LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — When Carla Gover attends a jam session at Lexington’s Rock House Brewing, she can’t keep her feet still. Within moments, she places a small wooden platform on the floor, jumps on it, and begins a type of dancing known as flatfooting.
She’s been doing this type of mountain dancing almost as long as she’s been walking.
She learned it growing up in Letcher County in a family of musicians. She thought everyone danced like that, until she moved to central Kentucky and found people making fun of her “hillbilly roots.” But she also found a lot of people where fascinated by her way of dancing and wanted to learn to do it themselves.
“You don’t need to know fancy steps,” Gover said. “You don’t even need to know many steps to express yourself and feel that joy of moving your body with the music. It’s for everybody.”
She teaches Appalachian flatfooting to people all over the world with current students in England, Germany, and Canada, and she doesn’t have to leave home to do it. She’s devised an online class that has people dancing in their dens and dining rooms, a plan born of necessity at the height of COVID-19.
“Of course, like so many artists during the pandemic, when everything shut down, we had to scramble and try to find ways to continue to have money coming in and pay the mortgage,” she said.
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She interacts with students through Zoom. Cheryl Blanchard logs in from upstate New York.
“I go to a lot of bluegrass festivals and I’ve seen it around a little bit, and I’ve always been fascinated with it,” Blanchard said. “So, when I saw the opportunity to do it, I thought, what a great idea.”
Gover has been surprised but how the remote classes have taken off, but she understands why it’s better for some people who could never find a class in their area or afford to fly to Kentucky. And she’s delighted that people want to learn from a true Appalachian. She believes the classes help her set the narrative of what other people will think of the region.
“It’s more than just a technique or style. This is a connection to our family, our roots, our ancestors,” she said.
Although it looks similar to clogging, Gover said there are differences. She said clogging tends to have higher steps, is “showier,” and often performed in groups. Flatfooting is lower to the ground and more spontaneous, usually performed solo.
Blanchard said she’s looks forward to each lesson and one advantage is that she can go at her own speed, and rewind the videos she downloads.
“You’ll get it and it’s just so joyful. I can’t really explain it better than that,” Blancahrd said. “I’ll burst out laughing and smiling because I’ve accomplished something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Gover offers the first lesson for free to anyone who wants to give it a try.
She plans to offer more classes as long as there’s a demand. She believes she’s tearing down some stereotypes, step by step, letting people know that positive things come from Appalachia, and one of them is a way of dancing that’s full of pride and joy.