Clogging up a storm in North Frontenac

Written by  Wednesday, 31 January 2018 13:19
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Audrey Baker, Bonnie De Salvo, Dorothy Pethick, Brenda Maguire, Shirley Cuddy, Elva Hamblin, Joyce Lemke and Patricia Sawarna (not pictured) are the Land O’ Lakes Country Cloggers. Photo/Craig Bakay Audrey Baker, Bonnie De Salvo, Dorothy Pethick, Brenda Maguire, Shirley Cuddy, Elva Hamblin, Joyce Lemke and Patricia Sawarna (not pictured) are the Land O’ Lakes Country Cloggers. Photo/Craig Bakay

Ask any ‘clogger’ and they’ll probably be adamant that clogging is not square dancing, or tap dancing or any other kind of dance. It’s clogging and that is an art form in itself.

The word ‘clog’ essentially is an old Gaelic term for ‘time.’ And that’s a big part of the dance with the heel keeping time.

While it has roots in European folk dance (Irish, Scottish, English and German), its deepest roots come from the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700s where all of these styles began to merge with elements of First Nations and African American dances to create a uniquely North American art form. At one time, industrial or wooden shoes were worn to provide a good clear beat but today oxfords with attached ‘double taps’ are generally worn to give a special sound.

But it’s not tap or step-dancing.

“Absolutely,” says Joyce Lemke, the driving force behind the Land O’ Lakes Cloggers, who meet at Clar-Mill Hall on Fridays to work on steps and routines. “It’s totally dancing and we do a lot of moving around.”

The LOL group consists of eight dancers, two of which travel all the way from the Merrickville area.

“That’s dedication,” said Lemke.

“Well, that’s not what some people say,” said Audrey Baker, one of the ‘commuters.’

But most are from the area.

Lemke lives just down the road and her two sisters, Elva Hamblin and Shirley Cuddy are also in the troupe.

“I grew up here, on McNeils Lake,” Lemke said. “I just couldn’t wait to get back to the place I just couldn’t wait to leave.”

They have many reasons why they dance in this style and are only too happy to extol its virtues.

“My husband Reuben and I square danced for year in Peterborough,” Lemke said. “Then one day I talked to a lady who said she clogged.

“She said ‘we have taps on our shoes’ and I said ‘I’m in.’”

She’s been doing it ever since, starting up the Plevna-based group in 2000.

“I like the people, the teacher (Lemke) and the music,” said Baker.

“I like the exercise,” said Cuddy.

“It’s a wonderful tension release,” said Lemke. “There’s a lot of memory involved.

“If you’re hear thinking about what step is next, you can’t worry about what’s going on in the office.

“I think it helps avoid Alzheimer’s.”

Essentially, they’re a performance group, doing shows all over the area at seniors residences and events like the Festival of Trees in Sharbot Lake.

“We do have some rules for shows,” Lemke said. “Everybody does the same step at the same time (and) I attempt to have everybody look and dress the same.

“Nobody stands out, we’re a team.”

They don’t charge for shows, letting the enjoyment of the audience be their reward.

“We’re actually just getting back into performing,” she said. “We’ve done nine or so in a month and a half.

“We’ll do fundraisers, like for Pine Meadows or with Fiddlers & Friends.

“We’ll do some for kids with mostly pop music and a lot of jumping around but we’re mostly old school, dancing for seniors who relate to songs like Maple Sugar and usually a gospel song or two.

“When we’ve gone to places, faces light up.”

They’re not averse to new members but they’d prefer people who’ve clogged before (“It’s surprising how many people have clogged”). However, Lemke does work with beginners sometimes and is starting a new group in MacDonald’s Corners.

“If I can get 10-12 people . . .” Lemke said.

Call 613 479-2967 if you have 10-12 people and would be interested in starting a new clogging group.

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