Rodney Clay Sutton is a dance performer and teacher of Appalachian step dance – both flatfoot and clogging. He calls square dances and contra dances, and is a storyteller and ballad singer. Rodney offers workshops, lectures, and demonstrations catered for a range of age groups, including youth, seniors, and corporate gatherings. He is also a concert and festival producer, emcee, and stage manager.
On March 4th, 2019, Rodney Sutton was one of 9 folks selected to receive a first ever Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship from South Arts. He was able to use the monies to go to Ireland for a month last September to study Sean Nos` dance – the Irish step-dance equivalent to flat-footing. Read more – https://www.southarts.org/individual-artists/folk-traditional-arts-master-artist-fellowships/2019-folk-traditional-arts-master-artist-fellows/
Stepping Up to the Challenge
Stepping Up to the Challenge is a sneaky title of a workshop in percussive dance that Rodney designed as a way to not scare off folks who think they cannot dance. He has more than 40 years of teaching beginners how to clog, and he can teach anyone who can walk how to dance.
In 2005, Rodney was a member of an arts advisory group—consisting of professional actors, storytellers, musicians and dancers—who were tasked with finding ways to integrate traditional art forms into the curriculum of multi-day corporate team-building retreats. The initial concept was intended to place people from different levels of corporate management in a new environment—not an office or boardroom, and not another outdoor ropes course—so they could all experience trying something new for the first time together.
Rodney has continued to use his Stepping Up to the Challenge workshop to share his love of teaching traditional percussive dance, specifically Appalachian clogging and flatfooting, with professional development and team-building gatherings.
In these hour-long sessions, he is able to break down and teach a basic clogging step using recorded traditional music. No partner is needed, and he uses a very low impact approach that anyone can learn. The workshop allows participants to use their feet to become a drummer to any type of music. Though the emphasis is on teaching clogging to individuals—so that, as he says, “You only have to worry about stepping on your own toes”—he also demonstrates how dancing traditional square dance figures create ways of cooperation and trust between participants.
Get Your Kicks Clogging
Rodney Sutton has performed under the names The Fiddle Puppet, Mr. Limberjack, and Cornmeal Sutton during his forty plus years of bringing his love of Appalachian step-dancing to audiences across the US, Canada and the British Isles. His “Get Your Kicks Clogging” program is a lively performance that is easily adapted to any setting and age group.
He shares the history of Appalachian step-dancing in an informative and entertaining manner and demonstrates the steps that define flatfooting, buck dancing, and clogging, while weaving stories of his friendship with Watauga County, North Carolina dance legends, Willard Watson and Robert Dotson.
Be prepared to join in the fun as Rodney encourages his audiences to participate in his shows by learning a simple version of Robert Dotson’s famous Walking Step, and he will take participants on a journey out into Willard Watson’s barnyard to give Willard’s animal dances a try.
With Rodney incorporating sing-a longs, hamboning, and a sit-down square dance, it all adds up to guaranteed FUN for all ages!
This program can include live music by one of his many friends on fiddle and banjo, along with explanations of the role these two instruments “play” in the evolution of clogging.
Passionate About Possums
Join Rodney Sutton as he weaves stories and curious facts about the most unusual of all creatures: the lovable marsupial – the opossum.
Rodney uses puppets and his amazing collection of possum paraphernalia as he tells the entertaining story of his pet possum Flat Alf, which is also revealed in the children’s book Alfred the Possum: On the Road with The Green Grass Cloggers written by Leanne E. Smith and illustrated by Madalyn McLeod. The book chronicles the life of Alfred with amusing tales of a tiny possum who aspires to become a clogger.
This performance includes possum sing-along songs and learning the famous possum dance! A special appearance by the original mummified Alfred, who has resided in a pizza box since 1996, highlights the show. You can’t make this stuff up!
In addition to calling regularly scheduled square dances and contra dances, Rodney is available to lead special occasion dances for events such as weddings, anniversaries, and other gatherings.
At weddings, in particular, Rodney is known for his ability to effortlessly include non-dancers and to motivate social interaction among the newlyweds’ families and friends.
These same techniques carry over to encouraging merriment at all types of celebrations.
2020 marks forty-eight years since Rodney first danced with the Green Grass Cloggers and forty- nine since he was told he would “never make a clogger”! Over the years, he has shared his love of clogging by teaching workshops for beginners at camps around the country, so that no one else will be told, or led to believe, that they cannot dance. Using the often quoted line, “If you can walk, then you can dance” to inspire, Rodney prides himself on being able to teach anyone Appalachian Clogging steps that will turn you into your own percussive dancer and allow you to be the foot drummer to any kind of music!
These days Rodney is known mostly for his smooth flatfooting – a percussive dance style that lead to today’s clogging. He is also a caller, musician, storyteller, a veteran of the early days of the Green Grass Cloggers, and co-founder of the Fiddle Puppets (now known as Footworks). He has traveled all across the US, Canada, Ireland, Scotland and England – performing and teaching clogging/flatfooting, and calling square and contra dances. Rodney also produces, stage manages and emcees outdoor festivals and concerts. He currently is the Director of Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Concerts in Boone, North Carolina.
Just since September 2015, a memes of Rodney flat-footing called “the Techno Family” has been seen by over 100 million folks from around the world on Facebook.
A native of eastern North Carolina, where his family has danced and played music for generations, Rodney Sutton is a prominent and highly respected representative of the dance and music traditions of his home state. He is particularly known as a traditional mountain step-dancer, adept at both flatfooting and clogging, and also as a dance caller. In recent years, Rodney has expanded his presentations to include both storytelling and ballad singing.
Rodney was an early member and director(’77-’79) of the Green Grass Cloggers, and today is part of the Asheville Team who along with their eastern fellow cloggers from Greenville, NC, have danced in recent years at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Lake Eden Arts Festival, the Appalachian Stringband Music Festival, and MerleFest. He is also a co-founder of the Fiddle Puppets, now known as Footworks, a traditionally based dance team that has toured around the world and who are celebrating their 40th Anniversary in 2019.
Rodney has traveled across the US and Canada and throughout the British Isles performing, teaching, and calling dances. He has taught traditional dance in western North Carolina schools through the Visiting Artist Program, and is a regular instructor at such camps as the Swannanoa Gathering (Warren Wilson College), GrassRoots Culture Camp (Trumansburg, NY, and Key Biscayne, FL), Augusta Heritage Workshops (Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, WV), and Fiddle and Dance (Ashokan, NY).
Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music. Boone, NC. 2014-present.
– Executive Director.
East Tennessee State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Appalachian Studies – Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music Major.
Adjunct professor – 2017 – present.
Freelance Performing Artist, Dance Caller, and Workshop Leader.
TEACHING & EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
Swannanoa Gathering. Warren Wilson College. Swannanoa, NC.
– Dance Instructor & Caller. Old-Time Week. 1990s-present.
– Coordinator & Instructor. Dance Week. 1994-1999.
Grass Roots Culture Camp. Trumansburg, NY, and Key Biscayne, FL.
– Clogging & Flatfooting Instructor. 2016-present.
East Tennessee State University. Johnson City, TN. 2017 – present
– Dance Instructor.
Regional Junior Appalachian Musicians, Inc. 2003-2013.
– Clogging Instructor.
– Curriculum Developer – helped create teaching tools on the organization’s website.
Leadership Institute, Elan Group, Inc. 2005.
– Arts Advisory Board Member – worked to incorporate traditional arts into team building workshops offered to large corporate companies
Augusta Heritage Center. Davis & Elkins College. Elkins, WV.
– Coordinator. Dance Week. 1989-1996.
North Carolina Visiting Artist Program. 1989-1993.
– Visiting Artist (Haywood Community College, Clyde, NC & McDowell Technical Community College, Marion, NC) – taught clogging workshops to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students; presented programs on traditional music and dance to civic, community, and church groups
Bertie County Junior High School. Windsor, NC.
– Science teacher. 1973-1977.
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP
Bluff Mountain Festival. Hot Springs, NC.
– Co-Founder (1995), Producer (1995-2005), and Volunteer Emcee (1995-present).
Madison County Arts Council. Marshall, NC.
– President (1995-2000) and Board Member (1993-present, on rotation) – helped reactivate MCAC, secured grant funds for programming and to hire MCAC’s first Executive Director, developed programming
Regional Junior Appalachian Musicians, Inc. 2003-2013.
– Co-Organizer for 501c3 nonprofit application process
Folk Heritage Committee. Asheville, NC. 2009-2012.
– Board Member – helped produce Shindig on the Green performance series on Saturday evenings, July through Labor Day, and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in August
DANCE TROUPE EXPERIENCE
Green Grass Cloggers. Greenville & Asheville, NC. 1972-1979 & 1989-present.
– Bookings Coordinator. Asheville, NC. – presently organize details for performances, including the Year of the Possum tour (2011)
– Director. Greenville, NC. 1977-1979 – helped coordinate effort to achieve 501c3 nonprofit status and secure NC Grassroots Grant funds to produce school performances featuring traditional old-time music and dance
Fiddle Puppets Dance Company. (now Footworks) Annapolis, MD. 1979-1989.
– Principal Dancer, Road Manager, Booking Agent.
SELECTED AWARDS & HONORS
Sam Queen Award – Mountain Dance and Folk Festival Folk Heritage Committee Asheville, NC. 2012 – The award “acknowledges enthusiasm in keeping smooth and clog dance styles a vital part of recreation and entertainment.”
First Place. Dance, Senior Division. North Carolina State Fair Folk Festival. 2012-2015.
First Place. Various flatfooting/clogging dance competitions. 1978-present.
To contact Rodney or book him for an event, please fill out the form below: