April Verch

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Steps From The Heart

A special step dance collaboration by April Verch & Simon Harmer

The Idea

Acclaimed step dancers April Verch (Canada) and Simon Harmer (UK) have come together to work on a special new project, Steps From The Heart. Combining research, new choreography, performance and teaching, it celebrates two of their dance heroes, Donnie Gilchrist and Alex Woodcock. April and Simon are working collaboratively to create new steps, with the finished performances being filmed in late 2021. The new piece will be premiered as part of an online presentation and interview about the project and its sources of inspiration. There will also be a workshop the following day teaching key elements of the new steps, with the two Zoom events scheduled for January 8 & 9, 2022.

The Dancers

April Verch is an award-winning musician and dancer who has been dancing since the age of three and fiddling since the age of six! She has recorded fourteen solo albums, and toured and taught worldwide for over 20 years. April grew up in Pembroke, Ontario, and the rich musical and dancing heritage of the Ottawa Valley region is at the heart of her work. Beginning with the tunes and step dancing of the early loggers, it also incorporates influences from French, Scottish, German, Polish and Irish settlers. A member of the Instep Research Team, Simon Harmer hails from the south of England and has been teaching and performing step dance styles for over 30 years, including English clog, Appalachian clogging and Canadian steps from Quebec, Ontario and Cape Breton Island. More recently he has been focusing on the social stepping traditions of the English counties of Sussex and Hampshire.

Watch April dance here, and Simon right here.

The Inspirations

April contacted Simon after stumbling across the Step Your Way video on YouTube, a project Simon worked on with hip-hop dancer and choreographer Sasha Biloshisky. April and Simon quickly found themselves taking the first steps towards this new collaboration. Their huge respect for and understanding of the legacy of their dance teachers and mentors (what’s becoming known as “dancestry” thanks to dance scholar, Janet Schroeder) inevitably led to the question, “If you had to name one dancer whose influence is still having impact on your dance journey, who would that be?”

April’s answer was Donnie Gilchrist, born in 1925 in Campbell’s Bay, Quebec. Donnie took dance lessons from the age of 4, and after the family moved to Ottawa in 1935 he supplemented their income by dancing at street markets and in dance halls. An international touring and teaching career eventually followed. Gilchrist is widely considered the pioneer of the Ottawa Valley dance tradition and it has long been part of April’s mission to help preserve elements of this style for future generations, including the ability to “dance the tune” and improvise. Simon’s selection was Alex Woodcock, born in Alnwick, Northumberland in 1922. Alex’s father (a miner) arranged for him to take dance lessons from Cuthbert May, son of champion clog dancer and teacher Eddie May. Alex went on to learn hornpipe, waltz and schottische steps, tap routines, and also learned and subsequently taught ballroom dancing and other popular dances of the day. Later in life Alex became better known throughout the UK clog dancing community as a performer and teacher with an engaging performance style.

The Main Event

The legacy of Donnie Gilchrist and Alex Woodcock is at the core of this fascinating project, further shaped by April and Simon’s thorough research, outstanding artistry and passion for their subject. The new piece will be premiered as part of an online presentation and discussion, with April and Simon in conversation with fellow step dancers and educators Toby Bennett (UK) and Sherry Johnson (Canada). April and Simon will then teach key elements of the new steps in the following day’s workshop, with the two Zoom events scheduled for January 8 & 9, 2022. Steps From The Heart is sure to be of interest to every step dance enthusiast, teacher and scholar!

When & Where

Saturday, January 8, 2022 – Presentation and performance
Sunday, January 9, 2022 – Workshop
Live on Zoom at 11:00 AM EST / 4:00 PM UK time

Need help checking what time that is where you live? Try this website.

If you’d like to get regular updates about the project & join the conversation in advance, please consider joining (and/or sharing!) our Facebook Event!

How to attend

Our Steps from the Heart presentation and workshop will both be hosted on Zoom. You’ll be able to join us from your computer, phone or tablet using the zoom link you receive by email.  (You’ll receive a confirmation email for your ticket as soon as you order, but the zoom link will be emailed the day before.) You will only need to purchase one ticket per household or per device that you want to watch on (the whole family can gather around one computer with one ticket.)

Using the button below, you can name your ticket price. Did we say “name your ticket price?”  Yes we did!  You can base it on whether you’re planning to attend both events (there will be a separate link for each.)  If you’re doing well these days and are able to support this project and the artists, a suggested ticket donation would be $30 total to attend both events.  If you’re out of work right now or struggling, just give what’s comfortable for you.  If you recently won the lottery or inherited a fortune, please be generous ;)  In any case, we would love for you to join us and please give what you can – no questions asked or explanations required! Tickets will be charged in USD so we’re including an approximate idea of conversions below to help you gauge your currency.

Some rough guess approximate conversions to help you do the math:
$10 USD / £7 / $12 CAD
$15 USD / £11 / $18 CAD
$20 USD / £15 / $25 CAD
$35 USD / £25 / $43 CAD

*Please remember to select “digital” under shipping so you won’t be charged shipping for your ticket.

*If you have any issues after clicking the “add to cart” button please click the shopping cart in the very top right corner of your screen to complete your check out.

*Ticket sales will end on January 7, 2022 so don’t wait until the day of the event to purchase.

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We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien