Matthew Lombardi has been clogging for half his life and it all started because he’s an ardent FSU Seminole fan. “I went to a Downtown GetDown and there was a clogging performance.” Jeff Wood, founder of the local Mountain Dew Clogging organization, handed Matthew a flyer inviting him to attend a beginner’s class. “I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
A sixth-grader at Swift Creek Middle School, Matthew has come to love this uniquely American dance form and he’s upholding a centuries-old tradition that began in the mountains of Appalachia. Originally accompanied by rousing fiddle and bluegrass music, the foot-tapping was a means of personal expression.
That spirit continues into the modern era, with a new generation of cloggers like Matthew putting their own spin on it.
“I like to do my own choreography,” said Matthew. “I started making up moves and eventually, I put the moves together. I created my first piece when I was 5. I use clogging steps like mountain goats, crosses and windmills in my choreography.”
Wood can identify with Matthew’s inclination to innovate. “I started clogging when I was 12 and we traveled all over the South doing shows and competitions.” His team mainly danced to bluegrass and country music but Wood recalled that he “would craft routines to rock and even classical music. “I’m 50 now and all these years I’ve been working at evolving things to be able to connect with people.”
That’s a big part of the Mountain Dew Clogging organization’s mission. The goal is to make the historic dance form as accessible as possible and the family oriented group is comprised of people from all over the Big Bend area. Participants
range in age from 5 years old and up and newcomers can learn the basics in the weekly beginner’s classes. Several of them are literally following in the footsteps of those who came before, including Georgia Lindsey. It was her dad who inspired her to start clogging. He and Wood were both on a competition team together years ago. Georgia, an 11th-grader at Leon High School, has been dancing most her life but decided to take a break. “I got burned out on regular dance and I was trying to figure out something to do in my free time to keep me in shape. Something fun though, because I don’t like working out,” she admitted. “I love this. It’s my one thing in the week that evens me out.”
Braeleigh Rushing is also part of a clogging lineage. “My dad clogged for a long time and when I was in first grade, I started,” she said. Now a fourth-grader at DeSoto Trail Elementary School, Braeleigh’s favorite part of clogging is that “we all get together and it’s very active and fun.”
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