Clogging has a special place in the history of Kentucky, and plenty of fans who enjoy learning the style of dance today.
“Clogging is a very old dance,” says clogging instructor Barry Lanham. “It originated in the Appalachian Mountains and is the official state dance of Kentucky. It’s been around for hundreds of years but is a mixture of African, Irish, German, and English step dancing. There are taps on the shoes, on the toes and on the heels, and I love the aspect of using your feet as an instrument.”
Lanham started dancing when he first learned about it as a freshman in college 30 years ago. He became an instructor a couple of years later, and today he teaches dancers of all ages and ability levels in Owensboro.
“We have all different levels of dancers, all different abilities,” he says. “My teaching style is very encouraging. I want to see people smiling. I want to see them having fun. They’re constantly being encouraged to keep going, to keep trying, to try to get a little bit faster as they go. And so through that encouragement and through the repetition of steps, they’re able to master that step and master a routine.”
Lanham explains that there are eight basic steps to clogging, which are the first elements that beginners learn in his classes. Routines are choreographed with different combinations of those basic steps and performed to any type of music that has a fast, lively beat.
“Me and my brother put together what’s called the Lanham Brothers Jamboree,” says Lanham. “The show is based out of Diamond Lake Resort Good Time Theater in Owensboro. Randy and I put the show together about 11 years ago. He does the music part of it. I do the dance part of it. We bring in different acts, but one thing that is always a signature part of the show is the music and the dance.”
Many of Lanham’s students come to the class through friends or family members. “It was my aunt,” says clogger Abby Burns. “She had told us one night at a family dinner that she was going to be clogging so she invited me and my mom and my grandmother and so that’s how we started.”
“I started in it and then my children joined me and as I tell people, they grew up and I didn’t,” says clogger Karen Stiff. “So I’m still here doing that and none of them do!”
“I actually attended a Lanham Brothers Jamboree and I was with a group of friends,” clogger Debbie Fillman remembers. “My friend leaned over and said, ‘this is exactly what I want to do, I want to be a clogger.’ And I said, ‘well let’s do it!’”
“There’s always another step you can learn,” Fillman adds. “There’s another dance you can learn, there’s another routine you can learn.”