For Anne Mills, founder and main instructor of Country Cloggers in Sumner, clogging isn’t just a type of dancing — it’s a fun, rhythmic form of exercise.
“We clog so your arteries don’t” is a phrase often heard during weekly practices at the studio, the 76-year-old business owner says.
“It’s (about) getting out and having a good time and having benefits of exercise,” Mills said. “(Clogging) is personal. The only person you have to please is yourself.”
Clogging, a folk dance that originated from Scottish, English, Irish and German immigrants in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700s, has two styles: traditional and precision clogging.
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Mills teaches her students precision clogging, where all dancers follow the same steps.
“It’s a fabulous cardio exercise and it’s a good way to keep yourself in shape,” said Gretchen Winters, a 65-year-old member of Country Cloggers who has been clogging for 11 years.
Mills plays all types of music during clogging sessions, from tradition hoedowns to Taylor Swift. But the real focus, said Mills, is on the music the cloggers make with their feet.
“There are two pieces of metal on the toe and heel (of the shoes),” Mills said. “The more noise you make the more you have fun. It’s a great sound.”
Growing up, Mills adopted an early love for tap, ballet, jazz and acrobatic dancing. For 17 years, she was a professional ballroom and national adjudicator instructor for Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire dance studios in Seattle.
It was during a square-dancing class more than 30 years ago when Mills first tried clogging — and she was hooked. In 1993, she was recognized at six national clogging conventions.
Now, Mills leads her instructors and students at Country Cloggers, which was founded in 1984. Currently, there are around 100 dancers enrolled across three locations in Sumner, Silverdale and Belfair. Sumner sees about 30 of those dancers during the season.
“All ages can join,” Mills said. “We have families that clog together.”
It’s a fabulous cardio exercise and it’s a good way to keep yourself in shape.
Gretchen Winters, Country Cloggers member
Dancers at Country Cloggers perform only a handful of times throughout the year, but classes continue through fall, spring and winter. Classes are ending this month for Sumner members, but a new year of lessons begin Thursday (Sept. 15) at the Valley Dance Hall at 1705 Willow St.
Classes start every Thursday at 1 p.m. and continue until 5 p.m. Each hour, the difficulty increases.
“There’s beginner, easy intermediate, intermediate and advanced levels,” explained instructor Kay Velmire. “Difficulty increases with each level. A little bit harder steps, but more fun.”
Velmire, an advanced clogger herself, has a history of tap dancing and teaches classes at the Sumner studio with Mills.
“All the cloggers are great,” she said. “I just love them.”
For beginners, classes are open to join for three weeks. The very first class is free — and if they think they can handle the difficulty, can stay for free for all four hours, through all four levels. No partner or special gear is needed.
“If someone picks it up fast, they can stay as long as they want for that same buck,” Mills said, who added that tap dancers usually pick up clogging fast, and “their feet fly.”
To close off the end of its season, Country Cloggers entertained visitors at a final demonstration of the year at the Washington State Fair’s Education Hall on Saturday.
“We hand out fliers and encourage people to come,” Mills said.
They hope to get more attendees to their classes — if not to inspire a love of dancing, then at least for a great workout.
“The music and the dancing are in my bones and in my soul,” Winters said. “I can’t live without dancing.”
To learn more about Country Cloggers, visit countrycloggers.org.