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Put On Your Folk Dancin’ Shoes: Brookhaven’s Dixieland Cloggers perform all over the state

The rhythmic sound of clickety-clack can be heard every Monday evening at the Brookhaven Recreation Department.

“We eat, sleep and clog,” said Dixieland Cloggers director Cyndi Spikes.

This is Spikes’ third year directing the clogging group. A Richland resident, Spikes and her daughter, Cheyenne, travel to Brookhaven every Monday to teach and clog.

No, they’re not hopping around in wooden shoes, or tap dancing, for that matter.

“I would describe clogging as a folk art instead of something like tapping, which is a fine art,” said Spikes.

Ellie Whittington, member of the Dixieland Cloggers since 2010, said clogging is a mixture of Irish step dancing and tap dancing. Clogging is not confined to one musical genre, as the group clogs to a variety of genres including bluegrass, pop, gospel and country. The Dixieland Cloggers have been performing for around 10 to 12 years. The previous director moved away and asked Spikes to take over the class.

The group consists of 19 members, from age 7 to 82. For the past year, the cloggers have performed at events including the Franklinton Fair, Mississippi State Fair, Brookhaven Little Theatre Christmas show, Triage, nursing homes, Boswell Center, Relay for Life and for Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy-Hyde Smith. They are currently preparing for Celtic Fest at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson in September.

“We go all over the state,” said Spikes.

This year, for the first time, Brookhaven will host the Mississippi Clogging Counsel Extravaganza. The state workshop will be at the Brookhaven Recreation Department building on Highway 51 Aug. 16-17. Dixieland Cloggers are gearing up for their performance for next month.

Spikes hasn’t always clogged. She started taking her twin daughters to clogging classes, and after much persuasion from the director, decided to put on a pair of clogging shoes.

“I finally put them on, and it was like magic. I fell in love,” she said.

She’s been clogging ever since.

The shoes the cloggers wear are not the same as tap shoes. Tap shoes have a secure tap on the heel and toe. On clogging shoes, the taps are hinged and called “buck taps.”

Spikes and her daughter, Cheyenne, have been to six competitions outside of the state. Cheyenne, 18, is the 2012 Mississippi State Freestyle Grand Champion. She choreographed her own routine and outshined the other cloggers onstage in her age division. The freestyle competitors have to clog altogether onstage, and one winner is chosen. Next month at the Mississippi Clogging Counsel Extravaganza, the 2013 winner will be decided.

“I used to be shy, and through clogging – dancing in front of people that I don’t know and meeting new people – I’m outgoing.”

Cheyenne has been clogging for 10 years. She teaches the advanced class at the Brookhaven Recreation Department.

“It’s a good hobby because you never get bored with it – there’s always something new to learn,” she said.

Spikes teaches year round. She begins with the little cloggers at 5 p.m. each Monday, then 5:30 p.m. for beginners (all ages). The youngest age now is 7, but Spikes said she would start at age 3. From 6 until 7 p.m. is a review class with the whole group. The group is practicing about 10 routines right now. A performance package has 10 routines, and Spikes said they’re always learning new songs. The group accepts all skill levels.

If you are interested in joining the Dixieland Cloggers, contact the Brookhaven Recreation Department at 601-833-3791.