Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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County Cloggers to take Park stage at fair

by Rob Ireland

August 23, 2012

ELKHORN — At the Walworth County Fair, rhythmic sounds will come from speakers and shoes during a popular annual performance.

It's dancing, it's music and a combination of the two. It's also known as clogging.

The Walworth County Cloggers will take the Park Stage at the Walworth County Fair Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.

"Our shoes are similar to tap shoes, but they are loose. It is a two-part tab, and one part makes a jingle," instructor Kim Booth said. "That gives us our unique sound."

In clogging, the dancer's feet create rhythmic sounds when the heel or toe strikes the floor. Music is also created when the dancers strike their shoes together. Cloggers dance to a range of music, from country to hip hop.

About 80 cloggers, ranging between the age of 3 and 32, are part of the group. The show at the fair is the group's biggest event of the year.

"We draw such a crowd there," Booth said. "It's so easy to pull people who are just walking by when they hear the music."

Booth said the group has been performing at the fair for around 20 years, and it uses the event to recruit new talent for the group. For some performers, the fair is also a favorite.

"I think for many dancers it is so popular because we know so many people in the audience," instructor Alison Brown said. "Our dancers live in all areas of Walworth County, so we draw a lot of people to our show. Many of our members are in local 4H and FFA organizations (as was I when I was younger.) So, we would spend the week of the fair 'talking up the show' and telling everyone we knew to come and watch. For me it was like the 'finale' of Fair Week."

Although clogging is a dance, and the group practices that, instructors Booth and Brown say the organization has appeal beyond the stage.

"Clogging is my family, its the group I have been with since I was in the fifth-grade," Booth said. "It's just a fun thing to do, we are not pressuring anyone to do anything, you don't even have to perform."

Brown said the dancers also bond outside of the dance studio, by participating in Relay For Life, having picnics and bowling nights.

"I have made many lasting friendships in this group, which is another reason why I love it," Brown said. " The instructors all bond well together and have worked on widening that bond to all of our dancers. Weekly clogging classes are a great place to feel welcome and included, all while having fun."

Booth said dancers can join the organization at the age of 3, with the tiny tots program. At 6, young girls can take beginner classes.

Booth said the young dancers also perform at the fair, and "they kind of steal the show."

The footwear used to produce the unique sound are split-sole shoes, which have soles in the toe and heel but don't have a sole in the middle. Does that sound uncomfortable?

"I stay in my shoes for the whole time that I'm at the studio," Booth said. "I dance with the last class, so you get used to it."

During the interview, Booth talked about the fun the girls have in the group. So, what about boys? Can they be cloggers?

Booth said they are welcomed to join, and males are involved in clogging but no guys are currently part of the group.

She said its not that men can't join, but she suspects they may feel a little intimidated joining a group of 80 females.

Online descriptions of clogging describe it as a folk dance. However, Booth said the group pulls from everything including Zumba, hip hop, cheerleading and country.

Are nerves rattling with the group's biggest annual performance on the horizon? Brown said she is looking forward to the larger audience.

"We love the fair because the music really attracts people that are just passing through... so the audience gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on," Brown said. "We love performing for this big audience."