Some people aspire to a ballroom on the third floor of their mansion. But Martha Lindgren is happy with an enlarged kitchen on the side of her comfortably Sandy home, where her Clogging Grand mothers can work out. And these 10 lively ladies say they couldn't have more fun if they were queens.
Lindgren, a slim little dynamo in her 60s, heads the troupe, which gives her their undying gratitude and undivided attention every Monday and Thursday morning from 9 to 10:30.She says she felt her first stirrings of interest in clogging as she watched the fast-stepping square dancers on the old "Hee Haw" television show. "Then in 1976 I went to the California National Square Dance Convention, where I saw clogging done in style," she said.
Lindgren took her first class in 1981 and has been going to the Southern California Cloggers Association conventions, a gathering of 1,000 dancers, every year since 1982 where she picks up material for the next year. (She also choreographs some of her own dances.) Her performance career began with a number for a talent show in her LDS ward, where some of the women showed interest in doing the dancing.
"Clogging is really nothing more than two-stepping," she explained. "Then you add a step for a triple. We use the California terminology, as opposed to eastern clog, which uses a caller. And we make up names for our own original little steps. The routines have gotten a little harder as we go along."
In 1985 Lindgren formed her first group. "I was teaching clogging in the community school at Butler
Middle School and picked a group from my students," she said. That same year her husband, Ross, built the addition on the kitchen.
In March of 1988, the group invited their husbands and grown children to a recital. Great enthusiasm resulted, and one clogger's daughter, who is vice principal at an elementary school, arranged their first program out. They ended up doing 18 performances in 1988, an average that has held for the past two years.
The Clogging Grandmothers dance at the Festival of Trees, at the State Fair, the Dickens Festival, the 49th Street Galleria, for Harmon's annual cancer drive, at church affairs and in convalescent homes. Ross Lindgren (Mr. Music Man to the cloggers) helps with everything.
"We do a half-hour show, with an average seven or eight numbers," said Lindgren. "That takes quite a bit of stamina. We learn about 15 dances in a year."
The Clogging Grandmothers polish their routine. They do about 18 shows a year, including shows at the State Fair. Most of the women have been clogging three to eight years.
Requirements for the group are that you be 45 years old and, of course, a grandmother. Most of the women have been clogging from three to eight years, and none hold full-time jobs away from home.
Besides a great deal of church service, they do a variety of interesting part-time jobs. For example, Charlene Whitehead is a free-lance writer and Weight Watchers superviser. Janice Rooney takes baby pictures at Alta View hospital and is a travel agent, Joyce Hummel plays and teaches piano. Sharon Christensen teaches clogging to children, and ceramics at Mount Jordan Community School, sews, makes porcelain dolls and does oil and tole painting.
Thelma Slaugh quilts, and she and Utahna Jones design and construct costumes for the group. The basic attire is a white, full-skirted, ruffled dress, which they accessorize with aprons, scarves, blue or red bibs, and white or black shoes, with red bows at Christmas and Valentine's Day.
All are enthusiastic exercisers, from walking to jogging to hiking, swimming (Verlayne Richardson is a swim instructor) and sports such as golf and skiing. Several of them are frequent travelers.
The group ranges in age from 45 to 65. Strangely enough, there's an age gap between 51 (two members) and 60, with six members in their 60s. They come from all over the south valley - East Millcreek, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights.
Lindgren holds the record for children, with 10 children and 31 grandchildren. The average is four children, not counting Janice Rooney, who with her second husband has a total of nine children. The 10 have 115 grandchildren, and Deanne Utley and Marge Malstron have five great-grandchildren each.
The group's interest in clogging is indicative of a state of mind, a certain way of viewing themselves and life. They all feel youthful, interesting, unlimited by age and ready to take a flyer at something new.
"We're not your traditional grandmother that sits in a rocking chair or bakes cookies," said Rooney. "Our grandchildren love to come and watch their grandmothers perform on stage; it makes them proud."
What do they get out of it? Fun, a sense of accomplishment and strong personal friendships, amounting to a support system. "When one of us has a tragedy, like Verlayne, whose son-in-law died suddenly, it hurts us all," they agreed. Several of the women feel themselves to be best friends, with lifelong ties.
Some began clogging as an early bird exercise class. "If you need a lift, take up clogging," said Jones. "Dancing is the fountain of youth." "I was bored with just walking," said Hummel. "The 90 minutes is gone before we know it," said Rooney.
"Clogging is good for your state of mind. If you have problems, you have to cast them aside for an hour, because you must concentrate on your steps," said Lindgren.
She also teaches Cloggers on Cue, a group of young mothers, once a week. They perform, but less frequently, due to home responsibilities. And she teaches some classes that don't perform but clog just for fun.