Clogging Cultivates a Fresh Identity at NC State
By: Aubrey Izurieta ‘21, communications
If hearing the word ‘clogging’ evokes images of wooden shoes and tacky costumes, you are not alone.
“I wish people would see what clogging actually is,” said Becca Churchill ‘21, an education major, and member of the Pack Clogging club. During her three years with the club, Churchill has strived to eradicate any preconceived notions of clogging as dull or old-fashioned. According to Churchill, clogging can be described as a more upbeat and complex version of tap dancing.
Clogging first arrived at NC State 30 years ago, founded by current Health and Exercise Studies professor, Marsha Lester, and NC State alumni and current club adviser, Chip Futrell. Since its formation, the club has strived to preserve a dance form rich in tradition while establishing clogging’s place in the modern era.
Originating in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1920s, clogging has special ties to the North Carolina community. As the official state folk dance, clogging evokes a sense of community and belonging that the members of the club embody.
Churchill was first exposed to clogging in her hometown of Garner, North Carolina. At 5 years old, Churchill discovered clogging at her local dance studio and found it to be not only a creative outlet but a constructive way to spend her extra energy as well. Churchill credits her hometown by instilling a passion for the sport that has continued into her college years.
While clogging is not as prevalent in the Triangle area, the club is working toward establishing Raleigh as a clog-friendly city.
“In February we host our own clogging competition and local groups attend,” said Churchill. The Wolfpack Clogging Challenge, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is open to the public. The event serves as an opportunity for the club to raise money, as well as to interact with the local community. Two years ago, the club raised close to $11,000, and they are hoping that this year’s event will be even more successful.
In addition to the Wolfpack Clogging Challenge, one of Churchill’s favorite traditions is their annual performance at the North Carolina State Fair. A special moment happened at this year’s fair when a little girl and her mom approached the group after their performance and asked for a picture. The interaction left an impact on Churchill, who was around the same age as the girl when she started clogging. “When we clog at competitions people recognize us as Pack Clogging, and when you go on stage the whole crowd cheers for you because you are associated with NC State,” said Churchill. “It’s cool to represent the university.”
The greatest opportunity to represent NC State happens during the annual national championships, hosted by America’s Clogging Hall of Fame. This year, the club qualified for nationals for the first time during Churchill’s three years with the program. The competition took place in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on the weekend of October 25. Even though the club did not take home any awards, simply qualifying was special to Churchill, who cherishes traveling to competitions as a way of bonding with her teammates.
“My favorite competitions are the ones where we go out of town. It’s fun and exciting to travel with this team to nationals because we’ve never advanced to this level,” said Churchill.
As an upperclassman and team veteran, Churchill acts as a resource for new club members. She remembers that not too long ago, she was in the same position as club newcomers. “We really try to stress that even if you haven’t clogged before, you can join,” said Churchill.
“If you have never tried it before but you want to be on the team and are dedicated to learning how to clog, we are not going to say no to you.”
Becca Churchill ‘21
Churchill serves as the safety officer and social media chair for the club. Stepping into these leadership roles has already enhanced her networking and communication skills. Churchill hopes she can incorporate the knowledge she has learned into her future career as an educator. She feels like she can serve as a mentor for her teammates and is happy to be able to give back to a program that has given so much to her during her time at NC State.
Clogging has not only functioned to keep Churchill physically active, but also to maintain close ties with her NC State community and hometown roots. While Churchill has no definite plans to continue clogging after graduation, she has entertained the idea of incorporating clogging in her future endeavors.
“I feel like clogging is something that has been a part of my life for this long, so I should keep it up,” says Churchill. While her clogging future remains uncertain, Churchill is glad she has found a supportive community and made memories and connections that will remain with her long after she graduates.