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Part: 6 Picture Perfect > Term Paper #3 - Pg. 354

Sample Term Papers 354 I learned from step dancer Brooke Earnhardt that many organizations hold independent clogging competitions, such as the Showstoppers National Talent Competition, the National Clogging and Hoe-down Championships, and the Clogging Champions of America Competition. However, none of these organizations is affiliated with one another or overseen by a higher establishment. In ac- cordance, there is no set teaching or judging criteria. Some judges look for precision, some judge the choreography, some watch for the dancers' ability to stay with the music, and some pay attention to the costumes. Usually a group will be rated numerically, though the number range varies from one competition to the next, on some combination of the above categories. Identity/Community So who are these dancers? Is Irish step dancing still just the dance of the Irish? Is clogging only done by white descendents of settlers from the British Isles? I asked Brooke and Katie about their family backgrounds in order to see if there was a predictable pattern. Interestingly, while both danc- ers fit the historic description of their respective dances--Katie is 100 percent Irish and Brooke has Scottish and English ancestors--both denied that their heritage had anything to do with their choice of dance. Also, neither Brooke nor Katie had any history of family members who were involved in their dance, so they were both firstp-generation dancers, so to speak. Apparently for Brooke and Katie, any ethnic link was purely coincidental. I concluded that in order to accurately and more completely explore this issue, I'd need to ask more than one person from each dancing community. It would be an interesting topic for further research. Authenticity We spent a great deal of time discussing authenticity in class, so it seemed natural for me to incor- porate it into my research. While watching Riverdance , I realized that while the footwork was beau- tifully executed, the dancing as a whole was not necessarily "authentic" Irish step dancing. For one thing, the costuming was wrong. The dancers in the show wear more modern clothes, which look great on stage but would never be permitted at a feis. The dancers don't keep their arms at their sides either. These two observations among others left me wondering what a real Irish dancer would think if I, in my relative ignorance, had noticed all these discrepancies. Perhaps surprisingly, the Irish dancers don't seem to mind. As of yet, I have read and heard only positive things from Irish dancers about the step dancing that takes place in Riverdance or Lord of the Dance . In general, they seem to be delighted that their dance and culture is so positively received by the public. Katie's comment was, "The two shows have increased public awareness of Irish dancing and made it dis- tinct. Before the shows, few people would have known what step dancing was .... Since the shows, there has been a huge swell in the number of new dancers of all ages who enroll in dance classes. I think the shows have ... helped to promote Irish step dancing as being fun and modern" (E-mail to the author, 10 November 1998). What may be the greatest effect of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance is the realization that there is a life for Irish dancers outside of competition (Cullinane 125). Media Attention Irish step dancing has obviously received a lot of media attention lately, largely due to the huge commercial successes of the step dancing shows Riverdance and Lord of the Dance . Clogging, however, remains fairly unknown as an old Appalachian mountain tradition and is familiar only to those who clog and those who live in rural communities where clogging is common. Or is it? Interest in Appalachian dance was somewhat revived along with the folk movement in the late 1970s. The Green Grass Cloggers often performed publicly to live music and apparently had quite a following (Mangin, Julie <>). Perhaps at the height of clogging's visibility, the Leather 'N' Lace Cloggers, a precision team from Leicester, North Carolina, performed at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta before an audience of thousands and broadcast via television to millions worldwide (Mangin, Julie. <>). So while clogging may not have the fame that step dancing currently enjoys, it seems to be quietly holding its own.