“Steps and Stripes,” a two-act theater production presents the cultural diversity of Baltimore and Maryland and the vital role that music and dance have played in the shaping of our state and country. The first video is of the original 8-minute production number "Steps and Stripes" that was performed for the American for the Arts Conference in Baltimore June, 2010. The second video is an overview of the second full-length theater production of "Steps and Stripes" performed at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis March 8, 2013.
In April of 2010 I received a commission from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) to create a new work in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, which was in September, 2014. I was asked to create and perform a piece that would highlight Baltimore's history and cultural diversity to be presented at the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) 50th annual conference in Baltimore in June.
I created a piece including Footworks' dancers and a band of live musicians. I presented traditional Irish music and dance along with traditional African music and dance, illuminating how these diverse cultures met each other here and led to some of our beautiful and uniquely American music and dance. Clogging and tap, along with modern and hip hop dance, helped to create a visual time line of Baltimore history. The finale section was performed to a new fiddle tune composed by Footworks' musical director using the chords to our national anthem, a trumpet player played the Star Spangled Banner melody over the new tune, and with all of the dancers on stage together, we presented a joyous celebration, titled "Steps and Stripes."
There were over 1,000 arts presenters and advocates from all over the country there and the response was tremendous! Robert L. Lynch, president of AFTA wrote: "...rousing and patriotic performance... loved the portrayal of our American history and it's many threads through dance...a deeply moving and entertaining piece that resonated with us all..."
The reception from the AFTA conference audience inspired me to create a new production. I also attended the 2011 Teaching Artist Institute and created a new arts integrated residency, "Understanding the Star Spangled Banner Through Dance," that has been presented in schools throughout Maryland with an accompanying new school show.
The first presentation of the full production "Steps and Stripes" debuted at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis on April 9, 2011. Along with Footworks dancers and musicians, I enlisted guest artists from culturally diverse backgrounds to present Baltimore history through the music and my choreography. I used the original piece presented at the AFTA conference as a guide, presenting our shared heritage of traditional Irish and African music first because they were the largest populations of early immigrants to Baltimore. Then I showed the mixing of the cultures and started to move through history all the way to present day, represented by Hip Hop and Modern dance. The Star Spangled Banner was first a poem that Francis Scott Key wrote in the Baltimore harbor, so I collaborated with Baltimore poet Gayle Danley who wrote and performed two new pieces for the production. New music included a song I wrote for the first act, "We Need A Good Time," along with the new fiddle tune for the finale and another song, "The City of Baltimore," co-written with Footworks' musical director.
I continued building this production, a rootsy, multi-cultural, "Americana" approach to commemorate and celebrate the 200th anniversary of our national anthem. The next presentations of “Steps and Stripes” were on March 8, 2013 at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, and on March 9, 2013 for the South County Concert Association in Harwood, Md. I created and added new choreography, and Special Guest Artists for these performances included Baltimore’s own Sankofa Dance Theater, members of Good Foot Dance Company, renowned tap dancer Baakari Wilder, percussionist Steve Bloom and many others, all residents of Maryland. “Steps and Stripes” expresses my gratitude and respect for the strength of spirit and courage found in all of the traditions, past and present, in Maryland and the United States. I also want to inspire audiences in this time of social and economic challenge and political polarization to honor and celebrate the strength found in our diverse and vibrant culture. I believe Steps and Stripes celebrates our diversity and can encourage an atmosphere of unity. The production was presented in selected venues in MD through September of 2014, including for the Star Spangled Spectacular at the Baltimore harbor.
The following program notes give the historic context and broader picture of the production:
STEPS AND STRIPES
THE HARVEST SUITE
By 1790, approximately 1600 African Americans, 80 percent enslaved, were in Baltimore. By 1860, of the 30,000 African Americans living there, 90 percent were free, making Baltimore’s free black community the largest of any city in the nation. The Port of Baltimore provided many African Americans with employment related to the port’s activities, and the success of the port owed much to the contributions of African Americans. The Underground Railroad tracked right through Baltimore’s waterfront and Frederick Douglass, a central figure and gifted orator in America’s abolitionist movement, worked in the shipyards of Fells Point. The word “Sankofa” means to learn from the past in an effort to build for the future. Footworks is delighted to have Baltimore’s premier African group Sankofa Dance Theater with us this evening, bringing the rich legacy of African culture.
The Harvest Suite - traditional African dance presented in a medley that blends two harvest dances from two different regions: AkonKon danced by the Djoila People of the Sene-Gambia Region and Koukou danced by the Manian Ethnic Group of Guinea and the Cote Ivoire. The concept of the harvest is one that is far-reaching and is symbolic of investing time and energy in a way that will lead to a positive outcome. Sankofa’s dancers this evening are Kibibi Ajanku, Director, Mya Ajanku, and Janaye Scott. The drummers are Jumoke Ajanku, Musical Director, and Jabari Jefferson.
Musical Composition: Jumoke Ajanku
Choreography: Kibibi Ajanku
From the American Revolution through World War I, over a million immigrants passed through the port of Baltimore, and many that stayed were from Ireland. Baltimore’s first mayor, James Calhoun, was an Irish immigrant. The Irish who came to Baltimore by the early to mid 19th century were fleeing poor economic conditions and the Irish potato famine and were seeking employment opportunities and a better life. Ireland’s rich music and dance heritage has always given hope and inspiration to its people, bringing joy to their lives and strengthening their communities.
Into the West – a song expressing the sorrow of leaving home and hope for new
Sean-Nos (Old Style) Irish Jig – kept alive in the Connemara region of western Ireland, this style of dancing predates modern competitive step dancing.
Reels, Slides, and Polkas – Sean Nos improvisation, modern step dance, and set dancing.
Music: “Into the West,” Danny O’Keefe and Fred Tackett; Fiddle tunes: “Connaughtman’s Rambles,” “Gallway Rambler,” “Ballydesmond,” “O’Keefe’s,” “The Maid Behind the Bar,” all traditional, “Jade Piglet,” Matthew Olwell
Choreography: Roisin Ni Mhainin, Joe O’Donovan, Patrick O’Dea, Shannon Dunne, Megan Downes, Emily Oleson, Eileen Carson Schatz
Before the advent of audio recordings and cable news networks, songs and news reports were passed around by street singers. These were men and women who made their living singing to the public, and hawking sheets of parchment printed with narrative songs, testimonials, and news items. These papers were called broadsides, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, singing and selling them was as regular an occupation as being a sailor or a tinsmith. In the city or at a country fair, it would have been common in those days to encounter the street singer, a throng of people gathered round him, and his coarse voice booming throughout the locality. In those latter days of the 1812 War, with Admiral Cockburn’s British squadron lying in wait at the mouth of the Severn, Washington in flames, and the remains of our Maryland militia scrambling up the turnpike to the defense of Baltimore, this is how tidings of battle found their way to Marylanders at home.
Francis Scott Key's poem "The Star-Spangled Banner" was itself circulated on a broadside, and paired with the air "To Anacreon in Heaven", the anthem of a gentlemen's society of London not unlike the Ancient and Honorable Tuesday Club of Annapolis.
USS United States vs. HMS Macedonian – A signal victory brought home by storied Marylander Stephen Decatur, this song was composed shortly after the action of 25 October 1812. The composer is lost to history, but the tune is called “Decatur’s Victory.”
The Patriotic Diggers – Composed by the eminent American poet Samuel Woodworth, this song describes the preparations for New York’s defense after the burning of Washington on August 24th, 1814.
Music: "USS United States vs. HMS Macedonian", composer unknown, to the tune of "Decatur's Victory" composed by Peter Brice. "The Patriotic Diggers", composed by Samuel Woodworth, to the tune of "The Old Oaken Bucket".
Choreography: Catherine Marafino.
MADE IN AMERICA
Most Native Americans were forced to leave Maryland during the 1700’s when eastern tribes were being displaced by colonial expansion. The original inhabitants of the area that is now Maryland included the Lenape, Nanticoke, Powhatan, Susquehannock, Tutelo, and Saponi tribes. These tribes are not extinct, but except for descendents who hid or assimilated into white society, they do not live in Maryland anymore. Most Lenape people were forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1860’s where they became a part of the Cherokee Nation. We begin this suite with a traditional Cherokee chant, and present the traditional Friendship dance, always done in circles, to represent North America.
Friendship Dance – Native American, African, and European traditions all met through-
out North America and new traditions emerged.
Flatfooting – the older Southern Appalachian form of step dance, an individual
improvisational response to fiddle tunes, is still found all over the
Southern Root – arranging the steps in unison and in patterns of circles and lines
started in the early 1900s. This routine, in a North Carolina style, is the
first piece in our repertoire, created in March of 1979.
The City of Baltimore – was written for this production and refers to the many folks from further South that moved to Baltimore and Maryland seeking better employment and education opportunities.
Shenandoah Breakdown – a favorite bluegrass tune. The Baltimore-Washington area remains a hotspot for Bluegrass music which is one of the results of Irish, English, and Scottish fiddle tunes meeting African sounds in the new world. The modern banjo’s ancestor is likely a gourd instrument from West Africa, and there were many African American banjo players in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, mostly playing homemade banjos. The banjo was a major part of the minstrel shows in the mid 1800s, was wildly popular across the nation, and the instrument continued to evolve. One of the first noted banjo makers was William Esperance Boucher from Baltimore.
Funk on Feet – a contemporary clogging routine. Originally from the Southern Appalachian Mountains, clogging is now found all over the world.
Music: Fiddle tunes: “Coal Black Night,” “Leather Britches,” “Dubuque,” “Possum On A Rail,” all traditional; “Funk on Feet,” Mark Schatz and Jon Glik, “The City of Balti-
more,” Mark Schatz
Choreography: traditional, Eileen Carson Schatz, Heidi Kulas
WE NEED A GOOD TIME
From colonial times to the present, Maryland, especially Baltimore, has attracted people from all over the world looking for a chance to build a better life. By the mid 19th century, most immigrants were German, African, and Irish, with a smaller percentage of French. In the late 1800’s Austrians, Scandinavians and Russians added to the population, and in the early 1900’s Eastern and Southern Europeans also immigrated to Baltimore. In the 1930’s approximately 3,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Germany arrived, and in the 1940’s the city attracted over 250,000 white, black, and Native American migrants in search of wartime jobs. The many industries in the Baltimore area, such as the McCormick & Company spice factory and Bethlehem Steel of Sparrows Point provided employment. Meanwhile, the city had become a major crossroads for swing and jazz – Billie Holiday, Chick Webb, Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway and his sister Blanche Calloway all were born and raised in Baltimore. Live music and dancing were found in the many clubs and theaters all over town, and from 1922 until the mid 1960’s, the Royal Theater on Pennsylvania Avenue was a nationally known hot spot.
We Need A Good Time – another song written for this production about music and dance lifting our spirits. Matthew Olwell and Emily Oleson bring swing dance to the song. Together they are Good Foot Dance Company and we are very happy to have them with us tonight.
Hoofin’ - a cappella old style tap dance with steps from Eileen, one of our tap heroes
Brenda Bufalino of New York, and the legendary LaVaughn Robinson of Philadelphia, a beloved mentor and teacher who shared the stage with Cab Calloway, Tommy Dorsey, and Ella Fitzgerald and toured with Footworks in the 1980’s.
Tribute to Baltimore Hoofers – Buster Brown, one of the great tap dancers from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, was born and raised in Baltimore and started his career there in the annual “Autumn Follies.” He went on to tour nationally with many of the great jazz legends. “Baby Laurence” Jackson, another of the great tap dancers of the same era and also from Baltimore, started his career as a singer and was around the tap dancers of the time as he toured the Loew’s Circuit. Around 1940 he focused on tap dancing and became a soloist, dancing with the big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie throughout the 1940s. In the 1950s he was influenced by Charlie Parker and other bebop musicians and was thought of as a drummer as much as a dancer. This evening we are thrilled to have renowned tap dance artist Baakari Wilder with us. Paying homage to Baltimore Maryland’s legendary hoofers Baby Laurence and Buster Brown, Baakari will include some of their steps and perform to the tunes they favored, “Cute,’ and “Billy’s Bounce.”
Music: “We Need A Good Time,” Eileen Carson Schatz and Mark Schatz, with special thanks to the great song writer Si Kahn for all the source material he shared with us; “Cute,” Neal Hefti; “Billy’s Bounce,” Charlie Parker
Choreography: Emily Oleson, Matthew Olwell, Eileen Carson Schatz, Brenda Bufalino, LaVaughn Robinson, Buster Brown, Baby Laurence, Baakari Wilder.
We present a tribute to the African ancestors and to the African American people and are so delighted to have guest artist Jabari Exum with us this evening to recite poetry that was written for this piece. Guest artist Rita Burns brings the words to life with modern dance.
How Does She Do It? – a poem that acknowledges the experience and journey, especially the strength to overcome.
Music: Drumming, traditional, “How Does She Do It?” Gayle Danley
Choreography: Kim Kristi Jones, Eileen Carson Schatz
“DANCIN’ IN THE STREET”
The Motown explosion in the 1960s demonstrates the power of music to leap over ethnic and cultural barriers and encourage respect and appreciation. Motown is a record company originally founded by Barry Gordy, Jr. in Detroit, the “Motor City.” Motown played a vital role in the integration of popular American music by achieving major cross over success. From 1961-1971, Motown had 110 Top 10 hits and Motown acts enjoyed widespread popularity with black and white audiences. Popular recording artist Smokey Robinson said: “We were not only making music, we were making history. I did recognize the impact because acts were going all over the world at that time. I recognized the bridges that we crossed, the racial problems and the barriers that we broke down with music.” The Royal Theater in Baltimore went on from it’s days hosting the great swing and jazz acts to present all the great Motown Acts into the 1960s.
Dancin’ In the Street – one of the great Motown hits released in 1964 by Martha and The Vandellas. The song was re-issued in 1969 and became a million seller and one of the most played singles in history. We present it here with a “Soul Train” line, popularized by the TV show “Soul Train” that aired from 1971 until 2006.
Dancing in the aisles is encouraged!
Music: William Stevenson, Marvin Gaye, Ivy Jo Hunter
Choreography: Eileen Carson Schatz, Marsha Searle, improvisation by the dancers
Flatfoot/Tap - Matthew and Baakari trade some flatfooting and tap sounds.
Baakari’s Groove – Baakari brings us contemporary tap dance.
Music: Mark Schatz, Steve Bloom, Baakari Wilder
Choreography: Matthew Olwell, Baakari Wilder
HANDS AND FEET DOWN
People all over the world gather together to play music and dance for personal expression and to connect with others in a social setting. Powerful traditional music and dance is often found where struggle and hardship are present in the culture and music and dancing give strength and hope. Many of our favorite dances come from using work tools, work shoes and boots, and the body as a musical instrument. There are many versions of this found worldwide.
Hungarian Boot Dance - America’s population is a beautiful tapestry of diverse cultures from many lands. Footworks’ principal dancer Agi Kovacs is an immigrant, born and raised in Hungary. She brought us this boot dance from her native land.
Hambone - we are inspired by early African Americans who sang to aid in their labor and used their own bodies as percussive instruments, called hamboning or pattin’ juba. At the folk festivals of the 1970’s and 1980’s Footworks co-billed with the Georgia Sea Island Singers. At parties after the shows we traded steps and songs and they taught us to hambone.
Steppin’ - created by African American fraternities in the 1970’s. In the late 1990’s Footworks shared a co-bill with Step Afrika!, the first group we know of to bring stepping from it’s origins on college campuses to the performance stage. As long time fans of steppin’, we invited them to guest artist with us in many shows.
Music: “Hambone,” traditional.
Choreography: Eileen Carson Schatz, with special thanks to Frankie and Doug Quimby; Paul Woodruff & Step Afrika!
MIX IT UP
Flathop - a flatfooting piece that has allowed itself to be taken over by contemporary pop culture and is an intersection of rural and urban traditions.
Hip Hop – from Baltimore native Seth Johnson, a piece with Hip Hop and modern dance influences from his environment.
Music: Fiddle tune “Sugar in the Gourd,” traditional, arranged by Mark Schatz and Steve
Bloom; Beat Box, Jabari Exum
Choreography: Emily Oleson
ANKE DJE, ANKE BE
(EVERYONE GATHER TOGETHER IN PEACE)
Drumming has always played a central role in many cultures all over the planet and we could not resist bringing together the muli-cultural array of drums that our musicians play. We present a blending of the Shekere, a West African instrument made from dried gourds, the Bodhran, an Irish frame drum, the Cajon found in Cuba and South America, the Daf, a frame drum from Iran, and the Djembe, a rope-tuned skin covered drum from West Africa. According to the Bamana people of Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying Anke dje, anke be which means “Everyone gather together in peace.”
Abakwa – a popular call and response song from West Africa. Please join in on the
Primordial Soup – jamming on the drums.
6/8 Time - drumming in 6/8 time.
Music: traditional, improvisation from each drummer, arrangement by Steve Bloom
STEPS AND STRIPES
Francis Scott Key was born in what is now Carroll County, Maryland and he studied law at St. John’s College in Annapolis. The Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13, 1814 was a big turning point in the War of 1812 and Key was on board the British ship HMS Tonnant in the Baltimore Harbor to negotiate the exchange of prisoners. He was held captive because he had overheard the British intent to attack Baltimore. Key watched the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry throughout the night and could see the Fort’s American “storm flag” still flying by the light of rocket barrage, but when the battle stopped, he would not know the outcome until dawn. A huge new Garrison flag, which had been made by Baltimore flag maker Mary Pickersgill and her daughter, was raised over Fort McHenry early on the morning of September 14 to replace the tattered storm flag and to signify the American victory. Key was so inspired by the sight of the American flag flying triumphantly above the Fort that he began to write a poem which he completed after his release on September 16 entitled “Defence of Fort McHenry.” Key gave the poem to Judge Joseph H. Nicholson who saw that the words fit the melody of the popular British song “The Anacreontic Song.” Nicholson took the poem to a printer in Baltimore who printed broadside copies of it, and on September 20 the Baltimore Patriot printed the song and it quickly became popular and continued to gain popularity throughout the 19th century. By a law signed on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, “The Star Spangled Banner” was made the official national anthem of the United States. We feel a deep connection to Francis Scott Key keeping faith through the night of peril and then writing a song about what the flag symbolized to him: hope and a land of freedom for all.
De Peace – an a cappella percussive dance influenced by the multi-cultural array of
traditions in Footworks’ experience.
“We Dance America” – poetry written for this production, recited by Jabari Exum
The Star Spangled Banner – percussive dance influenced by old style “military” tap.
African drumming and dance
Irish Fiddle Tune with Djembe – traditional Irish dance meets African traditional
American Fiddle Tune – clogging, one result of the blending of cultures in America.
Swing dance – another dance style made in America.
Bucket music – urban American dance.
Tap - another American result of the mixing of percussive dance traditions.
All In – a combining of dances found on these shores.
Music – “We Dance America,” Gayle Danley; “The Star Spangled Banner,” music by John Stafford Smith, lyrics by Francis Scott Key; Irish fiddle tune: “The Silver Spear;” traditional; American fiddle tune: “Steps and Stripes,” Mark Schatz; “Bucket Music,” Steve Bloom
Choreography – Eileen Carson Schatz