Program Notes for The Meaning of Buck Dance

20 Sep

For those watching the webcast or archival footage of The meaning of buck dance, here are the program notes. To view the archived footage of the show, click here.


Thursday, September 19, and Friday, September 20, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts




Urban Artistry with

Good Foot Dance Company and

Baakari Wilder



The Meaning of Buck Dance

A 2013 Local Dance Commissioning Project Premiere




Vintage Blues Breakdown

Clip: “three street teens” also “vintage blues breakdown” also “Pickaninny Dance” from “The Passing Show”

(Crazy Feet 491.4, Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection)

Used with Permission of Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection, National Museum for American History, Smithsonian Institution

Performers: Joe Rastus, Denny Toliver, Walter Wilkins

Filmed by: William Heise for Thomas Edison October 6, 1894 at Edison Black Maria Studio in West Orange, New Jersey; 50 foot kinetoscope


Live Performers: Baakari Wilder, Russell Campbell, Junious Brickhouse (extended solo)

Sound: Matthew Olwell on hands and feet, Jabari Exum on djembe


Note: Constance Valis Hill’s Tap Dancing America (2010) calls this clip, “probably the earliest example of buck dancing on film” and these performers “the first African Americans to appear before a motion picture camera” (p.23).



Choreographers/Performers: Matthew Olwell & Baakari Wilder (extended solo)

Sound: Danny Knicely on fiddle, Jabari Exum on percussion

“Flathoofin” – an original combination of traditional

tunes “Betty Baker” and “Dinah”





Choreographer/Performer:  Russell Campbell

Sound: Matthew Olwell on hands and feet, Jabari Exum on djembe

in dedication to Vincent L Campbell Sr.


Memphis Jookin

Choreographer/Performer: Ryan Webb

Text: Ryan Webb

Sound: various artists

Gangsta Walkin– “Git Buck” – DJ Spanish Fly

            Jookin –– “Da Summa” – Three 6 Mafia

            Chopping –– “yeah, yeah” by lutinent G

            Buckin – “Buck Gangsta Beat” – Juicy J


Appalachian Clogging/Flatfooting

Choreographer: Matthew Olwell

Performers: Matthew Olwell & Emily Oleson

Text: Emily Oleson

Sound: Danny Knicely on fiddle, “Altimont” – traditional



Choreographers/Performers: Ryan Webb & Emily Oleson

Sound: “Trap Music 1” – Kings



Choreographers/Performers: Baakari Wilder & Russell Campbell

Sound: “Old Castle” edit – Ray Barretto


The House That Jack Built

Choreographer/Performer: Junious Brickhouse

Video: Megan Keefe

Sound: “My House” by Chuck Roberts

“My Beat” by Blaze, featuring Palmer Brown


Choreographer’s Note: dedicated to Lynda Brickhouse

The House That Jack Built was premiered in February 2010 as part of a collaboration ORIGINS: One Heartbeat between Urban Artistry, Coyaba Dance Theater, and Capitol Tap, for the Intersections Festival at the Atlas Theater in Washington, D.C., and supported in part by a Montgomery County Arts Council Grant to appear at The Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring in May 2011.


Talking Feet (film excerpt)

Used with permission of Smithsonian Folkways recordings

Performers: Fris Holloway, Algia Mae Hinton, John Dee Holeman

Produced 1985-1991 by Mike Seeger and Ruth Pershing

DVD copyright 2006 Smithsonian Folkways, Washington, D.C.


Buck Dance?

Choreographer: Matthew Olwell

Performers: Matthew Olwell & Emily Oleson


Vintage Blues Breakdown Reprise

Voiceovers: Ira Bernstein, Nic Gareiss, Emily Oleson, Baakari Wilder,

Russell Campbell


Getting Buck

Choreographer: Junious Brickhouse

Performers: Junious Brickhouse, Baakari Wilder, Matthew Olwell, Russell Campbell, Emily Oleson, Ryan Webb

Sound: “Green Garden” – Laura Mvula remixed by DJ Baronhawk Poitier, edited by Russell Campbell


Lighting Design by Paul Jackson



Urban Artistry, Inc. is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation and preservation of art forms inspired by the urban experience. Becoming cultural ambassadors for communities that are often unsung, the group fulfills their mission through effective collaborations that support artists past and present. Founded by Junious “House” Brickhouse in 2005 with a small group of friends in the Washington, D.C. metro area, their dedication to cultural preservation, authenticity, and professionalism fostered a community of artists who share a global perspective on the creative culture within urban spaces. The group’s desire to collaborate led to the development of their international education programs, festival events, and theater productions. Urban Artistry is a recipient of the Kennedy Center’s 2013 Local Dance Commissioning Project. Learn more about the company at


Good Foot Dance Company explores the complex cultural twinings of the root-system of American Vernacular Dance, from Appalachian flatfooting, to tap, to contemporary urban dance.  The company members, Matthew Olwell, Emily Oleson, and Meg Madden began working together in 2004, and perform and teach at festivals, theaters, schools, arts carnivals, and camps, and enjoy raising questions about connectivity, continuity, and social responsibility.  Good Foot performance highlights include the Performatica festival in Cholula, Mexico, The Wheatland Music Festival, The Newport Folk Festival (as the Seeger Clogging All-Stars), Dance Place in Washington, D.C., A Charlottesville Wunderkammer, and Shentai, and guest artist appearances with The Chieftains, Lunasa, and most recently The Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Good Foot brings to the floor over 30 years of combined experience as advocates of dance culture.


Baakari Wilder is internationally known for starring in the Broadway musical Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk. He received a Bessie Award for his performance, and later assumed the lead role for a year. He has appeared as a guest performer on So You Think You Can Dance, Discovery Channel’s Time Warp, and appeared in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. Baakari is currently the Assistant Artistic Director of the Washington, D.C.-based company Capitol Tap.



About the Artists

Emily Oleson (director) became an artistic director of Urban Artistry in 2012, and co-founded Good Foot Dance Company with Matthew Olwell and Meg Madden in 2005, after earning her BA in dance at James Madison University.  Pursuing a path as a crossover artist, she has had the privilege of studying many different dance styles with many, many fine teachers; her most recent mentors include tap historian Ann Kilkelly and members of Urban Artistry.  She has performed in community dance projects with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, PEARSONWIDRIG Dance Theater, and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, and also is grateful for the instruction of the faculty at University of Maryland, College Park, where she completed her MFA in dance.  Oleson is pioneering a new undergraduate dance major in American Vernacular Dance at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. For more information, visit


Junious “House” Brickhouse, executive director and founder of Urban Artistry, is an award-winning educator, performer, choreographer, and community leader who began his dance journey in the Atlanta and Washington, D.C. underground dance scenes.  Originally from Virginia Beach, Junious was taught social dances of the period by family members, a substitute for recreational programs that were often expensive and unattainable to the underprivileged. Fortunately, the funk music culture of 1970’s provided a template of personal acceptance and expression that made social dancing carefree, community-oriented, and free to anyone with a radio. Through family traditions and support, Junious was able to make a commitment to dance and community service at a young age. As a teenager, Junious became a regular in the underground dance scene and recognized that the artists in these communities were driven by creativity and continuation of culture. Through these experiences, he soon mastered the Hip Hop, House Dance, B-Boying, Popping, Locking, Tap, Waacking, Vogue, and West African Dance styles that were being celebrated by so many in these cultures. These early experiences are reflected in the way Junious has structured Urban Artistry as an accepting, collaborative, and accessible community, and in his lifelong commitment to share urban dance culture with underserved communities from Southeast D.C.’s ward 7 to South Africa to Finland. 


In 1997 he moved to Europe where he received mentorship from Denmark’s Special FX (Out of Control) and Scotty76 of the Assassins Crew in Germany.  Brickhouse began building in all dance styles and later joined the Assassins Crew and began entering and winning various competitions.  Returning to the States, Brickhouse went on to become an ambassador for urban dance culture and founded the award-winning Urban Artistry Dance Company.  He was named a Master Instructor by the Maryland Historic Trust and was awarded the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in 2010. Brickhouse’s work has been seen in local venues like the Kennedy Center, Sidney Harman Hall, and the Performing Arts Center at Strathmore.


Russell “Ironman” Campbell is a film-maker and Artistic Director for Urban Artistry where he is the top instructor for youth in b-boying (also known as break dancing).  He has competed in local and international battles for over 15 years, is the floor captain for Counter Attack Breakers Crew [CAB Crew], and was a featured judge for Chelles Battle Pro qualifier in Stuttgart, Germany in 2011.  Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, he always had a passion for dance, film, music, culture, and community.  He studied music with his father Vincent L. Campbell Sr., and plays more than 6 musical instruments including piano, saxophone, and bassoon. As DJ Mate Masie he has played at many local venues such as Eighteenth Street Lounge, Tropicalia, and the U Street Music Hall, and internationally in Bulgaria where he also taught breaking in 2010.  Russell is a gifted teacher and pursues many styles to make his dancing musical, well-rounded, and diverse.  His goal is to show others a freedom of expression that will help make dance a safe environment for everyone.  He is grateful to Junious Brickhouse, the executive director and founder of Urban Artistry, who has been a true mentor since 2005.  Russell’s many professional highlights include dancing with the Washington Wizards for three years, creating a tribute film for Vivian Malone (the first student to racially integrate the University of Alabama), and winning Rep Your Styles for House Dance in 2013.  


Matthew Olwell, co-founding member and lead choreographer for Good Foot Dance Company, has been a professional dancer and musician since 1996. Olwell’s career has included appearances with Uncle Earl, Corey Harris, Tim O’Brien, and Bassekou Kouyate, Eileen Ivers’s Beyond the Bog Road, Song of the Mountains for PBS with James Leva, and the London production of Riverdance with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. He was a student at The  School at Jacob’s Pillow’s first ever Tap Program, and his mentors and teachers include Donny Golden, Eileen Carson, The Fiddle Puppets, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Baakari Wilder, and Dianne Walker through The School at Jacob’s Pillow.  Olwell is the coordinator of the Augusta Heritage Center’s American Vernacular Dance Week.

More information can be found at


Ryan Webb began as a solo artist dancing out of northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. It was here that his teaching and performance career began at local studios, community centers, and various churches. While attending Christopher Newport and Cal State University of Fullerton, he founded multiple dance clubs that are still in progress today. Ryan moved to California in August of 2005 and graduated out of California State at Fullerton in 2008. During this time period he was the winner of numerous popping competitions, some of which include Street Skillz, Undadog in Los Angeles, and Juste Debout in Paris, France. In 2008, Ryan joined the Assassins Crew and Urban Artistry. It was here that he learned the importance of culture and the history behind the dances that he does. Recently, his dance career has brought him to various countries for work, and he has taught, performed, competed, and judged in Korea, Japan, Sweden, England, Germany, Canada, and Denmark, to name a few.


Jabari Exum, percussionist, emcee, poet, actor, director, and entrepreneur, is an electrifying artist born and raised in Washington, D.C. He is a skilled percussionist in the West African and Latin Tradition and is a prolific writer and performer in the world of Hip-Hop. Since 1997 Jabari has also become a pioneering artist in a movement called, “Hip-Hop Theater.  He has been acting, drumming, and rapping since he was 2 years old and has been blessed with the opportunities to receive guidance from legendary artists such as Stevie Wonder, Mamady Keita, Djimo Kouyate, KRS-One, Sonya Sanchez, and Glen Turner.  Jabari Exum is presently a member Hueman Prophets (Hip-Hop theater duo), Farafina Kan (West African percussion orchestra), and Hip-Hop Pantsula (a South African Hip-Hop pioneer).


Danny Knicely is a multi-talented musician, music producer and film-maker from Virginia. He has used his roots in old-time and bluegrass to explore many musical styles from Irish, Jazz and Latin, to the various types of music he encountered while performing and studying music in India, Nepal, Tibet, and China. As a multi-instrumentalist, Danny has won many awards for his mandolin, guitar, and fiddle expertise, including first place in the mandolin contest at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival. He has years of experience performing in many bands and has recorded and toured nationally and internationally with groups such as the award winning Magraw Gap, Furnace Mountain, Corn Tornado, Purgatory Mountain, and a multi-cultural dance troupe called Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. He has also performed with Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Mac Wiseman, Tim O’Brien, Michelle Shocked, Sam Bush, Col. Bruce Hampton, Larry Keel, Robin and Linda Williams, Daryl Anger, Corey Harris, Bassekou Kouyate, Jeff Coffin, and Adrian Belew. Danny also teaches, presents concerts, produces CDs and, recently, produced the film “The Mountain Music Project: A Musical Odyssey from Appalachia to Himalaya.”




The 2013 Local Dance Commissioning Project


Sarah Ewing- September 5 and 6, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

Urban Artistry- September 19 and 20, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.


The Local Dance Commissioning Project was created by the Kennedy Center in 2001 to foster new works by local dance artists. The project annually provides funds for each choreographer to create a new piece, a venue to show the work, as well as rehearsal space and technical assistance. The project nurtures the creation of new work in dance and presents these artists to the widest possible audience on the Millennium Stage.


Past Kennedy Center Commission Awardees:

2001 – Deborah Riley, Ed Tyler, Nilimma Devi

2002 – Tiempo de Tango, Helanius J. Wilkins, Nejla Yatkin

2003 – Jason Hartley with Ed Tyler, Laurel Victoria Gray, Boris Willis

2004 – Naoko Maeshiba, Vladimir Angelov, Sharon Mansur

2005 – Meisha Bosma, Daniel Burkholder, Ludovic Jolivet

2006 – Francesca Jandasek, Helanius J. Wilkins, Asha Vattikuti

2007 – Gesel Mason, Princess Mhoon Cooper, Aysha Upchurch

2008 – Karen Reedy, Vincent Thomas, Cassie Meador

2009 – Jason Garcia Ignacio, Tehreema Mitha

2010 – Angela Foster, Stephen Clapp & Laura Schandelmeier, Mary Lane

2011 – Sarah Levitt & Ben Wegman, Kimmie Dobbs Chan & Enoch Chan, Erica Rebollar

2012 – Company E, Sydney Skybetter


The Local Dance Commissioning Project would like to acknowledge and thank Dance Place for ensuring a life for each work beyond its premiere on the Millennium Stage.


The Local Dance Commissioning Project and the Kennedy Center’s Dance Programming Office would also like to thank Andre Barette, Owen Burke, the Performing Arts for Everyone team and, of course, our talented artists for their hard work and dedication to this project. We would also like to acknowledge and thank the 2013 Local Dance Commissioning Project Mentors: Kimmie Dobbs Chan, Enoch Chan, and Aysha Upchurch.


Submissions for the 2014 Local Dance Commissioning Project are being accepted now through Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.


For more information, please visit





Auditions for Scholarships!

26 Jun

Audition for a scholarship for the new Dance Major at D&E!!!

Tuesday July 2nd 3:30pm in The Pit

Myles Center at Davis & Elkins College, Elkins, WV

One need not be a major to receive scholarship resources!  Questions? Email Emily Oleson at or

New American Vernacular Dance Major at Davis & Elkins College

25 Jun

I have been given the unspeakably good fortune of being invited to Davis & Elkins College, in beautiful Elkins, WV, home of our beloved Augusta Heritage Center, in order to start a dance major.


photo by Matthew Olwell

I’m an Assistant Professor in Dance under the umbrella of the Fine and Performing Arts, and so far everyone I’ve worked with at D&E has been exceptionally clear, helpful, and generous.

I would like to use this opportunity to develop a new, unique dance program, offering the county’s first major in American Vernacular Dance, a curricular idea we’re also we’re developing during Augusta’s Week 5.  In the college program, students should be able to pursue a dance focus in any number of genres, though project-based curriculum and self-directed study with faculty supervision.

I also want to offer a Sustainable Dance track for dancers who don’t necessarily want to become professional dancers as their primary vocation, but want to maintain an involvement in dance as a healthy, life-long movement practice.  This track would work well as a double major paired with other studies.

There will also be a Contemporary Dance track, and my colleague Laurie Goux at Davis & Elkins has studied with Katherine Dunham, Eric Hawkins, and many other significant modern dancers throughout her long and distinguished career.

After all the complaining I’ve done about the modern/postmodern dance monopoly on dance programs in higher education, I better put my money where my mouth is . . .  Here I go!

Local Old Style

29 Apr

I have spent almost a year conceptualizing, scheming and producing an event called Local Old Style.  Classes, rehearsals, performance at local trad music venue . . . tea breaks between said classes . . . many things to think about.  And it went really well!   I feel very proud of it!

Still, I guess because I’m kind of sick, I couldn’t help subjecting it to strident analysis pretty much the moment it was over (I think somewhat to the chagrin of some dancers sharing pints with me after the concert).


Local Old Style was an “intensive.” And it really made me question the nature of dance intensives, and what makes them work and for whom.  It was a weekend of Irish dance of various stripes.   And it really made me question the distinctions and assumptions that I have about Irish dance forms in a delightfully unexpected way.

I originally had the idea because I wanted to learn sean nós (old style) dance, which several of my DC dance friends do and which is, as one of them just said in the workshop, “kind of hot right now.”  In spite of my latent (and hypocritical) distain of participating in fads, sean nós dance actually DOES relate in interesting ways to flatfooting, early challenge dancing in the US, and other American vernacular dance forms I’m studying.  So I can get over myself and jump on the bandwagon can’t I?


I thought it was time to make a serious and focused start in my study of the form. I wanted to bring as many perspectives to the material as possible, and have an excuse to hang out with some of my favorite dancers all at the same time; so the faculty brought together my friends and colleagues who teach Irish dances in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas: Megan Downes, Shannon Dunne, Kate Spanos, Rebecca McGowan, and Kelly Smit.  I invited them each to teach a class, which I thought would probably be sean nós, or closesly related to sean nós.

I ended up being surprised.  There was more Irish step dance than I’d originally thought we’d do.

Irish step dance sometimes appears to me as the “mainstream” dance from Ireland, as per the Riverdance phenomenon, while sean nós feels a little more “underground” with no Broadway show to give the average passer-by any inkling of its existence.  BUT, here’s what’s really interesting: the kinds of Irish step dance we did at Local Old Style WERE actually fringe/underground/little-known compared to the competition style of Irish step dance, which, in the media at least, can overshadow all other expressions of the form. Even among the extreme Irish dance nerds assembled at Local Old Style, most of us had never done a Festival Style step, the least “sean nós”-like thing that happened at the event.


So here I am at my event meant to teach me “the other” form of Irish dance, not competition step dance, which I want to put into a neat and accessible mental package so I can wrap my mind around the style and start working on my technique – and I get step dance forms that no one’s ever seen on TV!  (at least, not in the US I think.)  This is totally busting up my neat dichotomy of cultural dominance through commercialism!  Instead of just engaging in a process of defining and codifying Irish sean nós, we deepened and textured a style we might have just used to “other” sean nós – we know it’s “old style” in part because it’s NOT like contemporary competition style.  We might have been tempted to leave the weekend forgetting to examine both sides of the split, and nothing is actually as flat as just “mainstream vs. underground” in real life, is it?

I figure this was actually kind of fortuitous, giving us the opportunity to triangulate an understanding of sean nós.  We can also define it through what it’s not (which don’t we all secretly enjoy?), but we are also forced to look at the thing it’s not as well, instead of dismissing and ignoring it.  Also interestingly, the offerings made it even more fun for me, since I also have a background in Irish step dance.


Now, Irish step dance is not an easy dance form, not readily accessible to the average pedestrian off the street.  Even experience dancers, like tap dancers or ballet dancers, frequently find their previous training a liability when they really want to master this style and aesthetic.  The intensive was designed for experienced, not beginner, percussive dancers, but still . . . it’s hard!

I was nothing but impressed with the participants in how fast and how well they picked up what was taught – not that I think they all felt good about it; but I still remember my first Irish step dance lessons – even my first months of lessons.  I’ll just say this: tears.  And shame. And more tears.  I stuck with it anyway because I knew someday it would be fun.  It was.

Since this was the first year, and we weren’t sure exactly who would show up, I realize in retrospect that I had actually designed the program pretty much for myself, based on what I would like to learn, with input from the teachers.  I had a wonderful time, and a lot of other people have told me that they did too.  This was actually the happiest dance intensive I’ve ever attended.  I think each class I had was one of the best classes of that style I’ve ever taken.  (I know I’m using a lot of superlatives here – but I mean it!  I’m not just being Hyperbole Jane.)


I invited “experienced percussive dancers” of various backgrounds as student participants, and they included people who do sean nós kind of a lot, like members of Shannon Dunne Dance, and people who are kickass flatfooters, like Becky Hill and Josephine Stewart, people who mostly social dance, and people who do other kinds of traditional dances, like rapper sword and Quebecois step dance (reader, look these up if need be).

One of the interesting issues with the event was: most people didn’t have a background in ALL the forms taught, and some didn’t have ANY background in ANY of the forms taught.  Was this a cruel trick I played on my community?  I have to wonder, as a dance learner and teacher, when I see (and remember and relate to) the intense frustration on the faces of fellow dancers (see above tears and shame comment), if emotional upheaval is a normal and inevitable part of dance learning?  Is a productive disintegration and reintegration of the movement patterns of the emotional mind/body necessary? – or is it just messed up to ask people to do stuff that’s really hard?

I go back and forth about this myself every year when the DC Tap Fest basically kicks my ass into a healthy sense of humility but also possibility as to what tap dance can be – and what I am not.  It hurts.  I wonder how productive it is for me, really, to feel so demoralized for so many hours in one weekend.  And yet, I keep going back!    And THIS year, it was better!  I took fewer classes, and they were more positive.  Moments of hope shone through the devastating shroud of inadequacy.  *sniffle*


How intense should “an intensive” be?  Do you want to pay all that money to just be relaxing in a class that doesn’t stretch you or push you out of your comfort zone?  As an events organizer, should I translate discomfort in fellow participants as success?!?  How much is success, and how much is “I’m never coming to your stupid event again!”?

I am very glad at the result of the weekend– but how can it serve the community better in the future?  In classes I saw a lot of people in intense concentration and even sometimes expressing frustration.  I relate to these, and I myself experience them regularly in various dance contexts, though I didn’t happen to feel that way at any point during Local Old Style – the point is other people did, though.  Is this an indication that we are serving a certain need in the dance community?  I have heard that there is need to challenge intermediate trad dancers, who are often faced with a myriad of beginner class options, or VERY advanced or high commitment situations, with little in between.

As a dance educator, I DO want to craft events that reach as many people as possible.  I am also invested in presenting many perspectives, many opinions, many pedagogies.  There is NOT just one right way to teach or learn dance, as tempting as it feels to crack the code for the perfect dance class.  Really, a challenging teaching style is an opportunity for you to know yourself as a learner, and develop new skills for recognizing and absorbing movement information.  Sometimes it’s not a good match, and you need to walk away.   But sometimes, you can say, “ah, this is hard, but maybe if I look at it this other way . . .”  And what is better learning than this?  This is the learning that makes us empathetic individuals, that fosters community, reconciliation, cross-cultural exchange.


After this event, I went through all kinds of thoughts about how to solicit feedback from people I perceived as frustrated in some way with their experience, going so far as to think up IAQ’s (that’s imaginarily-asked questions) such as:

“The classes were too advanced for me, I thought they would be more basic.”
“The days were too long, can’t they be more spread out?”
“Why wasn’t there more sean nós at this sean nós dance intensive?”


I spent time composing responses to these imaginary critiques, and very much want to make sure that I can improve the event in the future.  In my responses I suggested other classes and programs, including Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Center and MAD Week in DC, and structuring the event within a different time frame.  I offered theories on learning and culture, and encouragement for people who I thought might not value enough the hard-work-that-doesn’t-feel-perfect-yet, which is so important in actually progressing.  I brought up the fact is that sean nós does not exist in a vacuum.  It’s an Irish vernacular style, people do it at parties (and in competition and on stage too), but it is part of a construction of a cultural identity that, like it or not, IS related to step dance and set dance in sometimes complicated, but truly fascinating, ways.  I said NEXT YEAR, there is an idea on the table about each of the teachers teaching a sean nós session AND another session of their choice, and I would welcome feedback on this idea . . . I still have a vague sense of . . . I’m not sure what, perhaps worry that people were frustrated and they don’t feel ok about it . . . I threw an event, not everyone had a perfect experience, there is room to improve, and perhaps in this situation, learning to be with other dancers discomfort is my own emotional learning through dance.  I guess I should just be with that . . .



Promo Reel for Vaudevival: Old is the new New

18 Jan

Didn’t get to see Vaudevival: Old is the new New because of the wind storm, or you live out of town?  We would love to do the show again, in some incarnation – please feel free to share our promo reel with any organizations you think might like to present this work!


20 Dec

We want to say a huge Thank You to many, many people who helped us with Vaudevival: Old is the new New in the past year, but this post is a special Thank You to Kickstarter supporters!  CDs are in the mail, T-shirts are in the works, Thank Yous have been posted on Twitter and Facebook, and now:

Thank You, Ruby Ross!  You can check out Ruby’s cool projects at: – she has done amazing work like Ashpet, an Appalachian Cinderella Story, definitely keep your eye on this one!  We met long ago in Carmel Tighe’s Irish step dance class in Charlottesville, VA.  Thanks for staying in touch and supporting out work!

Thank You, Lauren Withhart!  Lauren is a super-skilled and hilarious dance artist and educator in Baltimore, MD, and you can find information on her company at:  Now is a good time for a year-end, tax deductible contribution as well;)!  Lauren and I were in the same M.F.A. program at UMD, and shared an office!  Thanks for sharing precious resources and supporting our work!

Thank You, Ben Power!  Ben plays traditional Irish music and performs and teaches Irish sean nos dancing.  Funnily enough, he taught us old style Irish set dance The Priest and His Boots, back at Patrick Olwell’s house in Afton, VA, years ago!  We just re-learned it this summer at the Swannanoa Gathering’s Celtic Week with Ben’s student Elaine.  So you have supported us in more ways than one!  Check out Ben’s projects and teaching schedule at:

Thank You, David Klinger!  It’s exciting that we’ve never met, and still you found and supported our Kickstarter campaign!  I feel that we are now “art friends” and hope we can meet sometime soon.  Your website has  really lovely animation and dreamy piano music.  Everyone should check it out:

Thank You, Fred Hicks!  Fred has what appears to be a dream job, designing games from home for his own business Evil Hat Productions.  Now, after you get over the initial hatred caused by your own not-designing-games-at-home-job-havingness, check out his website,, including the fact that HE is running an AMAZINGLY SUCCESSFUL Kickstarter campaign right now also:  Deep breaths can stifle more surges of resentment, and then think about contributing to his campaign, cause this guy has obviously got it goin’ on.  And his family is awesome too, they go to school with our daughter Lydia at the Purple Birdhouse School (i.e. the Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School).

Thank You, Leela Grace!  Leela is a lovely musician and singer/songwriter who also performs with her also lovely sister Ellie Grace.  We never miss a chance to see these hilariously charming ladies in concert, and neither should you!  Leela plays and teaches in Portland, OR, so if you’re on the West Coast look for her banjo-playing, dancing, singing antics.  They also tour the country, so see when they’re coming near your town!  Check out their duo at:

Thank You, Lucy Goldberg!  We don’t have a website for you, but we want to give you a special shout out anyway.

There are two other friends who volunteered to video record our show, and I’d like to thank them here:

Thank You, Valerie Durham!  Valerie and I were also together in the Dance MFA program at University of Maryland, College Park.  Valerie is a strikingly beautiful Duncan dancer, and her website is:  She also just opened a school you can find at – Valerie is an invaluable resource to the local DC dance community, writing thoughtful and well-researched articles, giving workshops, organizing events, and dancing out as a truly inspiring performer.  I recommend her classes for a non-neurotic approach to dance for children.

Thank You, James Durham!  James is an incredibly creative writer, composer and producer, and he does so many different things that it’s difficult to summarize him into one little box.  If you like music and sci-fi/fantasy/zombies/undead being – and really, who is uncool enough to say they don’t like zombies and vampires these days – check out his website at:

A Whirlwind Summer

27 Aug

We recently returned from many travels this summer, having visited Virginia, North Carolina, Nova Scotia, West Virginia, and Massachusetts.  Next to Michigan for the Wheatland Music Festival!  The photo below is from R.L. Geyer at the Swannanoa Gathering’s Celtic Week, monday night concert.  We had a wonderful time there, and also at Boxwood, Tanglewood, the Beat Retreat, Smiling Mountain, and especially Dance Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins!

Our Kickstarter Campaign in the Post!

25 Aug

Check out this article on fundraising for dance projects on Kickstarter that mentions Vaudevival: Old is the new New!

Dance is Kickstarter’s most successful category by Sarah Kaufman

See posts below for our Kickstarter video, with special guest Lydia Jade Olwell!

Oh Derecho . . .

23 Aug

Amy Scheer, photos by Matthew Olwell and Lisa Swenton-Eppard

Well, not having produced a show at Dance Place after all WOULD be really disappointing if the whole weekend hadn’t ended up being so incredibly moving!  We had our two shows!  Despite the huge wind storm knocking out the power at Dance Place, we still held an invited dress rehearsal at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center Saturday night, and a show at the National Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in Georgetown Sunday night.  The cast packed up all our costumes and props and carted them around the chaotic city, dodging felled trees and power lines.  Our band leader Joebass DeJarnette pulled off miraculous amplifications apparently out of thin air, and EVERYONE showed up – in the midst of so many challenges, we didn’t loose any performers!  I feel overwhelmed with gratitude towards my collaborators and friends who joined me on this journey!

Vaudevival on Kickstarter

22 Jun

Hi Folks! We’ve launched our Kickstarter campaign for Vaudevival. We are super excited to be sharing this with you. Please stop by, check out our sweet video, (it features our daughter and some “unsuspecting shop clerks”- we are pretty excited) and consider donating to the project:

Hope to see you at the show, next weekend, June 30th and July 1st at Dance Place!