Get to know the Steppers in 'High Steppin' - the dancers in the new Avett Brothers' video


Purple Charlotte Steppers Club in Avett Brothers video
A production still from the filming of the Avett Brothers' video for "High Steppin'," featuring 10 members of the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club. The Avett Brothers' bass player Bob Crawford is at far left; Purple Charlotte Steppers Club founder Demond Carter is at far right. (Purple Charlotte Steppers Club via Facebook)
Demond Carter describes the origin, mission and reach of Purple Charlotte Steppers Club
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Demond Carter has dancing in his DNA. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Carter grew up in a place where dance was part of the cultural fabric. "I grew up in an environment where my parents, my relatives, extended family, all danced," he says, "and I just assumed this was a part of all adult culture across the country."

Carter has lived in Charlotte, N.C., since 1992 — but after he relocated there, he noticed something was missing. "When I realized here in Charlotte there was no such culture of dance, I said, 'Wow — that would be something good for us to bring here to offer a different experience.'"

That's why, in 2004, Carter and his friends organized what is now Purple Charlotte Steppers Club, an organization dedicated to promoting dance and the positive health effects and social interaction that comes with it. "Our initial mission," Carter explains, "was to bring people together, provide an environment for them where they could socialize, be safe, and would not have to be in the same club-type of environment where the predominant goal is to sell as much alcohol at the bar as possible, but rather to have as much social interaction with everyone in the building as possible."

portrait of Demond Carter
Demond Carter, founder and executive director of Purple Charlotte Steppers Club, is a master instructor of Detroit Club Style Ballroom and Chicago Style Stepping dance forms. (courtesy Purple Charlotte Steppers Club)

Since that time, Purple Charlotte Steppers Club has grown to have quite an effect on the culture in North Carolina and beyond. In Charlotte, the club hosts a Thursday-night dance event that features classes in different styles of dance, offered at different levels, plus dinner and open dance. "We want to have a safe place where singles, couples, anyone can go and just have a really clean, good time," Carter says. "We know that dancing is a catalyst to preserving good health, also a catalyst to preserving your mind and fighting all the things that come with old age … so we want to keep people moving."

Purple Charlotte Steppers Club (its name is inspired in part by the effect of blacklight cast on white stucco buildings at night) has hosted classes and workshops through its partnerships with the Arts and Science Council (ASC) in Charlotte, with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' after-school enrichment program and with the Warlick YMCA in Gastonia, N.C.

Two Saturdays a month, the group has branched out to developing the dance community in Houston, Texas, and it conducts seasonal workshops in Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Maryland and elsewhere. The team at Purple Charlotte Steppers Club — comprising four certified instructors, four apprentice instructors and six administrative staff members — maintains a very busy schedule.

group photo at a Purple Charlotte Steppers Club dance event
Demond Carter (front row, kneeling) at a dance event with members of Purple Charlotte Steppers club. (courtesy Purple Charlotte Steppers Club via Facebook)

Amidst that busy schedule, Carter received an interesting phone call earlier this year from Dolph Ramseur, manager of the Avett Brothers. Ramseur introduced himself to Carter and asked if Purple Charlotte Steppers Club would be interested in choreographing a dance sequence for an upcoming music video. Carter says he and his wife, Ini Isangedighi, are fans of all kinds of music, including a number of country artists like Chris Stapleton and Willie Nelson. "But we had never heard of the Avett Brothers," Carter laughs. "The Avett Brothers are local; they're from Concord, North Carolina, so we're very familiar with the area where they were born, because it's not far from Charlotte."

Evidently, the Avett Brothers had done an online search looking for choreographers. "In the search, we came up first," Carter explains. "They looked at our website, they looked at some background information on us and said, 'Hey, they're local. We would love to partner up with them to see if we can do something.'"

And just as the Avetts had checked out Purple Charlotte Steppers Club, Carter reciprocated. "I looked up the Avett Brothers and listened to some of their music and thought, this is a great group," Carter recalls. " I gave them a call back I said, 'What can we do?'"

After a meeting with Ramseur and the Avett Brothers, Carter and Isangedighi began working out the idea for the dance that would appear in the video. "We pulled elements from our soul line-dancing background and some elements from our country line-dancing background and we just kind of brought them together, and when we did that, it just fit perfectly," Carter says. " We gave it to the brothers, they said they loved it, and then we shot the video."

The Avett Brothers requested 10 members of the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club for the video; five men and five women from the group participated. When they arrived at the shoot location, the Avett Brothers had already spent much of the day filming the pickup-truck scenes. For the dance portion, the members of the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club met with the video's wardrobe designer, Nikki Lane — yes, that Nikki Lane. "She was wonderful," Carter says. "She coordinated everything for all of the ladies and all of the gentlemen of the group, and we went into a fitting and put on our good cowboy boots and just waited for our turn to film."

Cast and crew photo from the High Steppin video shoot
Cast and crew photo for the Avett Brothers' "High Steppin'" video. Americana artist Nikki Lane (back row, center) was the video's wardrobe designer. (courtesy Purple Charlotte Steppers Club)

Although the weather was hot and, as Carter explains, "the outfits themselves were that thick 1950s polyester, so there was no breathing room whatsoever," the production day leaves Carter with only good memories. "The Avett Brothers themselves, they are wonderful, wonderful guys," Carter says. "We really enjoyed just hanging out, because that's really what we did. There was no pressure; we laughed, we joked, we rehearsed, we recorded, and that was it. Scott's kids came on set, we talked and joked around with them. It was really a fun time recording that day."

Behind-the-scenes video

On July 23, the Avett Brothers released this official behind-the-scenes look at the production of the "High Steppin'" video, featuring the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club.

When he saw the finished product, Carter was treated to another pleasant surprise. Having participated in a number of music videos before, he was accustomed to getting just a few seconds of screen time; "High Steppin'" provided something very different. "I honestly thought it would be a snippet," Carter admits. "When we saw the video, and I saw the cuts of us coming in and out, and then a little bit after the halfway point, we were just a constant fixture in the video. I was really taken aback by that."

Since the video's release on June 13, Carter says the reaction he's received from the Avett Brothers' fan base has been so positive; he reports the Purple Charlotte social media following has increased, and he receives 15 to 20 emails a day from fans. "People emailing us or putting messages on the video, saying 'You guys are great, you're part of the Avett family now,' [and] 'When are you coming out with the instructional video?'" (Good news on that front: Carter says an instructional video for the dance in "High Steppin'" is on the way.)

In the meantime, Carter and his team continue to host classes and events in North Carolina and around the country. They're also working to find a permanent facility of their own. The "High Steppin'" video has raised the organization's visibility even further. "For us to be that much involved with the final product," Carter says, "again, I was taken aback and I was really honored by that."

External Links

Purple Charlotte Steppers Club - official site

The Avett Brothers - official site

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3 Photos

  • Purple Charlotte Steppers Club in Avett Brothers video
    Ten members of the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club pose with the Avett Brothers' Bob Crawford and Scott and Seth Avett on the day of filming the "High Steppin'" video. Demond Carter is at far right. (Purple Charlotte Steppers Club via Facebook)
  • Purple Charlotte Steppers Club in Avett Brothers video
    Members of the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club in costume for filming of the Avett Brothers' "High Steppin'" video. Demond Carter is second from right. (Purple Charlotte Steppers Club via Facebook)
  • Purple Charlotte Steppers Club in Avett Brothers video
    Seth Avett, Scott Avett and Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers pose with members of the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club on the day of the video shoot for "High Steppin'." (Purple Charlotte Steppers Club via Facebook)