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Clogging originated in The
where the people lived far apart in small cabins.
Appalachian-Style Square Dancing
Appalachian-style square dancing with a clogging step originated
in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States, as an ongoing
cultural tradition brought from England. The earliest settlers from England
brought with them parts of songs, dances and stories from their Mother country,
and these were formed into a new tradition in the hills and valleys of this
region, which includes our own state of Tennessee. Our county seat,
Murfreesboro, is in the exact geographical center of the state of Tennessee.
The people lived far apart
in small cabins, and got together very infrequently. When they did, they
enjoyed singing songs, playing
games, and dancing together. They clapped their hands to make the
rhythms, or perhaps had a musician or two who could provide some accompanying music. They moved onto the hard-packed earthen floor, or
the homemade wooden floor, and their feet made an unusual slapping sound
as they danced. Sometimes, they wore metal tips on their shoes. Whether
they were barefoot or wore hard shoes, this sound came to be called
The people moved as a caller called the
sets. They danced in a big circle for “as many as will”, and usually
with a partner. Often they turned loose of the partner and did what we
call a “buck dance”, which means moving in any way they wish, to the
rhythms provided. They might dance all night, or for several days as
they rejoiced at the chance to join together and have fun.
Rutherford County’s Cripple Creek Cloggers
preserve this tradition today in dance, costuming, and spirit.
History of The Cripple Creek Cloggers - by
Steve Cates, Director/Founder
November 25, 2009
The Kittrell 4-H Square Dancers (Rutherford
County, Readyville, TN) were first recognized in June of 1967. That's when
the hard work of some Kittrell School 4-H'ers (Grades 4-8) paid off with
first place in the Rutherford County 4-H Share the Fun Contest. From there
it was to Columbia, Tennessee's 4-H Camp and first place in the District
II Share the Fun. Then the group performed for the State 4-H Roundup on
the UT campus in Knoxville.
The troupe started to learn Appalachian style
square dancing with a clogging step during a campout at Camp Woodlee, a
former 4-H Camp still operated by the Tennessee Young Farmers and Homemakers
and located in Warren County, near Irving College. To reward the Kittrell
4-H'ers, for which I was a Volunteer Leader, who had completed all their
activities each month during the 1966-1967 school year, I arranged for us to
go to the camp for a weekend in early spring. Parents provided
transportation and we all chipped in with the cooking in the kitchen
attached to the Dining Hall. To entertain the group, I went to our
Rutherford County Agricultural Extension Office at the Courthouse and
borrowed some of the old records we had used when I had been a 4-H'er. I
got the Kittrell School turntable and sound system. We were set for
dancing, including the calling I did which I had learned at various 4-H
events when I was a teen. I taught the simple steps and calls and then we
also did various folk dances, including the "Teton Mountain Stomp", "The
Waltz of the Bells," and so on. We even played some Tennessee Singing Games,
including the "Pawpaw Patch" and "Old Dan Tucker".
Entering the Share the Fun event was a natural
progression in our development. The dancers wore red and white and pictures
are available on our Facebook page showing them.
Following that summer, we decided to continue,
practicing on the Kittrell stage and in my classroom at the school. We
invited all interested Kittrell 4-H'ers to participate and then began taking
performances to various groups in the area. I remember going to a big event
for the Murfreesboro Business and Professional Women's Club and to the
Smyrna Air Force Base for a luncheon of the Officers' Wives.
When I left Kittrell in 1969 to teach at
Murfreesboro's Bradley Middle School, I expanded the group to include all
interested 4-H'ers in Rutherford County. The Ag Center was our practice
site. We were introduced to the National Folk Festival when we were
invited to take our dancing to the 1968 event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Sarah Gertrude Knott, the Director/Founder of the NFF, became quite a good
friend and supporter, as well as a mentor. She put us in touch with
May Gadd, Director of the English Song and Dance Society of the U.S. and
soon six of us were on our way to their Pinewoods Camp at Buzzards Bay,
Massachusetts, where we learned about the English heritage of our style of
Sarah Gertrude Knott also connected us with
"Cousin" Thelma Boltin, Director of the Florida Folk Festival in White
Springs, Florida. We enjoyed dancing there several times down on the
banks of the Sewanee, soaking up the Florida sunshine in the spring.
We traveled to events throughout Tennessee and
into GA, KY, and NC, including folk festivals and similar events. Through
4-H connections in other states, we then went West and Northeast and
In 1977, we were invited to our first
international folkloric festival. The festival director, Irene
McLean, also Founder/Director of AREYTO, the Ballet Folklorico of Puerto
Rica, was to become a great friend and one who would introduce us to the
world of international festivals in other countries. That first taste of
international connections was a magical time for us, as we celebrated New
Year's in San Juan and joined groups from many other countries of the world,
all sharing their music and
Through Irene's influence and with her help,
we made our first international tour in 1979. We enjoyed the Festival of
the Pyrenees in France and Spain, which our dancers and musicians revisited
Because of these experiences and our
participation in festivals in Portugal and Spain in 1981, we began our own
International Folkfest in 1982. Our dancers have always been the hosts and
have played a major part in its production.
In 1980, Sarah G. Knott stated that we were
losing out by dismissing dancers once they finished high school. Because of
her suggestion, the Cripple Creek Cloggers were then organized. RCSD
continued as we mixed our groups in practices and performances,
though sometimes operating separately.
Since the year 2000, we have only been Cripple
Creek Cloggers. Our membership includes older teens and adults. I am proud
that our group still offers an opportunity for those interested to join and
work with us. We teach free of charge as we continue to help people to
learn about our Appalachian heritage of music and dance. We also continue
touring each year as well as hosting International Folkfest.