Here are reviews of a series of 2 workshops on 13th & 20th February to learn Appalachian Clogging basics steps, at 2 levels of experience, both with freestyle improvisation encouraged, run by Abby Ladin and Sam Bartlett from Indiana, USA. These workshops were a joint Morris Federation and North American Morris Dance Organisation (NAMDO) event.
Level 1 workshop for Beginners
“The first Appalachian Clogging Basics Level 1 workshop on Saturday 13th February was excellently chaired by Pauline Woods-Wilson with professional teachers of dance Abby Ladin teaching & Sam Bartlett providing the music.
“I joined as a total beginner with slight apprehension but knowing, being one of many, I would soon be reduced to a small image where no-one would be able to see my attempts at the footwork with a slightly dodgy left knee (probably the result of 44 years of dancing with Windsor Morris). However, I needn’t have worried as we were all immediately told that Appalachian involved a lot of downward movements.
“We learnt that 123 people had joined up, not only from UK but also from Ireland, France, Germany, USA and Canada. This is the wonderful thing about zoom workshops and it felt good to be taking part alongside a wide group of people from several parts of the world.
“The workshop started with a warm-up, followed by learning the basic step. I was keeping up so far, possibly helped by having done rapper, so the shuffle step was already lurking somewhere in my muscle memory. Abby proceeded to explain each new step, first showing it, then everyone having a go before joining it up with the previous step/s, sometimes giving alternatives to choose from, for instance a heel/toe shuffle or toe/toe shuffle, whichever we found best. This progressed until we had learnt several steps culminating in a freestyle session at the end where we randomly danced the steps we had learnt.
“This left me looking forward to taking part in the second workshop to be held the following week where Abby went over the steps we had been taught, together with adding a few new ones. As before, each step was shown, practiced by all and gradually joined up with other steps, once again ending with a freestyle session.
“The workshops were excellent and, as a beginner who had been wanting to have a go at Appalachian for some time, I found the teaching progressed at the right pace to enable me to achieve a good degree of success without feeling totally overwhelmed. Thankfully the learning can continue as Abby has provided notation for the steps and a recording of the workshop has been made available to those who attended, to revisit the teaching.
by Marian Ballhatchet of Windsor Morris in Berkshire (and former member of Insword Rapper)
Level 2 workshop for Intermediate
“I was so pleased to see the inclusion of Appalachian Clogging in this Spring season of online workshops, and judging by the number of participants, so were a lot of members!
“Our hosts, Abby Ladin and Sam Bartlett promised an hour of dancing, not talking, and we were not disappointed – on both days the whole hour went by in a flash of well-organised and well-presented dancing demonstration and instruction from Abby, accompanied with wonderful playing by Sam on Banjo.
“Overall, Abby’s emphasis was on the sound of the steps and over the two sessions she kept us moving with gradually more complex steps, which could stand alone or be linked together to create a variety of interesting rhythms.
“Initially, this involved dancing fairly simple steps on both the on-beat and off-beat, from which Abby then progressed to introducing extra movements to add more beats, and culminated in her final step. This was based on a relatively simple syncopated step which, with Abby’s additional heel and toe beats, was developed to produce a new and exciting rhythm. (It also looked pretty impressive too!)
“I came away having learned new moves that will sit comfortably with both Clogging and Flatfooting which I hope to take back to our team (Legs Levens & the Limestone Cowboys) to use in new dances, but I also have something (most definitely, that final step!) to keep practising for my own pleasure.
“Heartfelt thanks to Abby and Sam, and to the Morris Federation for arranging the whole online programme, and especially for including Appalachian Clogging.