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A woman named Tina Wilkins who grew up “clogging” in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and moved to Bismarck a decade ago started the group, “Missouri’s Heartland Cloggers,” where she can teach Parkland residents the dance that has brought her so much joy through the years.

For those unfamiliar with clogging, it is a type of folk dance in which the dancer's footwear is used percussively by striking the heel, the toe, or both against a floor or each other to create audible rhythms, usually to the downbeat with the heel keeping the rhythm — somewhat similar to tap dancing.

“Clogging is something I watched as a little girl,” Wilkins said. “On Friday nights my grandpa would take me to the farmers market and there was a clogging team that was there. They did a lot of traditional things and they did some line dancing. It was something that I just always wanted to do.

“Fast forward to when I turned 12 and they were advertising for lessons, so my mom signed all of us up — her, me and my four other siblings. I danced on a dance team from the age of 12 to about 25. Right around 25, I laid off of it for a while. Whenever I moved here to Missouri thinking there would be tons of cloggers since it was a more country type of area, there was nothing local for us."

According to Wilkins, she and her family had talked through the years about starting a clogging group, but never got around to it.

“So, I finally decided to do something,” she said. “I talked to my sister and my brother and my mom — I left out two of the brothers — and said, ‘Let’s do this!’ I contacted Sally and Keith Colwell to be able to get into Freedom Fest. I told them we’d perform for free. We just wanted to get us out there. We wanted people to see us and see what clogging is. Then, give everyone else the experience of what we all did growing up.”

Wilkins has memories of her family traveling from Virginia to North Carolina to perform at shows when she was a child.

“You know, fairs and festivals,” she said. “We did a lot of nursing homes. If there was an event, we were there. We just loved it.”

Asked how she came to live in Missouri after growing up in Virginia, Wilkins explained, “My mom actually moved here first. I didn’t move with my mom and my siblings at first. I was 18 years old and she reconnected with somebody who she had dated when she was younger. I stayed in Virginia Beach because I was newly married and pregnant. My siblings were all younger, so they moved to Missouri with her. I moved here about 10 years ago. I just haven’t been here as long as they all have, but after 10 years it feels like home.”

Wilkins and her family started a Facebook page and began offering clogging lessons to a small group in Bismarck about three months ago.

“We practice at Sundale Park on Monday and Wednesday nights,” she said. “The problem is that with the sun setting earlier now, we need to get out of the dark. It’s been getting dark by 7 and we’re scheduled to practice until 8 — so, we’ve been practicing half the time in the dark.

“Because of that we haven’t been able to offer another set of lessons. We have no place indoors to practice. One of my dancers brought up that we needed to start looking for sponsors. I had talked about fundraising and stuff like that to start bringing in an income where we could afford to get an indoor place.

“She was going around talking to people but a lot of people — even here in Bismarck — have never even heard of us. We’ve had the Facebook page up for a while and people share our posts, but we don’t want to be forgotten about. I want people to say, ‘Oh, that’s who they are!’”

Describing clogging as “a great family activity,” Wilkins wants people in this part of southeast Missouri to build wonderful memories like she did as a child, teen and finally as an adult.

“It was our life,” she said. “Sometimes as kids we’d have four shows a weekend — two on a Saturday and two on a Sunday. Some weekends we’d only have one and others where we had none, but we never had time to get in trouble because we were always busy.

“I’m not a dancer by nature. You can not put on music and me just get out there and know how to dance to whatever kind of music it is, but clogging is something that I got when it was taught to me. I was really good at it and enjoyed it. I enjoyed the line dancing part of it a whole lot. My brothers enjoy the more traditional square dance part of it.

“That’s one of the things we’re hoping to do when we get a larger group, but right now there’s only about eight of us. It’s definitely a social thing for me. I’m a busy mom of three kids who are home-schooled. We don’t do too much, but clogging gets us out.

“With practice at Sundale Park, the kids have playtime. I’m around adults and my kids are around kids. It’s music and dancing — and music and dancing are fun. It’s like a party twice a week! Whenever we have people to show off for — a few that might come through the park with their kids to stop, watch and ask questions — everybody enjoys it. Now, we just need somebody to provide us a place where we can meet indoors where we can see and it’s warm."

For more information about Missouri’s Heartland Cloggers or if you know of a place where the group can practice, go to the group’s Facebook page or call Tina Wilkins at 573-915-2108.

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Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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