ClogAmerica's dancers and musicians believe in global warming — the kind that grows out of tapping toes, smiling faces and warm hearts.Since the group's founding in the early 1990s, members have mixed charity and entertainment all over the world.Although not officially sponsored by either The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the United States, ClogAmerica has taken the standards of one and the melting-pot culture of the other while competing in more than 50 major dance festivals."We get two or three invitations per year," said Shawnda Bishop, founder and director. "International organizations beg us to come."Folk dancing is not high on the list of America's cultural exchange efforts. The United States is often not represented in the festivals because the comparatively young country does not have the same folklore emphasis that many other countries have, Bishop said. So ClogAmerica, which has 21 dancers and seven musicians, has borrowed from a number of homegrown dance traditions that have become embedded in America's culture.A special arrangement of the familiar LDS hymn "Love One Another" has become a signature piece for the group. Promotion of international friendship and harmony is the underlying purpose of the festivals, Bishop said. Invitations usually come through the Worldwide Association of Performing Artists.Since its first performance in Biarritz, France, the group has appeared at festivals across Europe and in Canada, Mexico, Korea, China, Russia, Brazil and the United States, often as the only American entry. The members appeared during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City as special guest artists. This summer, they were in France and Spain.The majority of the ClogAmerica entertainers are LDS, Bishop said. Some have continued the traditions they learned as part of Brigham Young University's International Folk Dancers. They graduate without getting the urge to tap out of their toes, and ClogAmerica is a natural extension, Bishop said. She is one who fits that description.So is Catherine Larsen, a guitarist who also initiated "Warming the Human Spirit," a humanitarian project that has been part of the group's agenda since 2005.The idea was sparked when she learned about a humanitarian project by a BYU group that was raising $1,500 — enough money to feed the youngsters in an orphanage in Southeast Asia for six months."It was so inspirational to me that I sat in my car in the parking lot and cried," Larsen said. "There are no millionaires in our group, but our needs are met. I envisioned that everyone could sacrifice a bit to share."So on the group's next trip — to Moscow to be among entertainers for a celebration commemorating the end of World War II in Russia — each member of the U.S. troupe had extra baggage. Blankets, quilts, toys, shoes and a variety of items went into jammed suitcases, displacing the extra clothing the performers might have taken along.Donations have multiplied. Larsen's mother, a Relief Society president, spread the word among her ward members and a pile of pink blankets appeared."Nothing says 'love' like a blanket," Larsen said.Youth groups, Primary children and "just folks" have contributed hundreds of items to the effort.Now the challenge is cramming the charity items into the luggage ClogAmerica performers can take along. Bishop has a real concern with the growing demand by airlines that fliers pay for luggage services. Members of the troupe pay their own airfare while other expenses are met by the host country. Paying luggage fees would increase the costs, Bishop said. What they'd like more than anything are more cash donations to help meet the greater costs the humanitarian effort has generated. Either way, the charity component is here to stay, she said.Don Carpenter, a member of the ClogAmerica board and father of twins Amy and Emily, who are ClogAmerica dancers, said the troupe members have been good ambassadors for the church. Often, they have gone the extra mile to perform for local LDS groups. Leaders in the areas they have visited have used them as a missionary tool, he said.For instance, when the group was in Barcelona, Spain, this year, a gamut of church leaders was involved in arranging special appearances. They included Dan and Patricia Kirkham, Church Educational System missionaries; Elsa Zapata, public affairs director for L'Hospitalet de Llobregrat Stake in Barcelona; Enric Catala, Barcelona 2nd Ward mission leader; and Stake President Luis Rodriguez, who also is employed by CES in the area.When the music ends, the clacking of cloggers' taps dwindles into vague echoes and the performers return home. The hope is that love and giving will be a permanent ClogAmerica legacy."We can't save the world, but we can do our bit," Larsen said.


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