Mid-state traditional dancer is named a national treasure

Jun 22, 2017

Thomas Maupin holds up one of his dancing shoes, to show how years of Buck Dancing have worn down their steal tap plates.
Credit WMOT

EAGLEVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  The National Endowment for the Arts acknowledged this week what traditional music fans have known for some time; mid-state Buck Dancer Thomas Maupin is a national treasure.

Maupin is one of the few remaining practitioners of Buck Dancing, a style related to Irish Step Dancing. With the NEA recognition, Maupin is now listed among the 2017 National Heritage Fellowship recipients.

Interestingly, Maupin doesn't consider his Buck steps dancing, but rather a form of percussion. He see his feet as just another instrument in the band.

“I am that tune. I am that tune that they’re playin’. My feet is tryin’ to play the tune along with them and be part of the music.”

To ensure that traditional buck dancing isn’t lost to future generations, the 79-year-old Maupin has taken on an apprentice. Courtney Williams is a student at Middle Tennessee State.

“We been meetin’ about once every two weeks. I’ll go over to his house and we’ll spend a little time. Austin and Daniel, his grandson, will play music for us and we’ll dance. He’s been showing me a few steps. I don’t know if I have them down yet (laughs).”

The NEA will fly Thomas Maupin to Washington mid-September where he’ll receive his award and will get a chance to show-off those unique Tennessee dance steps.