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John Turner
Photo courtesy of Cedric Chaterly

John Turner

Dancer Vilas, NC (Watauga County)

John Turner has been flatfoot dancing for more than a decade, and his love for traditional music and dancing has an even longer history. He grew up in Gaston County, North Carolina. He met his wife Carol while the two were attending North Carolina State University in the early 1970s, and their first date together was attending a square dance at the Baptist Student Union on campus.

Carol is a native of Watauga County, and the two started making trips to the North Carolina mountains together. After working for a few years in Charlotte and Greensboro, John and Carol moved to Watauga County in the late 1970s. John’s father was a music lover, who encouraged John to attend bluegrass music events. Soon, John and Carol were busy frequenting the regional music and dance facilities and festivals.

During the annual Ramp Festival on Whitetop Mountain in Virginia, John observed a group square dancing to old-time music. “It looked like so much fun that I wanted to try it,” he remembers. He continued meeting more people with similar interests and became a regular at area dances. At one event, John was watching a clogging group that showcased the dancers and their steps. John quickly became interested in the solo dance traditions of the mountains, and began to participate at local music venues, dances, and festivals as a flatfoot dancer, clogger, and square dancer.

John’s flatfoot style is self-taught. “It’s based on a ‘chug,’ in clogging vernacular,” he says. “All I’m trying to do is keep time to the music.” The style includes a slide step rather than the double-toe step used in clogging. As a dancer John has competed at several fiddlers’ conventions and has won several prizes, including first place in the flatfoot competition at the 2006 Laurel Bloomery Fiddlers Convention in Tennessee. He has given demonstrations on flatfoot dancing at Appalachian State University and Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and at MerleFest. He has also helped at dance demonstrations and square dances. “The old-time music lends itself to dancing,” he says. “And to me, it’s almost like a total connection between the music and the community.”

John Turner is available for flatfooting performances, demonstrations, and classroom programs.