Before there was this version of Abby:
There was this version of Abby:
In case you are squinting at your computer, wondering who the adorably precocious child in fringe may be, let me just tell you. That’s an eleven-year-old me. And I used to be a clogger.
“What’s that? A clogger, you say?”
Yes. A clogger. For those who don’t know what clogging is, let me tell you.
To tell ya the truth, I was pretty dang good little clogger, ya’ll. I was a dancer with the Tri-City Express Cloggers from Kingsport, Tennessee, and we didn’t just dance at weekend festivals and nursing homes. Oh no. We also competed. (Hence the trophies in the picture above.)
My dancin’ feet took me travellin’, in contests and competitions state wide. One of the more memorable experiences was at Dollywood–a brand spankin’ new theme park in Pigeon Forge. We’d practiced, and practiced HARD, for weeks leading up to the Dollywood competition. It was our first time competing in such a large venue, and we had no idea what we were up against.
(PS: Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you’re probably laughing at me right now. You know it, I know it. It’s totally ok. Let’s move on.)
This competition at Dollywood wasn’t a 3 hour affair. Oh, no. It was a weekend-long competition. And so our entire troupe–all 8 of us–brought our sequins and our hairspray and our tappy shoes and filled up a small corner of the giant auditorium. We each had our own entourage–parents, siblings, grandparents, friends–and the excitement was palpable.
I vaguely remember a guy wearing all denim and cowboy boots taking the mic and making a brief speech, and then, the competition finally began. We settled into our seats to watch as the first team clacked out onto the wooden stage. There were at least 30 of them, and they were all wearing matching red jumpsuits. Not just any red jumpsuits, but SEQUINED red jumpsuits.
A collective “WOW” could be heard on our 2 rows as we took in the spectacle. We’d never seen a clogging team like this before.
And THAT’S when the music started.
The bass pumped through the huge speakers, the synthesizer loud enough to make our already-big hair stand up even taller. And like a perfectly-oiled machine, the dance troupe on stage began their choreography to the song that would haunt us for the rest of the weekend. You might remember it–a little diddy called “Are You Ready For This?”
(We’re going to pause again right here so you can laugh about the awfulness awesomeness of that video. then we’re going to move on. Ready? Ok.)
As the red-bedazzled team tippity-tapped their way into the judges’ hearts, we just sat there in awe. Where was the blue grass? Or the Garth Brooks? Who were these sophisticates from the big city? How could we begin to compete with our modest costumes and our small numbers? And they were dancing to music so cool and hip, we’d never heard it before! We were doomed.
Twenty minutes and 3 teams later, we were beginning to feel the nerves. Another team, this one decked out in green ruffles, took their places beneath the spotlights. And we sat watching, hearts in hand.
The now-familiar strains of “Are Ya’ll Ready For This?” played over the loud speakers.
My Dad was sitting behind me, and I remember hearing him say, “Really? Again?”
We sat through another 4 minute routine, the unfamiliar song pulsing in our brains. And when the next team danced to the exact same song, I could see the adults in our group begin to cringe.
By 6 pm Saturday night, we’d heard the song approximately eleven-hundred-and-forty-seven times.
(What? So I might be rounding up a little. Big deal.)
After our performances were done, we began packing up our little group to head back to the cabins for the night. To say that we were ready to get out of that auditorium—and away from that song in particular—was understatement of the year. As the last team took to the stage, none of us were surprised to hear that fateful question asked of us again.
“ARE YA’LL READY FOR THIS?”
Without rehearsal and in perfect unison, my Dad and 2 other dads stood up and answered with a resounding “NO!”
And our merry little band of cloggers made our way to the exit, laughing all the way.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Fast-forward to spring of 1994. I was in the eighth grade, and a proud JV Cheerleader. As we jogged out into the middle of the basketball court to perform our first halftime show, my years as a clogger were the last thing on my mind. My parents sat proudly in the stands, and I took one last second to look up and smile before taking my position.
When I looked back up again, the strains of Jock Jams playing loudly in the background, I nearly tripped over my pom poms. Because when the guy yelled “Are Ya’ll Ready For This?” both my parents reflexively shouted the word, “NO!”
We now equate that reaction to PTCPD. Post-traumatic clogging parent disorder.