Cloggers clatter in Suffolk
Published 10:51 pm Thursday, November 7, 2013
The Peanut City Cloggers are celebrating 30 years of dancing by inviting folks to a barn dance and open clog at the National Guard Armory on Saturday.
From 7 to 10 p.m., the occasion will include big-circle dancing, clogging exhibitions, cake walks, door prizes and refreshments, said Donna Riley, team managing director.
“It’s not just our clogging group, but others all come together,” she said. “It’s a very wholesome environment for the whole family. You can be 2 or 90 and enjoy it.”
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Riley was among the few who started the Suffolk group in 1983. It keeps alive a tradition that started in the Appalachia Mountains in the 1700s.
“It was the folks who settled in that area — English, Irish, Scottish, and they believe there is some Germanic influence,” Riley said. “They brought with them their native dances, and it became what we now know as clogging.”
Practitioners usually smile widely as they dance to traditional fiddle-driven music, and for spectators, clogging often appears to be all about fun. But it’s also about besting your opponents, Riley said.
The Suffolk team recently returned from the World Championships in Maggie Valley, N.C., with numerous first-, second- and third-place awards in team, duet and solo categories.
Qualifying for the competition, which brings together cloggers from around the world, requires either a first or second place at two preliminary competitions through year, Riley said.
The Peanut City Cloggers fielded a large number of competitors at the Oct. 25-27 championships after successful forays to contests this year in Lexington, N.C., and Orange County, Riley said.
“We usually do pretty well,” she said. “This year we were up against some really top-notch teams; (it) was a little more challenging than previous years.”
After dancing successfully against opponents who were grand champions at one or more 2012 other competitions, Riley’s son Shamus Riley was named the Melvin Sloan Grand Champion Male Clogger.
Winning the award means the 33-year-old will get a chance to clog at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.
“He hasn’t been given a specific date yet,” his mom said.
Each year, the top 24 junior and senior dancers nationwide are selected for the All American clogging teams. They represent the cream of the clogging crop.
“We have been privileged to have had someone named every year since 1985,” Riley said.
The size of the Suffolk team has ebbed and flowed over the years, according to Riley. “We have consistently had at least 20 dancers,” she said. “There have been times we’ve had more and times we’ve had less.”
Most dancers are children, she said, adding they move on when they go off to college.
However, “Recently, several of them have left for college, married, had children, and now they have returned with their children.”
Riley invites folks unfamiliar with the dance form to see clogging firsthand at the armory, on Saturday. Entry to the event, presented in coordination with Suffolk Parks and Recreation, is via a $5 donation.