Jessica Beasley (from l-r), Alisha Mertins, Sarah Solesbee, Caitlin Shawver, Taylor Stripling, Amber Powell and Alyssa Elmgreen, all members of Augusta's Footloose and Fancy Free Cloggers, practice for an upcoming performance. The studio is one of the oldest continuously operated clogging studios in the region, and has won more than 120 awards since January.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Tara Holmes has been clogging for 24 years, and she has no plans to quit any time soon.
At 28, Holmes has a stick-to-it attitude toward dancing.
"I've been dancing since I was 4," she said. "It's a normal, everyday thing for me."
Holmes and Jessica Beasley, 18, teach clogging at Augusta's Foot Loose and Fancy Free Cloggers in Martinez. Foot Loose and Fancy Free, is one of the Augusta area's oldest continuous performing and competing clogging studios.
Pam Simpson, Holmes' sister, organized the studio in February 1981. Simpson is now the mother of three daughters - Amber and Summer Graff and Caasi Simpson - all of whom take clogging. Since January, Foot Loose and Fancy Free has won more than 120 competition awards including the 2002 Showdown of Champions Grand Champion Amateur Artistic Expression Award and the 2002 Junior Team of the Year award.
Students of Foot Loose and Fancy Free range in age from 2 to 47.
"I've wanted to do it (clogging) for a long time and decided that I had to do it," said Carole McKinley of Evans, who started taking lessons in June at age 47. "I have watched it live and on television and enjoy it immensely."
McKinley isn't alone. Six-year-old Taylor Cooper and her mother, Kim, 27, also clog. The younger Cooper has been dancing for two years, while her mom started about a year and a half ago.
"My child is such a different child since she started clogging," Cooper said. "She is very outgoing, happy and energetic. Clogging has brought so much out of her."
The elder Cooper admits that clogging is "basically all our family focuses on. I'm doing something with my child and we're always busy and having so much fun."
The fun of the dance form is what lures a lot of students.
"It's fun and I like the music," said Taylor. "I like moving around."
Charlie Austin, whose daughters Alexis Austin, 4, and Stephanie Meadows, 15, clog, said it's amazing how much her daughters have changed since they started dancing.
"Stephanie is really involved in a lot of things, but she seems to dedicate a lot of her time to clogging," Austin said. "Alexis has come out of her shell a lot."
Henrietta Holmes, the mother of Holmes and Simpson, said her family has been involved in clogging for more than 20 years for a number of reasons.
"We enjoy it and we meet so many nice people," she said, adding that she doesn't dance, but does pick out the music and schedule the groups' performances, including their annual Christmas show at Gracewood State School and Hospital.
"We go so many places, out of town and in, that we wouldn't ordinarily go. These people are like our second family."
"It's like a whole new family," said Cindy Shawver, the mother of 8-year-old Caitlin Shawver, who began taking lessons two years ago.
"This is just a family-oriented activity," Henrietta Holmes said. "We have entire families that take clogging."
Though McKinley can't get her husband to join her on stage, she plans to continue clogging for as long as she can.
"I'm a much happier person," she said. "Everybody needs to take it; once you try it, you're hooked."
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