2021 marks forty-nine years since Rodney first danced with the Green Grass Cloggers and fifty 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 was the precursor 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, Shakori Hills Grassroots 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 celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2019.
Rodney 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.
– Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Presents Annual Appalachian Christmas Concert for Charity. 13 December 2018. Derek Halsey. Mountain Times [Boone, NC].
– Rodney Sutton Named Mountain Home Music Director. 1 May 2014. Jesse Campbell. Mountain Times [Boone, NC].
East Tennessee State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Appalachian Studies – Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music Studies.
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.