Kick your heels up: Cobb man continues tradition
by Sally Litchfield
MDJ Features Editor
sallylit@bellsouth.net
October 26, 2012 12:00 AM | 1888 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Cobb County native Jay Bland, left, dances with Tennessee buckdance legend Thomas Maupin at the National Folk Festival in Nashville, Tenn. Bland said buckdancing is a folk dance that was developed on American soil. <br>Special/Jay Bland
Cobb County native Jay Bland, left, dances with Tennessee buckdance legend Thomas Maupin at the National Folk Festival in Nashville, Tenn. Bland said buckdancing is a folk dance that was developed on American soil.
Special/Jay Bland
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Bland holds the blue ribbon he won at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W.Va.
Bland holds the blue ribbon he won at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W.Va.
slideshow
Jay Bland keeps making music with his feet. The Cobb County native is part of a new generation of dancers reviving the American art form of buckdancing, a percussive style of dance performed to Old Time music dating back to early pioneer days.

“With buckdancing, you’re trying to make a rhythm with your feet to really fit that music — just like you’re playing an instrument,” Bland said.

Although the roots of buckdancing are unknown, it is one of the few dances that originated in the U.S.

“(Buckdancing) is a folk dance. It’s mainly passed down from person to person,” Bland said. “(Buckdancing) is part of our national identity. It helps us remember who we are as a country. This is an American dance that was developed on American soil.”

Bland’s first exposure to dance was at age 8 when he clogged with the Little General Cloggers under the direction of Olivia Smathers. He recalled clogging on a team with Amy Carter at the time her father, former President Jimmy Carter, was governor. Bland has also shared the stage with Roy Acuff and Jimmy Dickens at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

Though clogging and tap dancing find their origins in buckdancing, buckdancing is a unique art form rather than a routine-style dance, according to Bland. He said it’s a freestyle dance.

Buckdancing (called flatfoot dancing in West Virginia) provides the dancer an opportunity for individuality.

“Everybody who buckdances develops their own style. There’s really not a wrong way to do it as long as you’re in time to the music and you’re making it to sound good like an instrument to fit in,” Bland said.

Bland, a self-taught buckdancer has achieved national acclaim. In addition to other prestigious titles and awards garnered over a decade, Bland is the reigning champion of the Flatfooting/Buckdancing Championship held at the Appalachian String Band Festival in West Virginia, the most prestigious competition of its kind. He has won the competition that people come from all over the world to compete in for two years in a row.

His resume includes dancing at Dollywood and for New Harmonies Celebrating Roots Music (sponsored by the Georgia Humanities Council in partnership with The Smithsonian) and the “Tennessee Crossroads.” Throughout the year he travels the nation teaching and doing demonstrations.

“(Buckdancing) is fun. It’s like making music. It’s my passion,” Bland said. To see videos of Bland, visit www.myspace.com/buckdance.
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