The North Carolina Arts Council has announced that five traditional artist teams from western North Carolina have received the third annual North Carolina Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeships awards.

Among them, Rodney Sutton of Asheville will mentor Willard Watson III, of Boone, in the flatfoot dancing style of Watson’s great-grandfather, Willard Watson Sr., and in the percussive dance styles of Sutton’s long-time dance group, the Green Grass Cloggers.

Sutton and the Green Grass Cloggers learned steps from Willard Watson Sr. and Robert Dotson, both of Watauga County. Watson and Dotson practiced dance styles picked up from local community dances—complicated styles that take a long time to master. Sutton devoted years fine-tuning his own ability to perform these styles and teach them. He met Willard Watson III in 2014 and shared with him memories of his great-grandfather going back to the 1970s.

Knowledge of Watson’s dancing techniques passed out of the family for several generations. Working with Sutton, Willard Watson III will have an opportunity to resume his great-grandfather’s legacy.

The N.C. Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeships program, launched in 2019, supports 12-month apprenticeships in the folk and traditional arts of the many cultural communities within the state’s Appalachian Regional Commission counties. You can find out more at NCArts.org.