Robert Dotson, a flatfoot dancer of Sugar Grove, NC and recipient of the 1994 North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, passed away January 13, 2015, after a brief illness at the age of 91.
Born in the early 1920s in the Sugar Grove community of Watauga County, just west of Boone, Dotson and his wife, Myrtle, practiced and promoted the traditional flatfoot dancing of the region.
Robert and Myrtle Dotson made a conscious and concerted effort to keep alive the traditional flatfoot dance styles of western North Carolina. While many of their neighbors performed the latest clogging variations, the Dotsons deliberately wove the old-time flatfoot and buckdance steps into their dancing.
“You don’t learn to flatfoot overnight, not a good flatfooter,” Robert said. “You go to several dances and you’ll say ‘Well, I’m getting it now,’ but it takes awhile. Sometimes I get carried away and I get my feet too high.” Robert described flatfooting as smooth and light with both feet kept close to the floor. Buckdancing, he said, is rougher and heavier, with higher steps.
The Dotsons built a solid local reputation for their dancing. They won first prize at nearly every dance contest in their section of the Blue Ridge.
In his final years, Robert continued to dance at home and at limited public events. “I just love it,” Robert said. “When I hear the music, I just get the rhythm. I’ve got to get up.”