Goshen News, Goshen, IN

July 15, 2013

Cloggers get hooked early on unique dance form

By JENNIFER MEIER
CORRESPONDENT

— BRISTOL — Some are drawn to clogging because it looks like it could be fun. Others think it might be good exercise and some just want the challenge.

“Whatever the reason,” said clogger Sharon Stuckman, “You get hooked.”

Members of the Heartland Country Cloggers performed 13 different dances to both traditional and contemporary music Saturday evening at the Bristol Homecoming Festival. Shoes fitted with specially hinged taps make for the unique sound of clogging.

There are as many ages represented in the group as there are reasons to join.

Cassidy Woodall, 13, of Constantine, Mich., learned how to clog when she was 7 years old.

“I had seen clogging on television before,” Cassidy said. “And then my mom and I saw cloggers perform at the Shipshewana Mayfest. After the show we asked them if they gave lessons.”

They did.

Both Cassidy and her mother Ellen took the eight-week course with the Heartland Country Cloggers.  

Since then the two have performed in dozens of shows each summer.

“I’ve also learned Buck dancing, which is kind of one step up from clogging,” Cassidy said. “It’s more foot movement per beat. You’re on the balls of your feet more and do a lot more hopping and jumping around.”

Cassidy said she likes to learn the dances, but mostly enjoys performing on stage.

“She even talked her grandparents into taking clogging lessons!” Ellen said.

Becky Hochstetler got involved in clogging when her daughter Dori was 14 years old. That was in 1992.

Two years later she formed the Heartland Country Cloggers with a friend. Today, she’s still the director along with assistant directors Sharon Stuckman and Maribeth Rhodes.

Hochstetler is now clogging along side her granddaughter, Brittney Martin, of Nappanee.

Martin, who recently graduated from NorthWood High School, has been clogging since she was 6 years old.

“Nobody pressured me into learning just because both my mom and grandmother knew how and I’d grown up around it,” Martin said. “I wanted to figure out to get involved.”

That was certainly a challenge for Brittany who has spina bifida and is wheelchair bound.

“My grandmother taught me the different steps using her hands,” Martin said. “So we got some kid’s sandals and put taps on them.”

With a board resting on the arms of her wheelchair, Martin puts the shoes on her hands clogs to a variety of dance numbers.

“It’s a way for her to express herself with her hands instead of her feet,” Hochstetler said.

Martin uses one set of shoes for traditional clogging dances and a lighter weight version for the faster, more intricate numbers.

“In October we go to a workshop in southern Indiana,” Martin said. “That’s my favorite time because we get to meet cloggers from around the state and sometimes from farther away.”

Two times, in 2010 and 2012, Martin has had the chance to perform in a national clogging showcase in Nashville, Tenn.

“I felt a little out of my league,” Martin said. “I mean there were national champions there!”

But it didn’t stop Martin from performing and drawing a lot of attention.

“I am different and I think people are fascinated to see clogging with hands,” Martin said. “It’s an experience I will never forget.”

Martin is planning on studying journalism in the fall at Grace College on Winona Lake near Warsaw.

“I’m going to try to find time to keep clogging,” she said. “Practice is on Thursdays and I don’t have classes on Thursdays for the first eight weeks of school.”

Besides performing in six of the 13 dances, Martin also demonstrated and explained a variety of steps to the crowd watching the Bristol Homecoming clogging show.

Beginner classes, at Prairieview Missionary Church, 2612 Dierdorff Road, Goshen, start the first Thursday of October at 6:30 p.m. and run for eight weeks.

For more information, email heartlandcountrycloggers@gmail.com.