Arthur Grimes grew up in the Junaluska neighborhood near downtown Boone, and he has taken his unique dancing from his mother’s front porch to stages at Appalachian State University and MerleFest in North Wilkesboro.
“I started teaching myself to dance in 1975 on my family’s porch,” he says. “My cousins laughed at me, but I didn’t give up.” Arthur went to Asheville to see the Green Grass Cloggers perform, attended regional fiddlers’ conventions, and watched local flatfoot dancers to get ideas for his dancing. “I just sort of put it all together into my own steps,” he says.
Although his audiences may not be aware of African American roots of traditional mountain dancing, Arthur knew he had a claim to these steps. “I learned about the African roots of the banjo and saw movies and read descriptions of historic slave dances,” he says. He also danced with traditional mountain dancers, including as Watauga County’s Robert Dotson, a North Carolina Heritage Award recipient.
Arthur’s first performance was at Jim and Jennie‘s Bluegrass Park in 1978. “I see my dancing as a way to create understanding between the races. It’s something that folks can enjoy no matter what race you are.” He has continued performing, sharing the stage with several regional groups, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Steep Canyon Rangers.
“It’s a wonderful thing for me, and I hope to be doing it until the day I die,” he says. “I don’t enter competitions or anything, because I don’t need to win awards to love dancing.” Arthur enjoys performing and has special shoes for those occasions. “I wear my Steven Stompers [a brand of taps] and my black dress shoes with two pairs of socks to protect my feet from getting blisters,” Arthur explains. He credits his relatively late recognition to “just sticking with it,” and meeting and making contacts with the bands that have featured his dancing during their shows.
Arthur has offered workshops and demonstrations of his unique dancing style at local events, including regular sessions at Appalachian State University. “As long as the good Lord continues to bless me with good health, then I’ll still be able to do my dancing,” he says.
Arthur Grimes is available for solo clogging/dance performances. He is also available for demonstrations and some workshops.