Ottawa Valley Stepdancing is unique to this area. It's a blend of Irish and Scottish dancing, with a Canadian style all its own. It evolved in the logging camps, where men of different backgrounds gathered every winter to work. The shoes have taps, but unlike tap shoes, they're loose. The rhythmic sound of these taps pounding the floor is the soundtrack of my childhood.
My next door neighbour and best friend started lessons at the age of five, and practised for thirty minutes every morning, while I sat on the couch watching and waiting to walk to school. As we grew, I often accompanied her to contests, where she soon cleaned up in her divisions. She became very well-known for her grace, beauty, and fleetness of foot.
She is now a mother of five, and operates her own dance studio where she shares her passion and gift with others.
You can see her performing in this video; she's wearing red, and dances with her husband (on drums), and her brothers-and sisters-in-law. I get goosebumps every time I see her dance, remembering that little five-year-old girl who practised so faithfully.
I'm delighted to take my own children to stepdancing lessons now! The echo of the taps off the cinderblock walls of a school's back room brings it all back to me. My children are starting at the beginning, learning to balance, shuffle, brush, flap, and stamp. The littler one hangs onto her brother's arm for support, and can hardly contain herself when the fiddle music starts.
See how her foot isn't even touching the ground?
They learn to really hear the music, clapping along, counting the beats, and listening for the accent signalling that it's time to begin.
Shuffle one, shuffle two, shuffle three, stamp, stamp!
All together, now.