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LARSON: Clogging goes uptown with City Center Dance

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

While working on a Gwinnett County school research project, I met a fellow Yankee, Chris Stern who hails from New York City. As we compared stories about our move to the South, she told me her daughter Caroline loved to clog.

"Wow," I said. When you came south, you really jumped in with both feet. I've lived here for 38 years and I still don't even eat grits."

"Now, wait a minute," she said, "this is not your grandmother's clogging. It's very modern."

"But how did she get started?" I asked.

"Actually, she took ballet at Snellville United Methodist Church, but it only went up to first grade. She tried soccer and other things. Then when she was in third grade at Pharr Elementary School, in a raffle at their Fall Festival she won three free days at camp from the Clogging Connection and she's been clogging ever since."

Clogging Connection is part of City Center Dance in Snellville, where director and co-founder Heather Kohberger also offers ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop and Irish dancing, all of which contribute to modern day clogging.

Most of the dancers I talked to started with a more classical background, but found clogging to be the best of all worlds.

"Clogging is like the melting pot of dancing," Maran Moss, a senior at Parkview, said. "We take all the different classes and incorporate every dance form in America. I started out with Irish dance, but clogging has more of a show aspect to it. You have to smile."

Tara Faith, a senior at South Gwinnett has been clogging since she was in third grade.

"When I tell people I clog they roll their eyes and think it's dancing in wooden shoes, but when I show them a YouTube video, their jaws drop," she said.

Olivia Reynolds, a senior at Hebron Christian Academy said, "Our clogging has a modern twist. We dance to Brittany Spears, Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga."

"Dancing to Lady Gaga in little ruffled skirts with rickrack and crinolines?" I asked.

No way, they told me. Kohberger showed me their newest costumes: sequined silk jackets with skinny jeans. Really uptown.

And speaking of uptown, many times they've been the featured opening act for Shindig for Shepard Center and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade. They've garnered dozens of national awards and make five claims to the title Clogging Champions of America.

Last weekend in a regional competition, Clogging Connection gained 14 more awards. And Mercedes Bleth, Tara Faith, Jenny Mazurkiewicz, Maren Moss, Grace Renshaw and Grace Williams put their best feet forward and captured the highest honor for Overall Grand Champion Dance Off. They are all qualified and ready to step up to compete for the 2012 national title.

Stern told me friends from the big city still kid them about clogging. All in good fun, of course, but don't they realize this is CITY Center Dance?

The Clogging Connection will be performing at the Lighting of the Tree at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse Nov. 24 at 6 p.m.

Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.