Going Clog Wild
Within the rhythmic heartbeat of the city lies a beat even more rapid. Dancing kicks it up a notch when cloggers set the beat. A rhythmic dance in which one’s feet become part of the music, clogging might be described as a form of country-infused tap dancing, only a little more abrupt. And—some would say—a lot more fun.
It’s not quite tap and not quite Irish dancing, says Edmond clogger Barbara Caballero, who describes clogging as “kind of a countryside Riverdance.” Compared to Irish dancing, Caballero says, clogging is “a little more loose and laid back.”
Unlike tap shoes, clogging shoes have two plates on the toe instead of one. They create a loud, unique sound as the two plates strike against each other and the floor simultaneously. “I don’t know of any other dancing that makes that kind of sound,” Caballero says.
Clogging descended from American mountain and hill country folk dancing. Traditionally, clogging accompanied bluegrass music but has since grown into a versatile, upbeat dance style capable of accompanying a wide range of music genres.
Her love for the dance led her to start a clogging group of her own. Eager to set up shop a little closer to home, Caballero decided to form her own clogging class with a friend that was also driving far for clogging lessons. Caballero’s friend brought along three more friends and the Cottonwood Creek Cloggers were born. The group meets in Caballero’s studio that she built on her property specifically for her class.
One of the great things about clogging, Caballero says, is that you don’t need a partner. “It’s easy if you’re a single and it’s easy if you’re a kid,” she says. And if your husband doesn’t like to dance, she laughs, “You don’t have to drag somebody along with you who doesn’t want to be there.”
You’re never too young or too old for clogging, says Caballero, who started clogging in her late forties. The students in her classes range from 10 to 65.
Cottonwood Creek’s oldest dancer, Jerri Rieker, says she loves “the energy, the exercise, and the freedom of expression” in clogging.
Two of Cottonwood Creek’s younger performers, 12-year-old twins Rebecca and Suzanna Davidson, travel all the way from Enid to attend Caballero’s class. Suzanna, who has taken dance lessons for years, says she “has always wanted to clog.” While Rebecca has only been clogging for a year, she says her favorite part is performing.
At Cottonwood Creek, performing with the group is never mandatory but always encouraged. “We never send our students to competitions, and we never make them perform,” Caballero says, “but we always encourage them to try performing just once.”
Often, she adds, it only takes one performance for students to overcome their jitters and become sold on performing. “A lot of people, just because they’ve never done it before, think they don’t want to perform. But once they try it once or twice, they find that they actually love it.”
Even though Caballero doesn’t advertise, the group continues to grow in popularity. Every year they perform at the Edmond Arts Festival, the Global Oklahoma Festival and the Oklahoma State Fair. They also perform in the Oklahoma City Arts Festival and are well-known regulars in Guthrie’s Victorian Christmas Walk.
“Whenever we perform, someone will come up and ask if we can appear at their event, or they give us their card and ask that we give them a call,” she says, “That’s how we get most of our performances.”
The Cottonwood Creek Cloggers meet in Caballero’s studio for two-hour classes twice a week. Beginner classes run for 45 minutes once a week. Each class costs $5 and you pay only for the classes you attend.
To check out more about the Cottonwood Creek Cloggers, or to see where you can catch them in an upcoming performance, visit their website at www.cloggers.net.