Clogging Starts

14 Sep

Potential directions to take my scholarship essay.  I’ll try to narrow it down from here:

1}  About to Perform:

Using my peripheral vision, I scanned right and left, to make sure I was lined up in perfect formation with my teammates.  Despite the downward angle of my head, I could tell the lights were bright.  Staring at my own, freshly polished white leather performance shoes, I could only hear the chatter and rustling of the audience that had amassed in the large auditorium earlier in the day.  I tried to remain calm and collected, but I could hear my own tense breathing as I anticipated the first notes of the song, which would cue the beginning of the dance.  I worried the stage would be slick under my taps, but assuaged my  nerves by reminding myself the sticky Pepsi they had poured over the stage was sure to do its job and provide traction.  I adjusted my arm just slightly, feeling the sequence of my fuchsia and turquoise lycra costume brush my shoulder as I did.

2}  The basic step–into history of the dance and my teaching of it

Scuff your toe toward the ground as if you’re trying to get bubblegum off the bottom of your shoe.  Harder-really throw your foot toward the ground.  Yes, that’s it there’s the double.  Now double.  Step.  Toe.  Step.  That is the basic clog step!”  I heard and said those words so many times, I could not possibly tally them.  When I took my first clogging class as a second grader, and when I taught my first students as a fifth grader that was always the initial introduction to the Appalachian dance.

3}  Performance Logistics–and the lessons learned

There were quick costume changes, that required throwing off clothes and hastily pulling on the next routine’s accessories.  My least favorite shows had a bigger crowd behind the stage then watching the dancing.  Often weather conditions were not optimal for being dancing outside in lycra and sequence.  There were times when the flooring was make-shift, or slippery.  Other times, our music was cued wrong, or too quiet, or playing at a different speed then we had practiced.  Sometimes nerves would cause team members to wander off track-and you would have to steer them back in the right direction—or pretend you were having fun and there was no problem at all.  A lot of the time, I had to warm up the audience and convey the message we were illicit through my facial expressions, movements, or steps.

4}  The Car Ride TO clogging

Eating my “dinner” or string cheese, a cracker pack, and an apple, I spelled the fourteenth word on my spelling list.  My mom was quizzing me during the twenty minute car ride into Carson City for clogging class.  We would not have time for homework after class, because it went right up to my bedtime, and tomorrow would be an early morning.

During my years of clogging activities, my family and I had to maximize our time.  Every moment was utilized, because with clogging and school, there was not a lot of time to spare.  This taught me valuable, life-long planning skills.  I am now able to balance many activities because I did it with dance for so many years.

5}  Duets

Maybe we should start out with a double-double at the chorus, I suggested to Allie, my duet partner.  We were at the studio an hour before the little girls’ show class began to work on choreographing our steps to “My Mind,” a catchy Ace of Base Song.  We wanted our duet to have crowd appeal for shows, but be technically strong so we could perform it for the judges at Broadway Bound.  Incorporating both aspects, as well as agreeing with each other was not always easy.

6}  Putting together shoes or hair + makeup and how those things display characteristics of my personality.

I took the white canvas shoe and aligned the silver, double tap on the toe.  This part was always the most difficult.  I smeared the “Shoe-Goo” liberally on the underside of the toe and quickly placed the tap in the middle of the glop, glue squeezing out around the edges.  Hurriedly, I used my rag to clean the excess glue so it wouldn’t dry or muck up the tap.  Then I carefully folded the rag and put it on the top side of the toe so when I placed my metal C-clamp over the tap and shoe, and tightened it down, there would not be an ugly mark.  Three more taps to go.  I repeated the procedure carefully. Tediously.  Then, the worst part of the process waiting 24-48 hours for the glue to dry.  It was always heart-wrenching to wait for the taps to dry on, remove the C-clamp at least, eager to put the shoes on and practice, only to untwist the clamp and have the tap drop to the floor.  Later, I would worry about polishing the scuff marks off the shoes using the thin, white dye–or I wouldn’t.  Maybe these would just be my practice shoes.

My stick-straight, blonde hair never did hold a curl.  For clogging performances, all the girls in my group had to apply blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick so our features could be made out under the harsh lights.  The stage makeup was ugly close-up, but you could see that we had eyes and lips when we were on stage.  We also had to wear our hair in high ponytails with the strands in back falling down in curls.  My hair wanted no part of these acrobatics.

My mother would put curlers in my ponytail early that morning.  While I patiently sat on the toilet lid, she would roll small strands of my hair in the spongy, pink curlers.  I hated pink.  Then showers of sticky hairspray would coat the locks.  Fumes choking everyone in the vicinity.  I would wear my pink curlers until I was in the wings of the stage, with my coach frantically yanking and untwisting the curlers back out.  By the time the three minute song was over, eleven little girls with stage makeup and curly pony tails would come off the stage.  One little girl (me) would have straight hair. . .

7}  Go through the practice schedule and detail a practice.  Tell what that did for me.

We drove a half hour to get to the blue two story Pinkerton’s Studio of Dance.  All of the lean and graceful ballerinas leaned nimbly on the benches in the hallway.  Jazz dancers in black spandex pants and soft shoes stretched on the floor.  The tap dancers with their shiny black shoes did homework on the stairs between classes.  And then there were us cloggers.  We had a hardier build, and were loud, and crude compared to the lithe, graceful dancers within Pinkerton’s walls.

I walked into the mirrored room and put on my worn, white practice shoes, tying the purple sparkled laces extra tight.  The toes of my shoes were black from working on my buck steps and a hole was just starting to form on the ball of both shoes, since the majority of the steps required slamming the ball of my foot to the floor.  Since most of the other types of dance required leotards for practice, the studio was uncomfortably warm for my tee shirt and gym shorts.  I was sweating already.

Our teacher switched on a country song to warm us up.  It sounded extra loud and twangy over the soft, classical echoing down the hallway.  We had to have loud music to hear the beat over our tapping.  We danced “Twist and Shout,” one of the first songs you ever learn as a clogger, and went into “The sign.”  After dancing a few easy performance songs, we stopped the music in preparation of learning the steps to our new performance routine.  It was always to the latest pop music so the crowd would get more involved.

I stood in the back line studying my reflection in the mirror, while my clogging teacher watched our feet.  Once my class got the step down, we added the arm movement.

8}  Mention something I missed out on due to clogging, but why it was worth it and what it taught me.

My friends at school would talk about “The Simpsons.”  To this day I have never seen a full episode, so at recess when the subject would come up, I would be lost.  As my best friends laughed about Bart’s latest antics and Homer’s ineptitude, I would just listen, not having anything to contribute to the conversation.

While my friends were gathered around their television watching cartoons with their family, I was at clogging practice.  Or studying my spelling words in the car as my mom drove us to clogging practice.  Or at some performance at a festival in a park somewhere.  Maybe I was just out in the driveway, shoes on, practicing my steps for our newest dance.

Though it was no fun to be in the dark about the coolest shows of the time, I do not regret my enthusiastic participation in dance.  While my friends were sitting, I was working my calf muscles and strengthening my lungs by doing a series of fast double-steps, stomps, and windmills.  Instead of mindlessly watching the sit-coms, I was using my mind to memorize not only countless steps, but a wide variety of songs, as well as choreography that went with each different routine.  By missing that family-time in the evenings, I was learning to work with a diverse group of people in a team, adapting to dissimilar audiences, and taking instruction (and criticism) from clogging instructors and judges.

Aside from not knowing who exactly Krusty the Clown is, whatever happened to Lisa’s saxophone, or if Marge ever got a hair cut, I think I fared pretty well with the life skills I accrued.

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