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High-kicking in the High Country



Article Published: Jul. 10 | Modified: Jul. 13
High-kicking in the High Country

For 43 years, the Green Grass Cloggers have been kicking up their heels with their own style of clogging in their home state of North Carolina, as well as across the country and around the world. On Saturday, they’ll step into Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music.

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This Saturday night, July 12, Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music brings the high-kicking, calico-swirling Green Grass Cloggers to the Harvest House Performing Arts Venue in Boone.

The show begins at 7:30 p.m., and concert organizers are promising an evening of high-energy, toe-tapping, old-time music and dance.

The Green Grass Cloggers are hot off their recent performance in Wilksboro, where they were inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame to honor their innovative, traditional/precision hybrid style of clogging. They will share the stage with and dance to the High Country’s own local Laurel Creek String Band. In addition, this concert is a tribute to Sugar Grove flatfoot dancing legend, Robert Dotson, who has been an inspiration to the Green Grass Cloggers since 1978.

For 43 years now, the Green Grass Cloggers have been kicking up their heels with their own style of clogging in their home state of North Carolina, as well as across the country and around the world.
Inspired by traditional mountain-style clogging teams and influenced by Appalachian flatfooters and buckdancers, they developed an original, eclectic style of dance, which was a radical departure from traditional team clogging.

By 1974, the group had an established reputation as excellent entertainers and was invited to perform at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and other major festivals throughout the United States and Canada. From 1977 until 1987, the Road Team, based in Asheville, toured full-time nationally and internationally as a professional dance company, appearing at Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

They were also featured along with Rudolf Nureyev in the Julie Andrews’ Emmy Award winning television special, “An Invitation to Dance,” in 1980.

By the end of the 1980s, clogging groups inspired by the Green Grass Cloggers had formed in hundreds of places across the country. Overseas, the Green Grass Clogger-style was adopted by groups in Japan and in England, where today it is the predominant style of Appalachian clogging.
In 2011, the Green Grass Cloggers celebrated their 40th anniversary with a resurgence of energy, adding many new younger dancers and performing at nationally acclaimed festivals, such as MerleFest.

Recent recognitions for the group include Western Carolina University’s 2008 Mountain Heritage Award, the Charlotte Folk Society’s 2011 Folk Heritage Award and a 2012 Community Traditions Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society. The current team that will grace the stage at the Harvest House this week includes some vintage members, along with newer recruits.

The Laurel Creek String Band will “play” an integral part in this week’s concert. The group was first formed in 1978, playing for community dances and events around Watauga County.

While there have been many transitions through the years, Cecil Gurganus is the lone remaining original member. Gurganus has won numerous fiddle contest over the years, and he is an inspiring mentor to many youngsters in the High Country through his work as a teacher in the Junior Appalachian Musicians program.

Other current members include banjo player Adam Jarrell and bassist and singer Brandon Holder. Trevor McKenzie will trade off with Gurganus on fiddle and guitar and will be featured singing on a couple of his original songs.

Laurel Creek String Band plays primarily traditional old-time string band music of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and the group especially loves playing for dancers.

Reflecting on how he ended up in Boone on Saturday nights this summer, Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music director Rodney Sutton, who has been dancing with he GGC since 1972, said, “It is an honor to bring the Green Grass Cloggers to perform in the JSMHM 2014 concert season. It was through my booking the GGC with Joe Shannon that I first became aware that JSMHM was looking for a new director. It is amazing the twist and turns that intertwine one in this huge circle of Appalachian culture!”

This week’s concert is sponsored by WETS - 89.5 FM, Stick Boy Bread Company, Earth Fare, Greystone Eye, the United Way and Merida H. and John H. Steele. JSMHM is also included as a site on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina (BlueRidgeMusicNC.com).

Tickets are $20 in advance and $22 at the door. Student tickets cost $11, and children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online though the Mountain Home Music website, http://www.mountainhomemusic.com. Tickets may also be purchased at Mast General Store (Boone and Valle Crucis), Fred’s General Mercantile on Beech Mountain and at Pandora’s Mailbox and the Dulcimer Shop, both in the Martin House on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.

For more information, visit http://www.mountainhomemusic.com, or call (828) 964-3392. Harvest House Performing Arts Center is located at at 247 Boone Heights Drive in Boone.

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