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Hooked on clogging

Samantha PalGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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RIFLE There are not many 17-year-olds who would list clogging among their activities. Clogging?Miriah Chapman does so proudly.She has Shonna Partain to thank for that. Partain is director and instructor of Western Slope Stompers, a New Castle-based clog-dancing group.Miriah has been clogging with the stompers for a little over three years.”My friends had started doing it, and they told me how great it was and how much they enjoyed it,” says Miriah. “So I thought I’d give it a try, and I really loved it. It was challenging but I really liked it.”Clog-dancing is a form of dance with a rich history. It originates in Holland, came to the Appalachians, and is a melting pot of many different forms of dance, says Partain.”It’s a lot more jazzy now, not with big skirts and wooden shoes,” Partain says. “The taps on the toe are loose now so they make more noise. Rhythm is a huge part of clogging.”Clogging shoes look like normal leather dance shoes, but they have toe and heel taps, consisting of two pieces of metal, one on top of the other. The first piece is adhered to the sole, while the other is loosely attached, making possible a loud clanking noise. They can’t be found at local shoe stores, and instead have to be ordered online.

Partain, who is 19, teaches 60 students, children and adults, at the community center in New Castle. Her students range in age from 4 to 60 years of age. Each student clogs in class for one hour a week.Of the children she instructs, most are in the fourth-grade, ages 9 and 10. Partain wishes that more boys were interested in clogging, as there are only four boys in the group. If there were more boys, Partain says, they would do more partner dances and hoe-downs.Partain says children find out about clogging through their friends, or through advertising in the newspaper and in flyers.But once they discover clogging, they get hooked.”They really enjoy it,” says Partain. “They get to dance with their friends and learn a talent that not many have.”Miriah says their classroom environment is “awesome and so relaxed,” and that everyone has a great time. She is in an intermediate level class with 10 others.”It’s one of those things where you can’t wait to go,” Miriah says. “It’s really fun.” Rachel Huffman, 14, says that clogging is hard at first but that after you learn a few steps it gets easier. She joined the group after a friend brought her to a class, and has been clogging for almost three years.”She’s really nice,” Rachel says of Partain. “If you don’t get it she’ll help you.” Some students catch on quicker than others, especially if they have prior dance experience, Partain says.

“It’s very intricate, and there’s a lot of different steps,” says Partain. “Age also plays a part.”Partain says the sound of clogging is part of the attraction.”How loud it is can really interest kids,” says Partain. “They get to hear the different sounds a clogging shoe can make.”Partain began clogging when she was 6 years old, with instructor Barbara Foster, as an alternative to tap dancing, which wasn’t offered in Carbondale. She began teaching at age 12, gaining experience under Foster. When Foster retired, Partain, then just a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, opened up her own studio, starting with just six students.”It was for the love of clogging,” Partain says. “I didn’t want it to die out in the area.”After a two-year process of training and traveling, Partain became a certified clogging instructor.Partain teaches her students her own choreography, and at this year’s recital they will dance to country, pop and other types of music. Each group of cloggers has a different costume and has been perfecting the routines for the past year.



Partain hopes that many will come and see her talented students.”It takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” says Partain. “It’s not something they can learn overnight.”Who knew a pair of shoes with toe taps could make so much noise.Contact Samantha Pal: 384-9105, spal@postindependent.com


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