Friday, March 27, 2009

Down at the Twist and Shout: Clogging Memories

Saturday night and the moon is out
I wanna head on over to the Twist and Shout
Find a two-step partner and a Cajun beat
When it lifts me up I'm gonna find my feet
Out in the middle of a big dance floor
When I hear that fiddle wanna beg for more
Gonna dance to a band from-a Lou'sian' tonight.

I heard this on a C&W radio channel the other day, and it brought a funny little grin to my face that didn't fade away until the music did.

When we moved back to Colorado in 1990, with our four children aged 10 and under, we cast about for something for Lori, our third child, to do. We wanted to find something that she could excel at, something where she would not be in the shadow of her older brother and sister. After finding several alternatives and talking it over with Lori, we enrolled her in Clog Colorado, a local clogging group founded and run by Cyndi Thalman.

It was while performing on stage that she discovered the pleasure of an audience's applause. That prompted her to excel at clogging, and it set the course for the rest of her life. The whole world admires Lori, and stands in awe of her skills on the stage, but that's a blog entry for another time. (For the record, I am her biggest fan.)

Eventually clogging became a family activity, as all of us became members of Clog Colorado. By then, Lori had enough of a head start that there was no danger of anyone overshadowing her, and we all took to it with enthusiasm. Even #5 Christopher, as a toddler, would stomp and clomp the rhythms as his four older siblings practiced in the kitchen.

But it wasn't just a family activity - at least, it wasn't just the six of us. Clog Colorado became our family, as we mixed with some of the finest young people (and their parents!) in Colorado. All of these kids grew up together, and we watched them clog through high school, graduate and go to college. Some of them came back to continue dancing as adults, or to teach.

Most of our dancing was to Country and Western music - not all, but most of it. The younger kids clogged to Animaniacs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen, while the older kids created their own routines to music of their genre. But mostly we clogged to danceable tunes like The Watermelon Crawl,, Couldja Wouldja Ain'tcha Gonna If I Asked You Wouldja Wanna Be My Baby Tonight,, Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, Hillbilly Breakdown and so many others. Some of my favorite clogging memories come from watching Katrina, Paul, Abbey, and the rest of the older teens swirling and clicking to Down at the Twist and Shout.

We were in demand all over the region. We went on road trips to county fairs, to the state fair in Pueblo, to Cheyenne Frontier Days, and twice to an annual festival in Wray, Colorado. The group grew very close on those trips, this allowed us to give our best to the audience, and the audience always responded with equal enthusiasm.

Before we left on one trip, I was preparing to drive a vanload of kids. Cyndi came to the driver's side window, looked me in the eye, and told me: "Now Ray, I want you to repeat after me: 'I am a responsible, mature adult.'" I looked her in the eye and said, "I am a respuuuuuuuuuuh ... I am a r-r-r-rrisp ... I am aaaaaaaahhrrrr ..." As Cyndi rolled her eyes and walked away in mock disgust and my passengers shrieked with laughter, I called after her, "I'm trying Cyndi, I'm trying, but it won't come out!"

Of course, I was a responsible, mature adult. But it was fun to watch Lori Dawn and all of these kids have fun together, to grow and mature, to excel and to discover themselves through dance. The friendships we made with these kids and their families endure to this day. And the memories of Clog Colorado are so sweet that I still get a funny little grin on my face anytime I hear Mary Chapin Carpenter's 1990 anthem to Cajun country, a grin that doesn't fade away until the music does.


Abbey Chase said...

That made me laugh, a lot, and cry some too! They were wonderful years and I hope my children find something as wonderful as we had back then.

~Abbey (Thalman) Chase

Kellie said...

I still can't hear 500 Miles, Old Time Rock and Roll, Get On Your Feet or a few others without moving my feet a little! Those were good times!