Cloggers to stomp in Washington, D.C., parade

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If Abraham Lincoln could talk from his seat at the Lincoln Memorial, he might express puzzlement at a group of Carson City clog dancers tapping their heels to bluegrass music at his feet.

The eight-member troop from the Capitol City Clog Academy is set to dance July 3 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the national Fourth of July celebration. A stone-faced Lincoln will look on while the cloggers "buck step," "mountain goat" and "chug" for onlookers, dancing to a modern musical arrangement called "Star-Spangled Special."

The next day, the cloggers will join approximately 1,300 of their peers in the annual Washington, D.C., July 4 parade. Dancer Denise Ramsey, a Carson City resident, said hers is the only Nevada group in a spectacle that includes representatives from all 50 states and even some from Canada.

"As it gets closer, this is something we are definitely getting antsy about," Ramsey said. "The organizers (2002 International Clogging Expo) started getting people together in early 2001. Since 9-11 it really started gaining momentum. People want to show their patriotism."

Ramsey and her fellow Northern Nevada cloggers caught wind of the organizing effort through a network of cloggers.

"The clogging we do is very American -- American folk dancing -- so it fits the Fourth of July celebration well," she said.

American clogging dates to the 1700s when immigrants from the British Isles landed in the Appalachian Mountains. Although modern cloggers will apply the heel-stompin' steps to all varieties of music, traditionally it is a bluegrass dance, and in the South it's not hard to find schools specializing in clogging with hundreds of students keeping the tradition alive.

Clogging is a percussive dance which keeps time with the downbeat of music with the heels keeping rhythm (as opposed to the toes as in tap dancing). As it spread across the West, clogging picked up the influences of the different cultures into which it was incorporated. Where Appalachian cloggers might be identified by traditional petticoats, western cloggers might wear cowboy garb.

The shoes also vary according to who is wearing them. A "double-tap" mechanism with an attached metal plate and another hinged plate adds more resonance to the downbeat. And it is not unheard of for cloggers to make their own shoes.

The Capitol City Clog Academy brought the clogging tradition to Carson City almost as an accident nine years ago when Ramsey and some of her fellow cloggers decided to try something different from the "Tappersizing" exercises they had been doing on Monday nights.

"Some have come and gone, but pretty much everyone started together," she said. The group continues to meet Monday nights at Ramsey's house.

"Bluegrass is traditional. Sometimes we don't want to dance to traditional music -- but you'd have to shoot me before I would dance to Britney Spears," Ramsey said.

The dancers range in age from "39 to 70ish," Ramsey said, with seven women and one man. They include: Judi Bishop, Carol Kalleres, Regina Nichols, Lacy Sheck, Barb Fisher, Debbie Hochsprung and Earl Mussett.

Ramsey said the group, which can be seen yearly at the Carson City Rendezvous and other community events, is looking for $6,000 to get dancers to Washington D.C. For details call Ramsey at 885-7333.


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