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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Instructor Jennifer Schweitzer, center, leads the Applejack Cloggers during a practice last month at Parkwood Church of God, 3320 Trier Road.

  • John Stuckman put s a new cap on another group member’s shoes.

  • Schweitzer began clogging at 12 years old and hopes she can continue doing it until she’s 80.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Instructor Jennifer Schwitzer leads the group during the Applejack Cloggers practice at Parkwood Church of God on Monday November 13, 2017. VIDEO

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Instructor Jennifer Schwitzer, far left, leads the group during the Applejack Cloggers practice at Parkwood Church of God on Monday November 13, 2017. VIDEO

Sunday, December 10, 2017 1:00 am

A love for clogging to the core

Applejack dancer celebrates group's 25 years of footwork

Kathi Weiss | For The Journal Gazette

Jennifer Schweitzer, instructor of the Applejack Cloggers, can sometimes be found clogging in the frozen food section of the grocery store.

“When the music comes on in the grocery store, I dance down the aisles,” she says. “The best place to clog in the grocery store is the frozen food section. You can watch yourself in the doors.”

Schweitzer is the only original member of the Applejack Cloggers, which has been going for 25 years. Schweitzer took over leadership when the founder of the group, Bonnie Nay, retired. The group has been in existence since 1992.

“I can't imagine my life without clogging. I love it!” Schweitzer says.

Schweitzer's mom signed her up when she was 12 years old. “We'd go to Opryland once in a while and that's where she saw it. I was taking tap and jazz at the time at the local dance studio. She decided I was going to clog,” Schweitzer says.

Her mother joined the next year at age 50 and continued clogging until she was 72.

“Our oldest clogger is 75-plus years (old),” Schweitzer says.

The ages range from 11 to 75 and consist mostly of women. There are two men in the group: One is the pastor of the church where the group practices, and another has been dancing his entire life.

The Applejack Cloggers have 15 to 20 members, depending on who shows up for a particular event.

The group is busiest from the end of July to the beginning of October. They participate in two festivals in July, two in August, every weekend in September, and one festival in October.

Many residents can see them clogging at the annual Johnny Appleseed Festival, where they dance to traditional music while contemporary music is the backdrop for other events.

American clogging began in the Appalachian mountains and derives from folk dances of those who settled there: Irish, Scottish, English and Dutch-Germans. What once started out as impromptu, individualistic expression has evolved into a more complicated style of dance.

Today's clogging has also been influenced by street dancing and hip-hop. There are clogging competitions around the country. In 2003, clog dancing was even included as a competitive dance sport in the AAU Junior Olympics and has been seen on such TV competition shows as “America's Got Talent.”

Schweitzer explains the difference between tap and clogging: “Clogging is done on the downbeat of the music and we use our heels to keep time. It is more of a flat-footed dance than tap. Tap does more with the melody of the music. The main step of clogging is the double toe.”

The shoes for tap and clogging are different, too. Tap shoes have one steel plate. Clogging shoes have two steel plates that give a completely different sound.

For those who want to get started clogging, the beginner class starts in January. Classes are on Tuesdays at the Parkwood Church of God, 3320 Trier Road, and the ongoing classes are on Mondays.

Beginner ages range from as young as 7 to 60 years of age. The cost for the eight-week class is $40. The cost of the shoes, which can be ordered online, is separate. They range from $75 to $90.

And if you want to incorporate fitness into your New Year's resolutions, clogging may be just the ticket.

Schweitzer says she had gotten lazy and wasn't clogging as much.

“I wasn't dancing at class. I started back in at clogging and lost 60 pounds. Some of the people in my group use it as their exercise,” she says.

Schweitzer hopes to be clogging until she is 75 or 80. If her enthusiasm for clogging is an indicator, she will most likely succeed.

“We love what we do,” she says. “We hope to be around another 25 years. My cloggers are my second family.”