Briggs: It might have started in the mountains, but this local group is tearing it up on the prairie
A small but mighty group of cloggers from Fargo-Moorhead is keeping the historic dance alive.
MOORHEAD — Drive north of Moorhead — way up north, past the country club and the sugarbeet plant — and you’ll hear a few people causing a ruckus at Roger and Margaret Haglund’s house.
“Oh no, the neighbors have never complained. I think they’re OK with it,” Roger says with a smile.
What they’re "OK with" is Roger, Margaret and eight of their closest friends clogging on pieces of plywood in the driveway.
You’ve probably seen clog dancing, most recently in a funny commercial for Geico insurance where we come to find out a couple's "clogging problem" is actually their spaghetti-eating, clog-dancing upstairs neighbors.
Clog dancing is believed to have started in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700s when waves of Irish, Scottish, English, Dutch and German settlers brought their own folk dances to the region. The mix of the various dances gave birth to what we now know as clogging.
“Clog” is a Gaelic word for “time” as the dance is done in time with the music. In later years, clogging evolved to include Native American, African American and Russian influences.
“It's definitely an American artform,” member DeDee Hallada says. “All of these cultures just got together and started making noise and it’s just grown from there.”
Hallada first tried clogging in 1989 and helped form the group. Since then, the men and women from Fargo-Moorhead have gained and lost members. But this dedicated group — average age 68 — tries to meet once a week to work on their routines.
They first performed under the name “Clog Hoppers,” but later opted for a name change.
“We thought that might have sounded a little too 'Hee Haw,' so we went for Solid Gold Cloggers and we got the gold vests and everything,” Roger says.
Whatever their name, the group performs all over the area in nursing homes, parades and festivals, even winning first place at the Clay County Fair Talent Show in 2001, earning them a spot at the Minnesota State Fair. COVID has put a damper on much of their performances and forced them to practice via Zoom.
But this summer, they met (socially distanced) to dance. While their group is pretty small, they welcome anyone who wants to come and see what it's all about. (And take my word for it, they're a lovely, welcoming group of people.)
No dance experience is necessary, and the equipment is cheap. The special jingle taps they wear can be purchased at a dance store or online. Or they say just come in your regular shoes and enjoy the fun.
They invited me to join them. So I brushed off a couple of my moves from tap dance class a few years ago. (Step, ball, change and shuffle off to Buffalo is about all I can remember.) I wasn’t quite ready to follow along to the calls yet. But Hallada says no one should be intimidated by any complex routines.
While Haglund, who does much of the calls, is a retired math professor, Hallada says he keeps it simple.
“If you know two, four, six and eight, you can do it," Hallada says.
The practice I attended in early October was their last outdoor practice of the year. But as the cold weather sets in, they hope to keep meeting for exercise, fun and camaraderie.
“It’s good exercise for the body, mind and soul,” Hallada says. “I call it my soul (sole) music, since I use my feet.”
If you're interested in learning more about the Solid Gold Cloggers, just email email@example.com .
The Solid Gold Cloggers in action