Nevada County clogger groups hope recruiting youngsters helps preserve heritage
Special to The Union
6:30 p.m. Thursdays
540 Searles Avenue, Nevada City
6 p.m. Tuesdays
1240 E. Main Street #2, Grass Valley
$90/12-week series - First class is free
Series ends Dec. 19
Two local groups are committed to saving a piece of Nevada County heritage: clogging.
The Crosstown Cloggers, a group of admittedly older women, want an infusion of younger blood.
“We need some young people to learn clogging,” said Linda Cosick, the 69-year-old instructor of the Crosstown Cloggers. “For it to go away would be so sad.”
To encourage new dancers to participate, Cosick and her merry band of six cloggers — ages 55 to 75 — will start a weekly series of clogging classes Oct. 19.
Classes will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays in Nevada City.
Meanwhile, Nevada County’s legendary Tommyknocker Cloggers will host weekly beginner classes Tuesdays at 6 p.m. starting Tuesday in Grass Valley. They’re looking for even younger new members. Director/instructor Carol Smith said her group of 15 wants to add teens and pre-teens.
“We have an 11-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, but the rest are adults and older adults,” said Smith. “If we don’t get young blood in it, clogging won’t continue as a dance form. As the rest of us age, we’re going to eventually stop clogging. Over the years, our numbers have dwindled. We used to have 20 in a beginner class, now we’re lucky if we get three to five people.”
Silas Allen, a 14-year-old who has been clogging for five years, said he enjoys performing for others.
“I like how happy people can be when they watch us,” said Allen. “I’d like to see more boys learn clogging so I wouldn’t have to do solos all by myself.”
Clogging originated as the Appalachians were settled in the mid-1700’s. Immigrants shared the folk dances from their homelands, and combined them in an impromptu foot-tapping style. The word clog means “time” in Gaelic, and clogging is a dance in which the dancers’ heels keep time with the downbeat of the music.
Smith said clogging is also a dancing, living heritage of Nevada County.
“The Cornish did a lot of clogging,” she said. “We’d like to keep it alive. It’s part of our gold mining history.”
The Tommyknocker Cloggers travel and perform at venues both locally and regionally.
“We do about 15 performances every year,” said Smith. “That’s a lot and it’s a commitment. But if someone wants to do clogging just for fun, that’s okay, too.”
Clogging differs from tap dancing in several ways. Tap dancing shoes have two taps. Clogging shoes have two split, or articulated, taps that are riveted together at one end so the other end “flaps.”
“It’s definitely louder,” said Smith. “We dance faster, clap our hands, and stomp more flat-footed. Tap dancers are more prissy.”
Cosick of the Crosstown Cloggers, got her start with the Tommyknockers 25 years ago.
“I saw the Tommyknocker Cloggers perform at the Nevada County Fair, and decided they were having way too much fun without me,” she said. “I took their beginning class, and two years later the instructor was leaving and said I should take her place.”
Ultimately, Cosick left the Tommyknockers in 2004 because the touring and performing was too time-consuming. In 2006, she founded the Crosstown Cloggers, a group that clogs once a week but doesn’t perform publicly. The name was inspired by the fact the women travel from all across town for the Thursday evening clogging sessions.
“We have so much fun. It’s exercise but doesn’t feel like exercise,” said Cosick. “You do it at your own speed and ability. Plus, we’re all friends. It’s an awesome group of ladies.”
The feisty cloggers have plenty of war stories to share.
“There was the time I fell off the back of the stage during Cornish Christmas and some guy caught me, threw me back on the stage, and everyone kept dancing,” recalled Cosick.
“Clogging is good for the heart, body, and soul,” said 74-year-old Kathi Acker, another Crosstown Clogger. “We cover all the parts!”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. Contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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