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Footworks Percussive Dance and Music Ensemble

About the Company

Footworks' Mission, History, and DEIA Statement

Celebrating 43 years, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble is long recognized as a creative and pioneering force in presenting roots-based music and percussive dance. With a dazzling and diverse array of traditional and original music and choreography, Footworks takes you on a journey that conveys the power and joy of American percussive dance and music while illuminating its multicultural roots, integrating live music, song, and dance to illuminate connections between cultures. The Washington Post declares, "The eruptive joy of Footworks dancers is as contagious as laughter!"

Footworks Mission:

Footworks' mission is to operate and manage a (full time) professional troupe made up of professional dancers and musicians from a myriad of different traditions that perform and teach multicultural percussive dance with live acoustic music for theaters, arts festivals, schools, and community events with the purpose of bringing people together and fostering an appreciation for diversity and each other. Creating unity by inspiring and imparting knowledge of each individual’s heritage and our shared heritage as human beings.



*To promote, stimulate, and develop interest in percussive dance and to encourage increased exposure and recognition of this art form.

*To foster an appreciation and understanding of the peoples of this world and the beauty of cultural diversity by performing, demonstrating, educating, and entertaining audiences with a multi-ethnic array of dance and music.


To bring communities together with a respect for the diversity of American culture, through activities which value all forms of self-expression and encourage everyone to participate, sharing their culture and diversity with one another, and ultimately bringing understanding, breaking down barriers, building trust and celebrating diversity.

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.

Footworks' DEIA Statement:

Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble values all employees, artists, community, and audience members as unique individuals, and we welcome the variety of experiences and diversity they bring to our company and community. As such, we have a strict non-discrimination policy. We believe everyone should be treated equally regardless of race, sex, gender identification, sexual orientation, national origin, native language, religion, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, pregnancy, or any other characteristic protected by law. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, please let us know as soon as possible. Every complaint will be appropriately investigated.


Footworks staff and board meet regularly and goals are made with the lens of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the company, board, and throughout Footworks' programming.

The company would welcome any help or advice on implementing new procedures and policies to more effectively address promoting Diversity, equity and inclusion in all these areas.

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