Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble's Fantastic Feet

Footworks Bios

Eileen Carson, Founding Director of Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble

Eileen Carson Schatz has devoted much of her life to sharing the power and joy of traditional music and percussive dance throughout North America and abroad. She founded Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble in 1979, and is a pioneer in bringing percussive dance to performing arts stages and the general public.  For over 35 years Eileen has served in many roles including Footworks’ Artistic Director, performing artist, choreographer, vocalist, songwriter, teacher, and arts integration specialist.


In 1974, Eileen began dancing with the Green Grass Cloggers, a traditional clogging group from North Carolina. Starting in 1979, The Fiddle Puppet Dancers provided a new vehicle for Eileen’s artistry and innovations.  She began adapting traditional social dance figures into choreography for the quartet, and to create new steps and rhythms while developing her talent for staging and producing theater shows.  Through Eileen’s direction, the group was one of the first to bring traditional percussive dance to professional performing arts venues. At her request, many international folk festivals provided opportunities for Eileen to collaborate with percussive dancers and musicians from diverse traditions and this path led to a unique repertoire and the theater productions that she went on to create. In 1994, the group changed their name to Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble to reflect the expansion of the repertoire, a multicultural collection of percussive dances along with many original works choreographed by Eileen, always performed with some of the very best musicians in acoustic Americana music.


 Over the past two decades Eileen has continued her artistic growth and accomplished her goal of bringing percussive dance to a wider audience.  Footworks was chosen by the Smithsonian Institution to represent American culture in Japan, The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Eileen a two year Choreography Fellowship and The Maryland State Arts Council has recognized her twice with the Individual Artist Award for Choreography. She also choreographed and performed in a piece for the first London run of Riverdance, received an Annie Award for Performing Artist by the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, and won Best Song in the national Chris Austin Song Competition. Eileen has performed internationally at music festivals for audiences in the thousands, in sold-out concert halls, and in schools throughout the country. A spirited master teacher, she has taught hundreds of workshops and residencies at arts centers, universities, and traditional arts camps throughout the U.S. and abroad for all ages and abilities. Eileen is devoted to arts-in-education and is a Certified Teaching Artist, teaching arts-integrated residencies in schools throughout Maryland and beyond and was selected “Artist of the Year” by Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Maryland.


Recent highlights in Eileen’s career include appearing as a guest artist on the 2012 Grammy nominated recording, Memories of John on Compass Records. She also received a commission from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts that led to the 2013 creation of Footworks’ production Steps and Stripes, a celebration of the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner. Through music and dance Steps and Stripes presents the diverse cultures that met in Baltimore, the resulting new American traditions, and the vital role that music and dance plays in the shaping of our nation. In 2014 she recieved the Maryland State Arts Coucil's Individual Artist Award for choreography and in October of 2014 Eileen choreographed the opening production number for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Award Show.  She performed in the Award's Show along with Footworks to a full house at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC. The audience responded with a standing ovation and the show was televised nationally on PBS stations in Spring of 2015.

 Born into a musical family, Mark Schatz has been making music for most of his life. He began his formal musical training with cello at age ten and later switched over to string bass. His first performance was in 1971 on electric bass in a high school rock band. Inspired by a love for folk and traditional music, he started to play the guitar and mandolin.


From 1973 to 1978 Mark got his Degree in Music Theory and Composition from



Mark Schatz, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble's Musicial Director

 Haverford College, studied for a year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, picked up the old-time banjo, and went to his first old-time fiddle festival in Fiddler's Grove, North Carolina. He also started to learn to clog, inspired by his work with Mandala, a Boston based folkdance group. In 1977 he met Bela Fleck, which led to a fruitful association including working together in Tasty Licks, Spectrum, and many recording projects including  “Drive” and "Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Volume II, The Bluegrass Sessions".


In 1983 Mark changed direction and relocated to Nashville where he played country music on electric bass. He re-entered the acoustic world in 1985 when he joined the Tony Rice Unit. From 1990 to 1998 Schatz played with Tim O'Brien as one of the O'Boys. It was during this time that he began his association with The Fiddle Puppet Dancers (who later changed their name to Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble). Performing with Tim (who always included some old-time music in his shows with Mark on banjo) and the dance group encouraged him to pursue his own solo recording in 1995, "Brand New Old Tyme Way" on Rounder Records. The recording was produced by Bela Fleck and featured Mark's clawhammer banjo playing and original compositions.


From 1998 through 2002 Mark involved himself in a variety of activities. He expanded his role with Footworks which included becoming their Musical Director and producing two CD's and two videos for the group. Freelance projects included work with Bela Fleck, Laurie Lewis, John Hartford, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. He started touring in earnest with his own band called Mark Schatz and Friends and cut a new solo CD called “Steppin' in the Boiler House.”


Mark played bass with Nickel Creek from 2003 through 2007 and played on their CD “Why Should The Fire Die”. From 2008 to present he has played bass for The Claire Lynch Band, where he adds color and variety to shows with hambone, clawhammer banjo, and clogging. Mark rejoined Nickel Creek in 2014 to record “A Dotted Line”, and was part of their accompanying spring and summer reunion tour. The recording received two Grammy nominations in the Best American Roots Performance and Best Americana Album categories.


In 2015 Mark was awarded the Maryland State Arts Council's Individual Artist Award for Non-Classical Music Composition.


Currently Mark is back touring with the Claire Lynch Band, he continues his work with Footworks as dancer, musician, and Musical Director, and he is often called to record with other artists such as Sarah Jarosz, Noam Pikelny, and Della Mae.