Show Review

Adventures in Mountain Dancing with Jesco White

Wil Burton
He’s the focus of a documentary, the subject of song, and the poster boy of mountain dancing. His name is Jesco White, and he is said to be the most famous person in the state of West Virginia.

The son of D. Ray White, Jesco was born into West Virginia royalty. He was also born to dance. Mountain dance. A cross between clogging and tap dancing, mountain dancing is Jesco’s trademark craft. No surprise, given that his father was - and still is - considered the greatest mountain dancer that ever lived. Because of all this, I could not pass up the chance to see the “Dancing Outlaw” in the flesh at the bar/venue, Now That’s Class, in Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb on the westside of Cleveland.

I was not sure what the rare Jesco appearance would consist of, or if he would even show up (he had cancelled a scheduled performance several months earlier at the same venue). I knew it would be memorable, but I did not anticipate watching an episode of Squidbillies on the projection screen, an appearance by his sister, Mamie, and passing around of a gallon-jug, filled with homemade moonshine.

Jesco cannot really be described in a written article. You have to see him in action. And although only a shell of his former self, due mostly to extreme gas-huffing over a long period of time, he can still put on a show with his feet. The sweat poured down his bandana-covered forehead as he pounded shots of whiskey in between songs. All the while, his manager gave him direction on what song was playing next and made sure that the show went on as planned.

He lives with the constant torment of depression and other drug-induced side effects and does not often make public appearances. He has become something of a folk hero in the vain of Daniel Johnston, a gifted performer constantly engaged in a battle with a tortured mind and soul. Perhaps his tragic life is merely a means to a legendary end, as it is a sure thing that Jesco’s legacy will live on for many generations. Or maybe that is just waxing philosophical.

Regardless, I applaud Now That’s Class for engineering such a cultural spectacle and for proving to Cleveland that Jesco White is still the ambassador of mountain dance.