Part 2 of the Andy Howard American Racket Interview

Andy Howard is the director of American Racket. American Racket (Dance Company) features the sights and sounds of one of our, well, noisiest traditions… American Clogging and percussive dance! Productions feature some of the finest dancers in the country in a celebration of (loud) living traditions. These dancers have represented the United States in Brazil and Costa Rica and have opened for artists cuch as Bill Cosby, Sugar Ray, Ted Koppel, Dane Cook, Jimmy Lovelace, and Wayne Brady. American Racket is a guaranteed toe-tapping, hand-clapping good time for all and a celebration of what young adults are doing to revive and reinvent the dance culture of the United States.

Read Part 1 of the exclusive interview with Andy Howard from American Racket.

6. Where has clogging taken you?

Canada (twice), Brazil (twice), Costa Rica, Wales… I grew up performing at Dollywood during the summers. I taught courses at Florida State University and as a guest at University of Florida and several community colleges. I also taught at the Florida Dance Festival in Miami and for the Florida Dance Associations’ “Young Dancer Conferences” in various Florida regions. I was awarded a full scholarship to research clogging while teaching at Florida State University; my Master’s (M.A.) is in American Dance Studies. I have always enjoyed the opportunity to dance my favorite dance with my favorite people.

7. Why do you recommend clogging to EVERYONE?

If you don’t try it, you’ll never know what you’re missing out on. I can’t imagine my life without clogging, or my clogging family.

8. Who has been the most influential clogger to you?

Bascom Lamar Lunsford. He was the organizer of the 1928 festival where clogging was born. He, no doubt, did the most to promote the style and also old-time music, including work with the Smithsonian. Of course, I never met Bascom because he passed in the 1970s before i was born. I have studied him quite a bit and I can relate with him a great deal. We also have many random similar interests/experiences. For instance, he spent a short time beekeeping and my cousins are beekeepers, so I was raised around beekeeping. Lots of random stuff… If you’ve seen videos or photos, you can tell Lunsford was very proud of the styles and did his best to share the knowledge with others. In terms of a contemporary hero, I would say Scotty Bilz. Scotty is very well known for his contributions to clogging, but he is also a Florida boy. In my opinion, Scotty helped put Florida on the map as a (once) clogging Mecca. His style also influenced most Florida competition teams, especially in the 1980s and 90s. Although I never danced directly for Scotty, the style of clogging that I grew up on is heavily influenced by Scotty’s work with those who taught me, etc.

9. How can ClogOn.com help promote clogging to the masses even more?

I have a theory about the “decline” in clogging since the 1990s. As teams got more advanced, clogging groups became less community based and more specialty based. You see more teams with dancers from many different communities (often different states), and less teams that are from the same hometown. Although this aided in the level of the dancing, we see on stage, now less people are teaching beginners and investing in small-town or community teams. We are missing the entry stage of the clogging ecosystem. I think clogging instructors should work together to invest in clogging on the local/regional level and invest in teaching beginners of all ages. I believe that the lack of available instruction (on all levels) has resulted in a decline. We have to take time to teach!… and teach teachers!

10. What do you think of traditional clogging vs. the new hip-hop/jazz type clogging?

We need both. I completely support progressive adaptations to our dance style. I also think it is important to keep the traditional styles in practice. It is like having a museum with different “wings” for historic and contemporary art. I admit that I enjoy both, but I have benefited most from knowing and understanding the traditional.

Comments

  1. Rev. Spencer Thompson says:

    I began clogging at age 42, ended up teaching 23 years in the U S, Canada and Europe. I was a child welfare administrator for 40 plus years and have 14 children, 11 adopted and three homemade. Clogging was my mental health.

    I am retired now living in Oaxaca Mexico 7 years volunteering at the state central prison here as an Anglican priest. the prisoners often ask me to dance, They are QUITE amazed that El Padre can dance at all nevermind rather well. Remember you retired or retiring people there is much left to do. I also am a direct care giver at a home for the children of prostitutes and on the board of the only English Library in this the poorest state of Mexico. We have established 50 spanish libraries around the state, some places dangerous to travel to. KEEP ON CLOGGING I do still after two lower back surgeries and both hips replaced.

  2. Rev. Spencer Thompson says:

    Post script the in air heel clicks are the best I have ever seen. Even my best friend Steve Smith never did them that high. I am sure each made symetrical in air heel contacts, maybe not exactly at the same moment. Congrats to all those and you who lead them

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