Cloggers prepare for tournamentPublished 10:29pm Friday, July 26, 2013
By William Scott
Fresh off a string of first-place awards in a clogging competition last month, the Peanut City Cloggers hope to achieve the same level of success in the Orange County clogging competition this Saturday.
The competition judges a wide variety of clogging styles including smooth, hoedown and Southern Appalachian. Dancers are judged on skill level, costume, showmanship and choreography.
The Peanut City Cloggers have been in existence for 31 years. The group, which focuses on traditional clogging, seeks to preserve the folk dance that originated in the Appalachian Mountains.
Donna Riley, who manages the club, had formed the club in coordination with a Suffolk Parks and Recreation clogging class. At the time, Riley was with the now defunct Western Branch Cloggers.
Ultimately, the group seeks to compete in the American Clogging Hall of Fame Competition by placing in at least two preliminary competitions. The ACHF competition is held in Maggie Valley, N.C., in October.
The group meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethlehem Ruritan Club for practice. Members are grouped based on skill level and size. Meetings can last as late as 11 p.m. for older members. Membership is $20 per month. The club also offers clogging lessons in the fall and spring for six weeks.
Last month, the Peanut City Cloggers participated in a competition held in Lexington, N.C. The club won first place in each of the categories it entered, in addition to the sportsmanship award.
Though a focus is put on dancing to country and bluegrass music, the club has also danced to contemporary music and themes such as “Footloose” and The Blues Brothers.
Clogging requires specific routines for male and female dancers. Most clogging groups, including the Peanut City Cloggers, do not have enough males to fulfill the needed roles, so groups are allowed to dress up their female members as males to substitute the missing participants.
“In this area, we have trouble getting males to sign up,” Riley said. “You go down to Carolina, they’re a dime a dozen. Around here, even the few young men we have to dance, they get teased a lot. My son started when he was 7 and he’s now 33, and it never bothered him a bit. He always said ‘Hey, I got my pick of the girls.’”
The club has about 25 members, which is about the average membership it has had through the years. Members usually stay until they enroll in college, though there are several adult members in their 30s.
“I do it for the exercise,” club member Bobby Greene said. “This is how I stay active. I’ve lost 18 pounds.”
The club also offers dances for parades, birthday parties, weddings and larger local events, such as Taste of Suffolk and Peanut Fest. They also have an annual barn dance held at the Suffolk National Guard Armory that is open to the public. For the past two years, the group has been a part of the Virginia International Tattoo Hullabaloo outside entertainment.
Call 934-2558 for more information about the group.