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Group dances its way to awards

The Peanut City Cloggers are a busy bunch.

At the end of October the talented toe-tappers claimed a number of awards in the American Clogging Hall of Fame World Championship in Maggie Valley, N.C. The competition took place at the Stompin’ Grounds, a big dance hall fashioned to look like a barn, though it seats a couple thousand people.

The championship is an annual competition, but cloggers must participate in and win first or second place in a preliminary competition in order to qualify, said Donna Riley, manager of the group. The Peanut City Cloggers danced in the Mid-Atlantic Competition in La Plata, Md., in September, where they won first place.

The group entered seven categories at the Hall of Fame Championship, even though they qualified in 14. Riley said it likely was the discretion that helped them claim top prizes, because they focused all their efforts on their strongest areas.

Riley explained there are two types of clogging: traditional, or the original form that incorporates mountain figures and allows dancers to freely express their own style; and precision, which is more modern and includes performing repetitive steps. She said Peanut City Cloggers do both, but prefer the traditional style.

Each category has specific rules that are sanctioned for all competitions. Judging is based on artistic ability, showmanship and more.

They took second place in the open hoedown category, and first place in junior country hoedown, six or more couple precision, small mountain dance, running set precision, running set hoedown and Southern Appalachian. They also nabbed junior overall and senior overall, she said.

Team members pulled in some impressive solo wins, too. In the traditional solo dance off, Emma Gardner took third in the 15-17 age group, AnnMarie Knight took third in the 12-14 age group, Heather Wilson took first in the 15-17 age group, Jacob Parr took third in the 19-15 age group and Teresa Piontka took second in the 31 and over age group. Shamus Riley, the team instructor, took first in the contemporary solo dance-off, second in the traditional solo dance-off and third in the flat foot competition, all in the 26-31 age group.

“We really came back with a real sense of accomplishment,” Donna Riley said.

This is not the first bout of successes for the Peanut City troupe. During the summer the cloggers took nine gold medals, four silver and one bronze in the junior Olympics. Each year the American Clogging Hall of Fame announces an All-American Team composed of 24 dancers from across the nation, and last year a Junior All-American Team was added. Two Suffolk cloggers claimed spots on those teams: Jacob Parr and AnnMarie Knight. The Peanut City Cloggers have had at least one person make the All-American teams since 1995, Riley said.

Christina Byrd received a $500 scholarship from

Winning is very exciting, she said, especially because the Peanut City Cloggers now are known as a team to be reckoned with.

The group has been together for 25 years, Riley said. Today the youngest competing member is 6 years old and the oldest is 32. They have about 30 members, though only 15 compete, she said.

“Whenever we win, everybody wins.”

Riley is an original and founding member. More than 25 years ago Suffolk Parks and Recreation offered a clogging class. She had clogged before, so she took her 5-year-old daughter. “She just took off with it.”

Then a few parents decided to form a group. Today the Peanut City Cloggers is a non-profit organization that offers lessons for all ages that usually start with a six-week course.

“Its a really fun, family activity,” she said.

Anyone can learn the steps for various clogging styles, but to dance competitively, one has to have rhythm, Riley said. That, and a good bit of stamina n clogging can be a strenuous, cardiovascular activity.

Call Riley at 934-2558 for more information.

ashley.taylor@suffolknewsherald.com