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Siblings in sync

Clermont clogging clan stays in step with a winning dance team

POSTED: April 1, 2012 12:30 a.m.

The Cantrell siblings are a high-kicking, toe-standing, folk dancing conundrum.

It’s not every day that you meet brothers and sisters ranging in age from 11 to 17 who are willing spend the bulk of their waking hours together.

It’s also not every day you meet a group of young performers so focused on keeping an old-school style of folk dance alive.

"We started clogging eight years ago," said 17-year-old Callie Cantrell, whose family lives in Clermont.

"Mama didn’t want us to be all scattered around with sports and stuff, so she started looking for something we could all do together."

"I chose clogging because it’s something that’s not gender-oriented and it crosses all economic and age groups and it’s very family-friendly," said Sandra Cantrell, the mother of the family.

"They didn’t know what clogging was at first. They thought it was like tap dancing."

Although they seem similar, clogging is a bit different than tap dance. Whereas tap dancers perform to a song’s melody, cloggers are focused more on a song’s downbeat.

Also, tap dancers use the stationary taps on their shoes to make sounds; cloggers’ shoes have jingle taps and get most of their sounds from the heels of their feet.

Though clogging isn’t as popular as it was several decades ago, the Cantrell siblings have thrived.

Their team, Synergy, based out of Sole Impulse Dance Studio in Cumming, has racked up numerous awards, including back-to-back national titles.

The siblings have also won individual awards such as Parker Cantrell’s Grand Champion Amateur Male title. He secured that honor at the Clogging Champions of America’s Showdown of Champions in Tennessee a few weeks ago.

"Before I went to the dance-off, my teacher pulled me aside and said I had a really good chance of winning if I poured myself into it, so that’s what I did," said Parker, 15.

With the other nonfamily members of their team, the Cantrells compete in about six competitions each year.

"We try to practice every day," said Savannah Cantrell, 13.

Practice not only makes perfect, it also builds the stamina the dancers need to compete in the all-day competitions.

"At the last competition we were still dancing at 2 a.m.," said 11-year-old Jackson Cantrell.

When competitions are close, they each fall into their unique roles.

"Parker is really good about finding ways to really motivate them to practice," Sandra Cantrell said. "But then when they get to practice, (Callie) is the one bossing everyone around."

During a rehearsal, if one of her siblings falls out of step, Callie only has to give a slight, negative shake of her head and everyone knows to start over. And they do, without a single complaint.

Although they all started clogging at the same time, Callie’s leadership skills naturally shine through. When she was 14, she started offering lessons out of their basement studio.

"It’s just a recreational group," Callie said. "It’s mostly kids, but there are some adults that come, too."

Her students, the Spitfire Cloggers, meet every Thursday for lessons. They also perform at various community events.

Community performances give the Cantrells another opportunity to practice their skills, and also help them educate the public about their art form. Clogging isn’t all about petticoats and stiff upper bodies anymore.

"There’s a lot of hip-hop dance in it now. They also incorporate Irish Step, Canadian Step and toe stands in all their work," Sandra Cantrell said.

"It has evolved a lot over time. Some teams still wear the big petticoats and stuff, but a majority of the teams don’t."

Between their home-schooling and dancing, the Cantrells are rarely apart, but no one seems to mind.

"We like it," Callie said. "Sometimes we fuss just like any other brothers and sisters, but we like being together."

There may be one thing they like better: clogging competitions.

"It’s a lot of fun," Jackson said. "Especially when you get to bring home trophies that are the same size as you are."


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