Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shuffle One, Shuffle Two

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.

It begins!


  1. Beautiful! Makes me want to hop up and start dancing, too but am quite sure my feet would get quite tangled... Even after years & years of ballet training, that stepdancing has me quite intimidated!

  2. My daughter took lessons for years from the lovely and talented Chanda. She is truly amazing--what a talented family :)

  3. I always get so choked up listening to Leahy and especially when I see them all dance. I plan on putting my daughter in stepdancing too. And after watching the video you posted my boy seems to think he'd like to try as well!

  4. Those Leahys are incredible and extremely prolific. Dave has often pointed out Shonda(sp?) to me before. Hannah took step from Buster Brown for a year and did wonderfully but then life got to busy. Perhaps it is time to go back. On another note, there is a little boy in our house who loves Mr. P.

  5. LOVE that your kids are doing this. Can't wait for St. Patrick's Day! I remember C. dancing as a child, and also Julie- practicing on the board she would haul in since it wouldn't work on carpet. I never remember the learning practices- just the awesome jigs!

  6. Amazing video! I hope you film your kids first dance and post it for us!

  7. I grew up with the Leahy family as neighbours. They were an inspiration to us all.
    So happy to hear your kids are keen to go, I never could get mine interested.

  8. This is wonderful, Stephanie! Those OV roots are showing themselves strong :-)

    My oldest two took step, but it was hockey that won their hearts.

    Are you going to get a masonite board for them to practice on? I may still have ours kicking around...

  9. This post brought back memories and I have a good notion to dust off my step dancing shoes and give it a whirl. I have often thought about taking it up again. Great exercise and I always loved the music. Maybe I will show up at J and V's lesson with my shoes on and see what they think. lol
    My feet never stopped moving as a child, I used to do my routines while sitting at my desk in school and then practice at home while watching my reflection in the side of the fridge. This post inspires me.....


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