Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 1999
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After Hours
She's got the beat: P&T leader is expert clogger

Note: This is the first installment of "After Hours," a new monthly feature exploring the noteworthy non-work pursuits of U.Va. faculty and staff. Please submit nominations for future columns to insideuva@virginia.edu.

By Dan Heuchert

Photo courtesy of Becca White
When she's not helping run Parking and Transportation, Rebecca White can often be found clogging -- or hanging out with her fellow cloggers, who she says are like family to her.

Becca White's introduction to what would become her passion came innocently enough. A friend, a nurse at the U.Va. Medical Center, asked her to sign up with him for a clogging class offered through Albemarle County's Parks and Recreation program.

"He was dying to do it, but he didn't want to do it by himself," White recalled one recent morning before heading off to her duties as the assistant director of Parking and Transportation. "He dragged me along to class."

That was in 1988. Eleven years later, the friend is long gone from clogging, but White is a mainstay of the Skyline Country Cloggers, a local performance troupe.

"I love percussion," she says. "I always wanted to play the drums, but never did. This is so much fun.

"It's totally different from my family life, my work life, everything. It's full of sound and chaos."

Clogging is a style of energetic -- and definitely aerobic -- folk dance originating in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It is rooted in the dances brought to the region by settlers from the British Isles, but it has also been influenced by the traditional dances of Native Americans and the solo "buck and wing" dance of African Americans.

There are two main schools of clogging in the U.S.: the traditional school, which remains close to its Appalachian style and typically is performed to live accompaniment, usually country string or bluegrass bands; and precision, or modern, clogging, usually danced to recorded music of a variety of styles.

White's group -- currently at about a dozen members -- is mostly in the modern camp, but dabbles in the traditional format as well. They dance to everything from bluegrass to Gloria Estefan, to rap and show tunes -- "anything where you can hear the beat."

"The hardest thing to hear the beat in is bluegrass," because there are no drums, she said. "The easiest to dance to is rap. Wešll teach to rap."

White says she picked up the basics in about two months. It took about two more years before she became a solid intermediate performer, she said, and another two years to make the "huge leap" to becoming a more advanced clogger.

The Skyline Country Cloggers hold one formal two-hour practice session per week at the Greenwood Community Center, where they receive space from the county in exchange for teaching the Parks & Rec classes. There are also informal weekend sessions, when they work on choreographing their own routines and sometimes modifying routines picked up at various workshops. White also practices on her own at home, occasionally with her 6-year-old son, Hank.

The troupe performs in several different venues: craft fairs, community festivals, state and county fairs, corporate events and even company picnics. At one time, the Skyline group was booked nearly every weekend from April through October, but its schedule is now "more leisurely," White said.

The highlight of the year is the "Spring Fling in Pigeon Forge," a three-day event in Tennessee that draws 2,000 dancers annually for workshops, exhibitions and competitions.

"The average clogger is a 13-year-old girl, so we're quite the anomaly because we have an adult team," she said.

Though the Skyline group's membership has ranged from eight to 40 over the years, White said there is a core group that is "ike a family," often socializing together away from the dance floor. At one point, five of the women were even pregnant at the same time.

White says she's hooked for good. "I'll dance as long as I'm standing up."


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