'I Have Never Seen Anything Like It Before'

Mother and daughter dancers attend the show

By Maria Daly Centurion and Alejandro Centurion
Epoch Times San Francisco Staff
Jan 26, 2008

Summerlynn Rivera, a Flamenco dancer, came to Saturday's 'Spectacular' on its final day, Jan. 26 at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. (Alejandro Centurion/The Epoch Times)

SAN FRANCISCO—Summerlynn Rivera and her daughter Cheyenne Danner, both residents of San Francisco, came to Saturday's 'Spectacular' on its final day, Jan. 26 at the Orpheum Theatre. Both Rivera and Danner are dancers and heard about the Spectacular at a recent ethnic dance festival.

Danner was very impressed with the show, and remarked "Oh my gosh, I have never seen anything like it, I thought it was just fantastic."

Danner has a deep appreciation for dance and is herself an ethnic dancer, studying a cultural dance from the south called Appalachian Clogging.

Comparing her style of dance with traditional Chinese dance, she said, "My dance is very different, more hillbilly. This is more classical, I think it is wonderful. I would like to do something like this in the future, it is very unique."

"I thought it was just fantastic, said Cheyenne Danner, who attended the show with her mother. (Alejandro Centurion/The Epoch Times)

Danner is very proud of her mother who is a professional Flamenco dancer in San Francisco. Rivera loves to see ethnic cultures, and feels the importance of keeping traditional heritages alive.

"As a dancer, what I appreciated the most was the synchronization of the dancers. I found the performances very dramatic", Rivera said and added, "my favorite acts were the Victory Drums and the Mongolian Bowl Dance because it is not very common to see Mongolian performances."

The last Spectacular performance in San Francisco was this evening at 8:00 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre.

Starting on Jan. 30, the NTDTV Chinese New Year Splendor will play for 15 shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of Divine Performing Arts performances. For dates and times of their world tour visit: http://www.divineperformingarts.com/sy/ticket_info.


Clogging falls in step across America

Thursday, April 30, 2009


San Franciscans Cheyenne Danner (left) and Rick Sherwin g...Rick Sherwin and Golden Gate Clogging Company's Carolyn J...Carolyn Jayne (left) rehearses with the Golden Gate Clogg... View Larger Images

Afternoon sunlight pours through the windows of ODC's Shotwell studios as Ian Enriquez's clogging class thunders away in the first-floor studio.

Sweating 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 United States.

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 bluegrass music.

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 sneakers.

"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 stereo.

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 daunting.

Can-do spirit

"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.

Clogging gear

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; (510) 222-9200).

The Northern California Clogging Association holds clogging events year-round throughout the Bay Area. www.ncca-inc.com.

E-mail Mary Ellen Hunt at datebookletters@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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