Dan Wally Baker
Points of Origin
Born in Atlanta, GA, DWB requested and was granted relocation to the mountains of Western North Carolina at the age of one and a half. His hometown, Waynesville, North Carolina is host to Folkmoot - the state's official International Dance and Music Festival - as well as Friday night summer street dances where State Senator Joe Sam Queen calls square dances on corn meal covered Main Street with bluegrass bands parked on a flat bed trailer in front of the County Courthouse.
Haywood County, North Carolina is a hotbed of Appalachian Clogging as a birthplace of team clogging in the 1920s when Sam Queen formed the Soco Gap Dancers. Their high-energy percussive dance departed from smooth footed square dancing and pleased the crowds. Regulars at Bascom Lamar Lunsford's Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, the Soco Gap Dancers performed in the White House before the Queen of England in 1939. The queen allegedly likened it to clog dance in her home country and the name has stuck. Home to the Stompin' Ground and clogging icons such as Burton Edwards, Haywood County celebrates the rich heritage of Appalachian Folk Dance in street festivals, barn dances, and exchanges with international folk dance troupes.
In this Smoky Mountain milieu, Dan Wally Baker came to know and love to dance.
The Dancer's Pointe
At five years of age and learning to read, DWB ably discerned a sign in front of Waynesville's leading dance studio advertising, "Free Ballet Lessons for Boys." To his delight his parents capitulated hook, line, and sinker to "the first one's free!" Alongside his sister, prolific choreographer and magnanimous dance educator Sarah Jane Blackburn, DWB took 10 years of ballet with Marilyn Cloutier and spent seven years as a company member in jazz & tap with Shelia Radford Sumpter. In those formative years DWB danced every male and masked role in the Nutcracker three times over and traveled the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida performing and competing with the Dancer's Pointe.
Reveling in mountain music, country partner dance, and square dancing DWB descended to the foothills of Chapel Hill, North Carolina and promptly joined the Cane Creek Cloggers whose precision team clogging had sycopated and evolved from the Green Grass Clogger style popularized by high kicks in western square dance figures during the 1970s. Via the folkway of clogging groups at practices, performances, festivals, and most desirably potluck jams & dance parties, DWB discovered a more vast landscape of flat footing, buck dance, and finely tuned feet meeting hi-speed squares and completely drank the clogging Kool Aid. With the Cane Creek Cloggers 2003-2008 DWB performed regularly at Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival as well as alongside many of NC's finest folk musicians and the North Carolina Symphony in "Blue Skies and Red Earth" in Raleigh, NC.
After a brief northern exile, DWB returned to Western North Carolina in 2010 and joined the Green Grass Cloggers in Asheville, NC for their 40th Anniversary season including the Doc Watson Stage at Merlefest, Shindig on the Green, Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival, Hoppin' John Festival, The Swannanoa Gathering, Lake Eden Arts Festival, Wright Auditorium ECU, Union Grove, & Fiddler's Grove.
The Cane Creek Cloggers and the Green Grass Cloggers have indelibly impacted and continue to instigate and inspire DWB's dancing.
The All-Star Covered Dish Country Jamboree
Since moving to New Orleans in 2012 DWB has been a regular on the dance floor at the All-Star Covered Dish Country Jamboree where three or more bands churn out classic Americana honky tonk tunes every Tuesday night between October and May. At the Jamboree DWB found sounds like home and a disproportionate amount of good people on the dance floor and behind the microphone, not to mention the potluck supper... making every Tuesday night country night! He soon began teaching a lesson in country partner dance lesson as a part of the Jamboree. Come on out to Mags 940 Elysian Fields around 9pm. The 20 minute lesson is after the first band ~10:00pm.
Square Dance NOLA
Dan Wally Baker is the instigator of New Orleans' finest old time square dance party and regularly hosts and calls at Square Dance NOLA Events. First invited by Layne Brubaker to entertain at a Young Adult Volunteer fundraiser at First Presbyterian Church in 2012, the fiddle music and squares afoot resonated so well in Presbyterian Hall that no other outcome could suffice but to bring around all the foremost fiddlers and string bands in the area to set the people's feet to stomping in circles and squares across the hardwood floor. Between the incomparable hospitality of folks at First Presbyterian and the indefatiguable volunteer power of this fine collective of musicians and callers, Square Dance NOLA is proud to host community dances in New Orleans and poised to keep at it in the coming years.
DWB led Square Dance NOLA in the Kid's Tent at JazzFest 2015 with The Swamp Lilies and at JazzFest 2016 and 2017 with Lost in the Holler.
Outside the Jukebox
In October 2016 Dan Wally Baker was invited onto the team of radio personalities and DJs at the new community radio station dedicated to human rights and social justice - WHIV-LP New Orleans 102.3fm. Outside the Jukebox airs every Sunday 4-6pm featuring New Orleans' dance floors and the bands that make them move. Predominantly live musical performances and interviews with musicians and and dancers alike Outside the Jukebox has promoted swing dance, Cajun, Zydeco, country, Cuban salsa, and square dance across the Crescent City. The Outside the Jukebox Community Dance Calendar runs at 5pm Sundays.