STEPDANCING TEACHER, HOMESCHOOLER, RHYTHMFOOTER
Yes, it’s that Leahy, the eight-sibling, Juno-winning Folk/Celtic musical family. But when Frank Leahy met Chanda, he met not only a wife but a proud keeper of another rich tradition, Ottawa Valley Stepdancing. Five kids under 13 later, Chanda keeps the dancing alive at her Orangeville dance school, and her own family has launched a new musical/performing venture: Rhythmfoot.
So farmers had big families to work the farm. Yours… does something different.
Frank plays the drums, I play piano and dance, the kids all dance and play fiddle, my son plays the accordion and guitar, and the girls all sing as well.
You grew up in the heart of the Ottawa Valley.
Yes, where step dancing was born, in the lumber camps. Someone would have fiddle and their shoes and they would put down a piece of tamarack, and that was the night’s entertainment.
Most people probably think it’s Irish?
It’s very roots, there’s not a lot of structure to it, like the Irish. In Irish dancing, you dance a set way. For us it’s a little more fluid. The way we move our bodies from one person to the next, it is very different, and that’s okay, because the the way you are is the way you dance. Your personality shines through.
The fiddle, the local community dance… they’re being kept alive up here, but it’s a struggle.
With so much entertainment at home, there’s really no need to go out and socialize at a dance. At home, we teach the kids to Waltz and how to do all these dying arts. We say to our oldest boy, you’re going to need to know how to Waltz, the first choice of the women when you get older!
And where did the name “Rhythmfoot” come from?
We’d be around the kitchen table, the five kids would be banging their forks and spoons, and they are all rhythm-inclined because they all dance and I danced when I was pregnant with them all, and Frank is a drummer so he’s the rhythm, we’re the dancing… Rhythmfoot!