Three River Revival: Mountain sole

In Pennsylvania’s backyard lie some of the most interesting and unique examples of traditional music. Although Pennsylvania is technically part of Appalachia, it is often better to look to our southern neighbors for mountain clogging, or flat-foot dancing.

In the middle of the 20th century a few filmmakers took notice of a seemingly average West Virginian by the name of Donald Ray White, well remembered by his famous moniker, more simply, D. Ray White. Accompanied by only a banjo and guitar, D. Ray White danced and performed, all the while elevating his interpretation of an old dance far beyond the confines of his small West Virginia community.

D Ray White and his family

The fun thing about flat foot is that it sounds good and it’s an interaction with the music rather than just movement. You’ll notice either tap shoes or a dancer on a wooden board or floor with the musicians, not down on the floor. The dancer is to be seen and the feet are to be heard. The music guides the dancer along as they improvise a beat on the floor. It is not the backbeat or choreographed to the song.

Flat-footing is still lives on even though it, and the music, are aged (Pittsburgh has a group called Coal Mining Cloggers). Although it’s a deep-rooted tradition, I can’t help but enjoy flat-footing for being a light hearted, almost silly expression of dance and mountain soul.

John Hartford playing and dancing the ol’ soft shoe

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