Cloggers for lifeWritten by Bibeka Shrestha
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Aileen “Poochey” Greene has been clogging for 44 years, and even at age 77, she has no intention of stopping.
“That’s the place I am me, on the dance floor,” said Greene. “That’s the only time nothing bothers me.”
Greene was a founding member of the popular clogging outfit the Southern Appalachian Cloggers.
Its current director Keith Silvers grew up clogging at the Maggie Valley Playhouse and the Waynesville Armory, where every Friday and Saturday night, regulars from the community would join together for a square dance with a live band.
Silvers went with his mom, who was the lead lady, and his dad, who was a square dance caller, like Silvers is today. “It was part of my life, and I started when I was 5 years old,” said Silvers. “I’m about 52 now and still doing it.”
Haywood County’s Southern Appalachian Cloggers has been in existence since 1967. Since then, it has performed for Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The group has earned its share of trophies over the years. Now, they are a regular at festivals, conventions and charity benefits.
The Southern Appalachian Cloggers are a nonprofit, and any money they make goes only to operating expenses.
“Nobody gets a dime,” said Silvers. “We do it out of our enjoyment.”
The Cloggers include members from as young as 18 to as old as 87. Age really does seem like it’s just a number when the older members get clogging. Admirers often come up to the group after shows to tell the cloggers they’ve still got it.
Greene remembers the days there were so many clogging teams they were hard to count.
“The competition was so keen, it was unreal,” said Greene.
Only five or so of the original members remain with the group, carrying on the traditions that were originally established in Appalachia. Younger cloggers are changing steps and putting less emphasis on keeping in time with the music, according to Greene.
“We do it like it used to be done back in the olden days,” said Greene.
Silvers is heartened to see other clogging groups, like the Fines Creek Flatfooters and Mountain Traditions, form over the years.
“We are getting older,” said Silvers. “I’d like to see it go on ... It’s a dying out thing, and it would be nice if everybody got a chance and could support it to keep it going.”
Silvers added clogging has had a positive influence on kids, who are too active dancing to get into trouble with drugs and the like.
For those who are itching to try, Silvers invites everyone to get in touch with the cloggers at festivals or just give them a call.
Once a month, there’s a community dance at Fines Creek. It’s a chance to get in touch with the era Silvers remembers from his youth, a time when the people who came to one dance couldn’t wait to come back the next.
See them in action
The Southern Appalachian Cloggers will be performing at the Mountain Music Jamboree on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
Dances are usually held the first Saturday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Fines Creek Community Center.