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Friday, 08 April 2016 10:45

Cloggers celebrate two decades of dance

Written by  Carol Paur
Members of the Walworth County Cloggers perform during the 2015 Walworth County Fair. The group is celebrating 20 years with a special performance April 16 at Young Auditorium in Whitewater. Members of the Walworth County Cloggers perform during the 2015 Walworth County Fair. The group is celebrating 20 years with a special performance April 16 at Young Auditorium in Whitewater. facebook.com/walworthcountycloggers

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- While the world obsessed over dancing the macarena in 1996, Shannon Werfelmann decided to reignite a toe-tapping craze in Walworth County. This former member of the Walworth County Clowntown Cloggers started attending clogging competitions and workshops in other cities. 

“I wanted to start a group that was not just recreational, but had another element,” Werfelmann said. “I wanted something where people were more committed.”

Her desire became a reality 20 years ago in her parents’ basement with the Walworth County Cloggers, but as interest expanded, she needed to find a larger space. Today the cloggers meet at the Walworth County Gymnastic & Dance Center in Elkhorn and are practicing for a 20-year anniversary show on Saturday, April 16 (see details above).

Clogging is a “percussive dance,” Werfelmann said. “It’s different from tap. They (the shoes) have a double tap and jingle.”

The dance came from the Appalachian Mountains region,  where there was a melting pot of dancers from different parts of the world.

“It’s a combination of dance forms,” she said.

The popularity of clogging is fueled by its ability to incorporate changing music and dance styles, Werfelmann added.

Walworth County Cloggers students -- all girls -- range in age from 4 to young adult. Boys and older adults are not excluded, but there has been little interest from those two populations, she said. In the South, however, clogging is popular with boys.

“I wanted clogging to be something the kids can have in their lives, but they don’t have to choose it over any other activity,” Werfelmann said. “If we became competitive, we’d have to practice more than once a week.”

Along with the rigorous practice schedule, Werfelmann said the costs would escalate because students would have to pay for costumes, entry fees and travel expenses. She feels clogging is something most families can fit into their lifestyles.

Clogging is something young people can do as adults, unlike many of the activities they’re involved in at school, Werfelmann said.

“It takes something you know (such as hip-hop) and makes it your own,” said Jenna Terrell, 15, of Elkhorn, who who has been clogging for three years. “You don’t need a scholarship for this and you don’t need to have the perfect body or the perfect shape.

“It’s for all ages and all people.”

Jenna Terrell’s sister, Emma, who’s 12, also has been clogging for about three years.

“I just like that we all get to work together in one room and make everything happen,” Emma Terrell said. “The sounds of the tap with the music is pretty cool.”

The sisters not only practice at the studio, but at home together about twice a week. You might say clogging is a family affair for the two girls, but the family feeling extends to the entire group.

“We’ve been incredibly fortunate to enroll great families,” Werfelmann said. “We have a lot of great support from the parents. The kids are great; the parents are great. You don’t have a lot of frustration.”

WCC instructor Carrie Reeves agreed that the involvement of parents and families is important.

“We do things together,” Reeves said. “Dancers are a family.”

Reeves, 35, started clogging as a young girl. As a clogger and teacher, she said she appreciates working with Werfelmann.

“She does a wonderful job with a team approach, and life lessons are not just on the dance floor,” Reeves said. “She has always been cost-effective and doesn’t want cost to be a barrier to families.”

The cost to clog is about half that of most other dance forms, Werfelmann said. She needs to charge to keep the doors open, but she works at another job.

While keeping costs down is important, increasing awareness and pride about clogging also are vital to Werfelmann’s success.

“It was my goal pretty early on that the girls would be proud of clogging,” she said.

“You hear, ‘I’m in tap or in ballet,’ but no one hears about clogging,” said Jenna Terrell. “I have a friend that makes fun of me. He thinks clogging is stupid because he does tap. I think it’s very cool because I’m very different.”

You might watch the dancers perform at festivals, schools or local businesses, but the group’s big performance is the biennial showcase. This year’s showcase -- the group’s eighth -- is called  “Let’s Celebrate.” It will be held at Young Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus.

It’s not a recital where the students show off to their parents all they learned that year, Werfelmann said. It’s a show that will entertain the audience.

“Our focus is on being a performance team. We’re thinking about putting on a show that is a good experience for the audience,” she said. “They will walk away knowing more about the cloggers, but we want them to enjoy the show.”

The performance is about an hour long with an intermission.

Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in advance online at uww.edu/youngauditorium/tickets or by calling 262-472-2222. They are also available at the door.

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