Can you clog to Lady Gaga? Austin dance club says yes

Dec 03, 2017
American-Statesman Staff
The Clickety Cloggers dance group performs during the Lights Spectacular event in Johnson City Nov. 25. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Every November, members of the Clickity Cloggers dance club don their LED-light-lined black pants and festive red vests and hit the street in Johnson City, where they shine as part of the town’s holiday kick-off celebration.

“We have people who wait for us,” said Virginia Pohlmeier, club coordinator of the Clickity Cloggers. “Well, not very many.”

Members of the Clickity Cloggers, a nonprofit dance club that for the past 41 years has promoted the art of clog dancing with a decidedly modern flare in Central Texas, aren’t afraid to tell it like is.

“The first time I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh, that looks so goofy, I’ve got to do it!” said club president Robin Arnold, 57, who started clogging in 1990 and joined the Clickity Cloggers after moving to Austin from Maryland in 1993. “It’s just like being on the set of ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’”

The Clickety Cloggers dance group performs during the Lights Spectacular event in Johnson City Nov. 25. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN Photo: American-Statesman Staff

What exactly is clogging? It’s kind of like square dancing meets line dancing meets tap dancing.

“Most people, when you say clogging, they think it’s the wooden shoes,” Arnold said. In reality, the Clickity Cloggers wear shoes that feature double taps that produce multiple sounds at once when they strike the ground. Clogging revolves around eight basic movements that result in a variety of steps; styles may include Appalachian, bluegrass, country western and line dancing.

The Clickity Cloggers are also happily influenced by pop culture — when “Riverdance” became popular, the group incorporated Irish music and moves.

Song choices also range from traditional to modern to holiday — the group danced to songs that included “Biscuits” by country artist Kacey Musgraves, “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Frosty the Snowman” at a recent practice.

Can you clog to Lady Gaga? Yes, said Arnold, one of group’s choreographers, and she’d be glad to put something together if the group could attract some younger members who would be interested.

“You know, we’re not a bunch of young chickens,” added Pohlmeier, 72, echoing that the club would love to welcome some families and children. “It’s really good exercise for your brain and your body. We are a club that has fun together — I have lifelong friends here.”

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Jon Durbin, 68, started clogging more than 30 years ago after he and his wife, both avid square dancers, saw a clogging group in Houston. His wife decided clogging wasn’t for her, but Durbin stuck with it.

The Clickety Cloggers dance group performs during the Lights Spectacular event in Johnson City Nov. 25. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN Photo: American-Statesman Staff

“It’s fun exercise, and it’s a community,” said Durbin, the lone male member of the Clickity Cloggers. “If I went to the gym, I’d drop out pretty quickly.”

Because he’s part of the exhibition team, Durbin said he’s also traveled to places, such as the State Fair of Texas, he otherwise may not have gone. Once he even performed for Willie Nelson at the Astrodome.

Durbin said he, too, would love to see more men, and more families, join the Clickity Cloggers.

“It’s something that the whole family can do,” Durbin said. “You see little kids, 3- and 4-year-olds, really light on their feet. It’s embarrassing.”

The Clickity Cloggers practice on Thursday nights at Dance by Carly in South Austin and also offer clogging lessons for beginners.

During a recent practice, Pohlmeier called out moves: “Heel-toe! Triple! Turkey! Go!”

“The hardest part is the turns,” she said.

Despite having various ability levels, the group formed a cohesive unit while dancing to “Merry Texas Christmas, You All,” legs twisting and feet shuffling in unison to create an upbeat, synchronized rhythm.

Pohlmeier applauded the group, then moved on to a new song, reminding members, as always: “If we crash and burn, it’s OK.”