and intently focused, the dozen or so dancers track his moves and
repeat them. Any misstep will be plainly heard, but the class - which
is peppered with students from all age groups - pounds gamely away at
the wooden floor to the not-exactly bluegrass strains of "Let's Hear It
for the Boy."
Clad simply in jeans and a blue T-shirt, Enriquez shouts instructions amid this racket via a Janet Jackson-style headset.
"Triple brush, Utah ... turning Utah ... donkey ... McNamara..." The
dancers dip and bob, hands floating in the air as they keep the rhythm
going, "Triple toe ... double pull ..."
Although it sounds less like a dance style and more like something
you call a plumber for, clogging enjoys an enthusiastic following, with
thousands of dancers participating in more than 600 clubs across the
With roots in Irish and English folk dancing and some similarities
to tap dance, American clogging is an amalgam of European, Cherokee and
African influences, all of which converged in the Appalachians where
clogging first sprang up as a social dance primarily accompanied by
Jeans and T-shirts are the dance clothes of choice, but the students
are quick to note that clogging doesn't require special gear or
costumes or even shoes. Most of the students seem to be in comfortable
footwear to which they've glued the double taps that give clogging its
distinctive ring. Another student has taps attached to a pair of
"Clogging tends to attract people in their 30s and 40s," says
Enriquez, who also directs the Barbary Coast Cloggers, a professional,
all-male group that is scheduled to perform at the San Francisco Ethnic
Dance Festival in June. "It's definitely a devoted group. We have
people who've been coming to the class for years, who have become
hard-core dancers. We try to make everyone feel welcome."
The guys who perform in the Barbary Coast Cloggers ensemble,
Enriquez says, have a wide range of day jobs: therapists, school
principals, vice presidents of ad agencies, even police officers. For
some of the students, getting the chance to be in the company is the
incentive, but for others, just being able to dance is the point.
Berkeley psychologist Donald McKillop says that clogging is just the
sort of right-brained activity he needed to balance out his
left-brained academic tendencies. Even though it's been a particular
challenge, he says, "One thing that keeps your brain from going south
as we age is to do things on your nondominant side. And it's also a
lesson in humility."
Dancing for the soul
McKillop credits dancing with helping him through the difficult
breakup of a long-term relationship. "When I finally got the courage to
end it, I was facing a pretty bleak social future. Being single is
hard, but being old and single is particularly hard. But I have not
only had the joy of dancing and improving my dancing, I've met people
who are very genuine and caring. There's always something to talk about
and something to do together. As you can tell, dancing has been a
godsend to me during this tough time in my life."
During the break, folks are trying out new steps while chatting
companionably. The class has moved onto specialized work for the
advanced dancers, and the music - which, in Enriquez's class, is as
likely to be Rihanna or Gwen Stefani as bluegrass - blares out from the
There's a whiff of hip-hop about Enriquez's brand of clogging, and
students are bobbing their heads as they watch their more advanced
compatriots work on a complicated sequence. "It inspires us to hope
we'll get good enough to perform," says Ming-Lun Ho, who took up dance
as a graduate student at Berkeley.
Now on the math faculty at Chabot College, Ho recalls nervously
walking hallways and tapping and kicking before exams, and he realized
that there could be an outlet for those noisy feet. "I like to play
percussion with my feet; I like the rhythm, the mathematical logic."
Jeff Porter, who has danced with the Barbary Coast Cloggers, says
that clogging, with its vocabulary of thousands of steps, can look
"I first saw cloggers at the Stompede at the Sundance Saloon," he continues dryly. "It didn't look like anything I could do."
But Porter, who was already doing other forms of folk dancing,
started taking classes just so he could have an extra night of dancing.
"The more I did it, the more fun it became. At first, it was strictly
recreational, but as it became more challenging, I found this real love
for it, a passion for pursuing it."
Thunderous rhythmic rolls echo through the building as a dozen
dancers stomp enthusiastically on the wooden floor. Enriquez pauses to
give a few steps, and although it's in English, it might as well be
wartime code. "Four crazy legs and two turkeys ... a long pigeon."
Cloggers have cue sheets, but for the classes, the students don't
read the sequences, they memorize them piece by piece and perform the
steps as the "cuer" calls them.
"Burton Joey, Rock Burton, Rock Burton, Burton Joey ..." Enriquez says in a sort of mysterious haiku.
"Called dances like clogging really take concentration," says
Porter. "You have to be in the moment, you can't be thinking about
laundry or groceries."
"I felt totally spastic going into the first couple of classes,"
says Carolyn Jayne, an elementary school music teacher and one of the
founding members of the Golden Gate Clogging Company, a co-ed
counterpart to the Barbary Coast Cloggers. "It was like a foreign
language to my muscles. I thought, 'Gosh, how have I even been moving
this body for 40 years?'
"But," she continues, "they're so patient with beginners, with the
awkwardness that comes from trying to get a new technique. The emphasis
is on 'Yes, you can do this.'
"It's just so joyous. It is just such fun to express yourself with
your body - and, after a while, the body just knows what to do without
the intervention of the brain."
Classes: $16 per class. ODC. 351 Shotwell St.
(between 17th and 18th Streets), in San Francisco $16 per class. To
register call Rhythm & Motion, (415) 863-9830, Ext. 100.
To see video of the clogging class in action, go to sfgate.com/video.
Instructor Ian Enriquez suggests that you try a class or two before
investing in clogging taps. When you're ready, here are a few choices
from Enriquez and Golden Gate Clogging Company's Carolyn Jayne:
-- Glue the taps onto regular sturdy shoes with Shoe Goo.
-- For leather-soled shoes, you can have taps screwed directly onto the sole.
-- Two types of taps: regular clog taps, which are very similar to
tap dance taps, and jingle taps, which are two metal pieces riveted
loosely together. One side is attached to the sole and the other side
jingles freely against it.
Also, check with local dance shops:
-- San Francisco Dancewear (659 Mission St., San Francisco; (415)
882-7087) or Costume Corner (3820-A San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante;
The Northern California Clogging Association holds clogging events year-round throughout the Bay Area. www.ncca-inc.com.
This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle