By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today continues a summer series by Daily Journal reporters called “Teach Me Something” where we show how to do a variety of things and how things work.
BY SHEENA BARNETT
As my friends Dana Langley and Leah Doyle say, if it ain’t walking, it’s clogging.
I’ve been a clogger since I was about 8 years old, and it’s one of my favorite things to do.
I always listen for a clogging beat in any song, of any genre. If I’m walking, I’ll double step. If I’m just standing around, it’s a perfect time to perfect steps, whether it’s the buck tap, the joey or syncopate.
Clogging was born out of buck dancing or flatfooting, which has a bit of a different rhythm.
And don’t confuse clogging for tap dancing – the rhythm is totally different, and no, we do not wear regular tap shoes.
Clogging shoes have buck taps on the heels and toes. Buck taps – also called double taps or jingle taps – have one tap adhered to the shoe with another tap loosely attached to it, for a jingle sound.
And really, that’s what clogging is all about: Think of your feet as musical instruments, adding sound to the music as you dance.
Clogging is most often performed to country or bluegrass, but you can clog to any song of any genre – rap, rock ’n’ roll, dance, whatever – so long as there’s a good clogging beat there.
“Old Time Rock ’n’ Roll” by Bob Seger has a perfect rhythm for clogging. I’ve also clogged to “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies and “Good Girl” by Carrie Underwood, and my instructors are currently working on a routine to The Band Perry’s “Done.”
You don’t have to have a pair of clogging shoes to clog, but if you get serious about the dance, you’ll want to plunk down about $75 for a good pair.
If you don’t have clogging shoes – and who has those just lying around? – practice in shoes with a flat sole. No sneakers, and don’t practice barefoot – that’s a surefire way to bruise the bottom of your feet.
Below is how to perform the basic step of clogging. If you can master this step and its rhythm, you can master clogging.
There are two parts to a basic step: a double step, followed immediately by a rock step.
The double step, or shuffle, is the most important part of clogging. Perfecting the shuffle will keep you in rhythm.
For practicing purposes, always begin on your left foot. Sometimes choreography may call for starting a step on your right, but that’s something to worry about as you advance.
Imagine there’s a big, scary bug on your left toe, and try to kick it off. That’s a good way to imagine how to double step.
Brush the ball of your foot on the ground as you shuffle up, then brush it again as you come back down, and step. Don’t brush up very high; your foot will stay almost flat, moving just a few inches off the floor, and your knee won’t bend much.
Brush up, brush down, step.
That’s the double step.
You’ve just completed the double step, so both feet are on the ground. Rock back on your right toe – put all of your weight there – and step with your left foot. You’ll rock back slightly as you perform the rock step.
This should leave you with your left foot flat on the floor and your right toe on the floor, with your knee bent. That puts you in the position to do the basic step on your right foot.
You’ll take your right foot and do the double step, rock back on your left toe, and step with your right. Again, this puts you in the position to do the basic on your left. You’ll switch feet as you complete each basic – left, right, left, right.
You can almost hear the rhythm of the step in the words:
• dou – brush up
• ble – brush down
• step – step down
• rock – rock on your right toe
step – step with your left
If you need to see this in motion, search for basic clogging step videos on YouTube. There are several instructors on there who show how to perform a basic step.
If you think you want to try clogging, search for more advanced steps on YouTube, or sign up for classes. I take lessons with the Country Cloggers, taught by Langley and Doyle, in Amory, and open enrollment is in July.
Clogging is for all ages, from preschoolers to seniors.
Once the rhythm is in your blood, there’s no stopping you.