The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, will be presented to master dancer, dance caller, judge, teacher, and founder and director of the Appalachian Country Cloggers, Lou Maiuri of Summersville on Saturday, May 24, as part of the 32nd annual Vandalia Gathering. The award will be given to Maiuri during a 6:30 p.m. ceremony and concert in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. Maiuri and his group Appalachian Country Cloggers also will perform during the concert. The event is free and open to the public.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History presents the Vandalia Award annually to a West Virginian who has made outstanding contributions to the continuation of the state’s folk heritage. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the performance, creation or perpetuation of West Virginia traditional arts. The Vandalia Gathering, an annual three-day festival of traditional arts and folk heritage, is celebrated Memorial Day weekend at the Cultural Center and the State Capitol grounds. More than 40,000 people attend the three-day festival each year.
A native of Montgomery, Maiuri has been calling square dances professionally for more than 25 years. He has managed to turn his love of dance into a second career, one that has allowed him to travel all over West Virginia as well as to Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida and Oklahoma to name a few.
Maiuri is also an award-winning flatfoot dancer, and he works hard at keeping the old styles of mountain step dancing alive through teaching, performing and competing. He has produced an instructional DVD and video called “Let’s Flatfoot!” and last year won the Florida State Clogging Championship.
Music and culture has always played an important part in Maiuri’s life. He became very interested in string music in particular while in his teens. That is also when he began dancing, and the dance of choice in the 1940s was the jitterbug. Maiuri says he and his sister taught half their high school how to jitterbug.
After high school, Maiuri took a job with the telephone company in Glasgow, Kanawha County. Shortly after that, he was introduced to the older style of flatfoot dancing on trips to Pocahontas County with his father. There he met Dan and Hamp Carpenter who played the banjo and fiddle respectively and danced in the old-time flatfoot style. On subsequent trips to Pocahontas County, Maiuri started going to square dances at the Dunmore Community Center and heard people calling in time with the music, instead of calling to their own cadence.
Maiuri credits Jeff Driggs of St. Albans as having the biggest influence on his teaching and calling skills. He says Driggs is an incredible clogging choreographer and probably the best teacher in the country. Maiuri took advantage of those skills and learned from them. Maiuri has used his talents as an instructor at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College during the summer workshops for at least 12 years.
Maiuri calls two or three dances a month throughout the year, and more during the summer. He says the resurgence in square dancing is partly do to the fact that there are more musicians now who are playing the old-time music.
Maiuri is the 28th recipient of the Vandalia Award. Last year, Patty Looman of Morgantown was honored. For more information about the Vandalia Award or the Vandalia Gathering, call (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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Media Note: Lou Maiuri can be reached at (304) 872-5803.