About the Company
Since 1979, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble has delighted audiences of all ages and cultures across North America and Europe. Footworks thrilled audiences as guest artists in the London run of Riverdance and was honored to be one of eight groups chosen to represent American culture in Japan on a tour with the Smithsonian Institution. Footworks, recognized as pioneers in bringing traditional Americana music and percussive dance to the concert stage, has performed in numerous high profile venues such as The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Wolftrap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, and the Vail International Dance Festival. In 2014 Footworks created and performed the opening production number for the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards Show, receiving a standing ovation, and was included in the American Public Television “Music City Roots” series of the Awards Show that was televised nationally in 2015.
The roots of Footworks are planted deep. The founding members’ families were from North Carolina and Tennessee so they grew up with the joys of traditional Southern Appalachian music and dance in their homes, shared with family and community. Like many Southern mountain folks, Footworks' Founding Director, Eileen Carson’s parents moved to Maryland to provide a better life and education for their children. They looked for every opportunity to expose her to live music, theater shows, and dance classes. While visiting family in Tennessee in her teens Eileen was once again drawn to the mountain music and dance at festivals and music gatherings. She was reminded of the spontaneous and improvisational nature of dancing with others just for fun, along with the deep sense of connection and community that it inspired. Creating that environment for all ages and backgrounds remains a big part of her mission as a performing artist and teacher.
In the 1970s the founding members’ were aware of and fans of team clogging, yet their love of traditional Southern Appalachian music and dance drew them to the old time musicians, buck dancers and flatfooters of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. They rambled all over the region to fiddle contests and old-time music gatherings and enjoyed the privilege of forging long term friendships with some of the very best musicians and dancers there. Countless covered dish gatherings, weekend long parties and jam sessions in their homes followed, drawing folks from the community, bringing their tunes and unique steps. In 1979, three of these dancers, including Eileen Carson, went on to form the Fiddle Puppet Dancers. When performance opportunities increased, they were able to arrange for some of their flatfoot friends and heroes to join them for festivals, music and dance camps, and theater shows.
The company changed their name to Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble in 1994 and is renowned for respecting the integrity of traditional music and dance while gaining recognition for them as performing art by creating well-staged and carefully crafted productions. In search of the origins and relatives of Southern Appalachian music and dance, Footworks performed throughout the 1980s and 90s at most of the major folk festivals across North America and the United Kingdom. Several of these festivals encouraged their growth by supporting collaborations for main stage performances with masters of many forms of traditional music and percussive dance, including Irish, Scottish, English, Quebecois, Cape Breton, African and African American. This resulted in Footworks’ unique repertoire and theater productions presented nationally and internationally.
Footworks’ repertoire and experience easily lends itself to Arts-in-Education programming, and the company has been devoted to working with youth for over 39 years. Popular arts-integrated assembly programs, residencies, workshops, lecture demonstrations, and master classes are presented annually to schools and universities, all with well researched Study Guides that illuminate curriculum connections to Social Studies, American History, Appalachian Studies, Music and Dance subjects.
Footworks continues to carry on it’s mission, bringing highly skilled traditional musicians and dancers from across Maryland and the surrounding area to preserve and present Appalachian music and dance and it’s roots and branches. Providing a unique opportunity for Maryland area traditional musicians and dancers to share their artistry, Footworks conveys the history of music and dance in this region and tells a unique and important American story. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the company continues to grow and evolve, securing the funds to create new productions with award-winning choreography and compositions while also providing programming for schools, at risk youth, and community events. The company is dedicated to bringing live music and the power and joy of percussive dance to audiences the world over.