Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I Want To Accomplish Now

Well, as you can see, it is going to start with a class that I am offering beginning on June 15. This will be the first class I have taught since the mid to late 1990s. Due to a long-term illness, I had to give up dancing for a good while. I am dancing again, but I don’t have the stamina to do what I could before.  But clogging has been such a passion of mine for many years, and as you can see, if you read my previous posts in this blog, I am devoted to the traditional style of clogging.

When I looked at the “Clogging Halls of Fame,” (I think there are two of them) and noticed that they are full of modern cloggers with mention of only a few of the pioneers that they felt they had to include, and failed to mention truly great cloggers from the pre-modern era, such as David Alexander of the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers, Morris Hampton of the Daniel Boone Cloggers, Diana Embleton Callahan Hatfield of the Moonshine Cloggers or any of the Green Grass Cloggers, I realized that the powers of the current Clogging Councils do not believe that anything of significance occurred before the modern era. If the 1970s was a golden age for anything, it was a golden age for clogging.

I am so pleased to see the Green Grass Cloggers are touring at major venues such as the Merle Fest, Lake Eden Arts Festival and others during this, their 40th Anniversary year. They inspired so many people to dance many years ago. Although they were seen somewhat as renegades for dancing with high kicks and doing Western choreography, not to mention their hippie appearance, the audiences welcomed them and, in true adoration, formed well over a hundred clone teams in their footprints. That is similar to the effect that Bill Monroe had on string band music. He forged his own style and many new bands picked up in his footsteps and it became known as bluegrass music.

As for myself, as I have discussed, I wanted to emulate the Green Grass Cloggers in many ways, but I did not want to form a clone team. I had too many ideas of my own that I wanted to express. I admit that I was an intentional renegade in the world of clogging when I set out, because I wanted my routines to be Western in style, and I wanted to use high steps and high kicks. But otherwise, I wanted the footwork to be very traditional, at least with respect to what the top competition teams were doing at that time.

So the Skyline Cloggers came and went as I lived in Charlotte and danced with them for five years and then moved away. I returned to Charlotte about 12 years later and decided to do some clogging again. I did not want to play catch-up with the modern style, which did not appeal to me that much anyway. I was comforted to see that there were still some traditional teams in North Carolina and other places, so I decided to keep the old-style step. I was content with my step because I had been told early on by an old-timer at Ralph Stanley's festival in Virginia in 1977 that I reminded him of the way people danced long ago. I started teaching again and formed a new team called the Wareham Branch Cloggers. This team was an older team, as I was older too, so we didn’t dance as fast as before. The team lasted several years until attrition took its toll and I was unable to replace departing dancers with new team members. It was different the second time around. When I offered classes in the late 1970s, I had sometimes 50 or more students. Fifteen years later, I was lucky to get a dozen. Now in the present time, I don’t know what to expect.

People of this day do not have any concept of what I want to do, because it has      disappeared. That’s one reason I started writing a blog on clogging. What I am able to do will depend on what the class wants to do, and what they are able to do! If the class is mostly interested in learning a few steps so they can dance when they go to the mountains, that is fine, I can teach them. If they would like to see a monthly community “hoedown” dance happen in Charlotte, that would be even better. I would love to see the old square dances come back to Charlotte. When I say come back, you can ask Marilyn Price, founder of the Charlotte Folk Society, about that. In the post World War II era, there were frequent square dances at many schools in Mecklenburg County doing the Appalachian style Big Circle Square Dance as a fund-raiser event. That is where Marilyn Meacham met her husband, Jim Price, at a Woodlawn Elementary School square dance.

If the students want to form a team, then that is better still. Teams are what I am most interested in. If I can attract enough young folks then I will challenge them to perform the kind of routines that electrified and thrilled me when I first witnessed them so many years ago. If it’s an older crowd, then we will do what we are able to do and have fun. One thing is certain though, I won’t be dancing on the team. Due to the effects of my illness and age, I can do a rise-n-shine, but that’s about it. But I am full of choreographic ideas and would love to direct.

I would also like to find among the people who may be attracted to clogging now some who would enjoy doing the smooth dance. This is something that I can and would participate in. Kay Wilkins explained to me how the tradition started with the smooth dance, and it was converted into a clogging routine. This graceful dance is not found much outside of the Asheville area, and it is truly an original North Carolina folk dance. A dozen or so years ago, Theresa Shadoin, a current teacher at Avery County High School and former team clogger at Avery County under the direction of Kay Wilkins, brought back the smooth dance tradition to Avery County High School. While I was President of the Charlotte Folk Society, when we partnered with Central Piedmont Community College to produce an annual festival called the “Folk Frolic,” I was able to get the Avery County High School Smooth Dancers to come to Charlotte for that festival.

Here are a couple of videos I uploaded to YouTube of smooth dancers:
Pisgah View Dancers:
Avery County High School Smooth Dancers

I plan to continue teaching and hope to preserve “my kind of clogging!”


  1. I was a student of Diana Hatfield & her sister Debra Austin in Nashville from 1979-1981. I saw the 1 short youtube video you had of Diana but could not see her face. I have spent many hours trying to find some video of them back during their great years together. Other than the old Hee Haw tapes do you know any way to get even the smallest video of one of their routines? Thanks so much. Bobbie Murphy

  2. I live in NC, but moved to Nashville in December 1981, and returned to NC in December 1993. I went by their activity at 100 Oaks mall a couple of times. I do have a couple of pieces of video of Diana and Debra with the "Dewdrops" in 1981 at Fontana. It is video of their Dueling Banjos routine taken from back angle. Some day I may get it converted and post it on You Tube! You could contact Gaylord in Nashville who owns rights to their TV appearances.

    1. Dueling Banjos was one of their best. Would love to see you post it on youtube.

    2. I have uploaded Dueling Banjos filmed at 1981 Clog College. See my most recent post (May 2012) for the link.

  3. Glad to see someone who recognizes some of the pioneers of clogging. I learned to clog from David Alexander, and I also know Morris Hampton. I was an alternate for the Grandfather team, although I only ever danced with them in practice. I was the on next team and was the caller. David also taught me the routine for the little team and I was his back up caller for that team as well as able to call the Grandfather routine. I helped him teach in my second year, it was quite an experience. It was a great time in my life when I was clogging, and I was reluctant when my parents signed me up, but I was glad they did. I loved going to the competitions, especially to Slade, KY, for Nationals. I was the only dancer from our teams, other than David who won in awards that were mostly swept by the Kentucky teams. We never went to World in Fontana Village, but I know that Morris and Daniel Boone Cloggers usually took that. It is sad that when I see clogging these days, it bears almost no resemblance to what I know.

  4. Rob, You had a wonderful experience as I did. I went up to Hoedown Island when Mr. Jett was still putting on events there, but after the Nationals. I rotated my alternates frequently. We had usually 6 ladies and 4 gents. We got to 5 gents for a brief time. We had a rotation schedule so everyone got to dance equally.

    I am also dismayed by what clogging has become. I think it is fine for the young folks to invent their dances the way they want to do it, but the name of "clogging" has been taken away from its original style and what they are doing now should be called something else. Here in NC, it is the official state folk dance. I can find very little interest for it in Charlotte. That is so different from the earlier years. It is still being done in the traditional style in places like Asheville and Mt. Airy, and the NC State Fair Folk Festival still has categories for traditional style clogging and the judges know it and appreciate it. Hopefully it will survive and have a revival some day. What is most missing is the square dance choreography and dancing with male-female partners. Also what I called the "clogging rhythm" has been lost in the footwork!

  5. Allen, funny we are both in the same area as I am also in the Charlotte area, and I never see anything about clogging here. Like you I enjoyed the routines as well as the dance. We also performed our "smooth" routines in addition to out clog routines. Back in the day with David, I knew the routines for each team, could call each of them, and was David's back up caller (He of course called the routine for the Grandfather team and he also called for the little team, while I called the junior team). I have even created my own routine before. Maybe one day there will be a return to what it once was, I would like to take my kids to see what it was that I once did.

    1. Rob, If you live near Charlotte, we should meet sometime and chat about this further. Perhaps we can get something started again! My phone number is different from what was published in the class announcements. It is now 704-595-3195.

  6. I just found this post, and I thank you for it. Diana (Hatfield) is my aunt, and Debra "McCoy" is my mom. I find it sad that more of their history and contributions to clogging can't be found on the Internet. Most of the modern cloggers don't know who they are and have no idea what they did to revolutionize clogging. I wish there was more video available, but right now we don't have much in our own hands, either ... Thanks again! - Kandi Hodges (a former little Dew Drop)