -- and the dancers swing their arms and bodies with the footwork.

Likewise, most would never associate Appalachian clogging, with its roots in rural America, with tap, which has come to be known as an African-American art form. But, Carson said, the two are cousins, sharing origins and rhythms.

Tomorrow's performance begins at 8 p.m. Audience members can join the cast after the show for an ice-cream social.

Tickets are $15. Information: Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 410-263-5544.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.