Dancing The Dust To Digital
But the mindset of mistrusting tradition is problematic at the very least. In its most extreme mode, totally discarding the past has led us to the predicament we are currently in, untethered from earlier foundations. We have arrived at a time when Modernist rejection of the past and its problematic relationship to nature should come to an end. Many artists, including those discussed and featured in the following pages, are looking back to traditions rooted in the rural.
Let Your Feet Do The Talkin’ tells the story of buck dancing legend Thomas Maupin, who, at the age of 70, remains one of the greatest old time dancers in America. The film presents a portrait of a folk icon reflecting back on his legacy as a father, teacher, and artist.
Numerous awards, trophies, and plaques lay stacked in a dresser in rural Tennessee where Thomas spends his weeks tending his garden, feeding the animals, and fixing the occasional lawn mower. However, on the weekends, Thomas travels all over the South performing anywhere there’s a band and some flat ground; be it giant stages, historic theaters, or crowded street corners, almost always accompanied by his grandson, Daniel.
Rural buckdancing, like its urban cousin tap dance, is the result of the blending of steps and styles across cultures that has occurred in America since colonial times. Buckdancing is a traditional form of percussive stepdance that is experiencing a resurgence with young adults at old-time music festivals and gatherings throughout the South. As opposed to the memorized sequences of standardized steps performed by modern cloggers, traditional old-time buckdancing is improvisational and spontaneous and encompasses a wide range of steps and personal styles. While dancers may share some common steps, there is no prescribed footwork, and buckdancers like Thomas Maupin “do their own thing.” Providing percussion with their shoes, dancers “let their feet do the talking,” dancing out the rhythm of the tune and becoming a part of the music as they interact rhythmically with the musicians and other dancers.