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REF NO.: 41

SUBJECT: Ottawa Valley step dancing focus of lecture at Memorial University

DATE: Nov. 1

The Research Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMaP) at Memorial University is pleased to announce the latest offering of the 2012-13 Music, Media and Culture Lecture Series.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, Dr. Sherry Johnson of York University will present Dancing from the Heart: Interpreting Music in Ottawa Valley Step Dancing.
The lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the MMaP Gallery, second floor, St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, with refreshments provided. The event is free and open to all.
Dr. Johnson will examine how two renowned Ottawa Valley step dancers – Donnie Gilchrist and Nathan Pilatzke – use structural and rhythmic elements to interpret fiddle tunes. She will contextualize this analysis with an overview of the changing relationship between step dancing and fiddle music in central Canada’s Ottawa Valley tradition.
Mr. Gilchrist (1925-1984), who is known as the father of Ottawa Valley step dancing, was renowned for his ability to interpret music. When dancing solo, he never performed formalized “steps”, but improvised movements in relation to the music; one of his former students calls it “dancing from the heart.” 
By contrast, many of today’s young Ottawa Valley step dancers are criticized for not dancing to their fiddlers or not listening to their music. While blatant timing errors are seldom a problem, even some dancers who compete at the highest levels are admonished for a lack of internal feel for musical rhythm. At one level, this has to do with how steps are structured in relation to the structure of fiddle tunes. More recently, however, there has been renewed interest in matching the rhythm of particular fiddle tunes kinaesthetically.
Dr. Johnson spent her childhood travelling across North America with her five siblings, performing and competing in fiddling and step dancing contests. With other groups she has performed in Ireland, Scotland, Austria, and Colombia. She wrote her PhD dissertation on the negotiation of tradition in Ontario fiddling and step dancing contests.

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For more information, please contact Kristin Harris Walsh, project co-ordinator, MMaP, Memorial University, at 709-864-2051 or  


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