BY CAIRRIL MILLS
Music, dance, and travel fill the lives of husband-and-wife team Jamie Gans and Tamara Loewenthal, also known as Fiddle ‘n’ Feet.
Loewenthal, 55, moved from Paraguay to Pennsylvania as a child and grew up immersed in international folk dancing. She fell in love with clogging while in college, first at Penn State and then at the University of Pittsburgh. She came to Bloomington because she knew of its strong old-time music and dance community. Fiddler Gans, 61, is from New Jersey, went to school at Macalester College in Minnesota, lived for several years in Canada (he has dual citizenship), and made many sojourns to Ireland before settling in Bloomington.
The pair were brought together professionally and romantically by a local friend, musician Sam Bartlett. Twenty years ago while on the road, Bartlett was trying to convince his reluctant friend, Gans, to move to Bloomington and showed him a video of Loewenthal dancing with a group called Rhythm in Shoes. “I would move to Bloomington for her!” Gans exclaimed.
Regular patrons of the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market have undoubtedly seen the couple — Gans playing the fiddle while Loewenthal dances on a portable wooden platform.
“Clogging is like Riverdance, but you’re not hopping quite as high, and you can move your arms,” explains Loewenthal. “Its movement is close to the ground, pretty smooth; there is a lilt and a lift which make it beautiful to me.” Clogging evolved out of folk traditions and is still learned primarily through mentoring.
Like his wife, Gans learned his craft mainly through working with traditional musicians. While he has mastered several instruments, he loves old-time and Irish fiddling best. He also serves as a disc jockey on WFHB’s bluegrass program, Rural Routes, and the Irish-focused show, The Celtic Road.
As Fiddle ‘n’ Feet, the couple travels extensively throughout the Midwest performing, teaching workshops, and calling square and contra dances. Their sojourns have taken them as far afield as England and Germany.
But they love to come home when their journeys are over. “It just feels so wonderful. The feeling of coming down that hill on State Road 37, seeing the College Avenue exit — it makes us warm all over,” says Loewenthal.