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Cloggers, Sikhs, Mariachis and More Unite for 45th Annual Texas Folklife Festival 

click to enlarge Keep Traditions Alive at the Annual Texas Folklife Festival - JAMIE COUCH KRAUTZ
  • Jamie Couch Krautz
  • Keep Traditions Alive at the Annual Texas Folklife Festival

Ballet Folklórico de San Antonio

This year will be a bittersweet one for instructor Boni Ramos and her ballet folklórico dancers. Last month, her mother and executive director of the cultural education organization, Emma D. Ramos, passed away. This will be the first time in 45 years Ramos will attend the festival without her. “She was the driving force and the one that instilled the Mexican history and culture of folklórico dance in us,” Ramos said. “She wanted to make sure that it was available to everybody. I know that she will be there with us in spirit — always smiling and always happy.”

Belgian American Club of Texas

Learn about the history of Belgians immigrating to Texas in the late 17th century and, while you’re at it, partake in as much Belgian food as you can eat, from Belgian sausage (400 pounds should be enough, right?) to Belgian waffles with powdered sugar, strawberries and vanilla ice cream. 

“This is a way for us to show our heritage that was passed down to us and that will continue to pass down to younger generations,” said David Verstuyft, spokesperson for Belgian American Club of Texas. “We’re coming together to share our family recipes.” Along with the mouthwatering cuisine at the festival, BACT will feature their dance troupe, a beer garden with Belgian imports and Belgian bowling — a game that resembles something between shuffleboard and horseshoes.

Fire on the Mountain Cloggers

Linda Carolan first learned to clog when she was a child. Back then, when she was mimicking her great-grandmother to the tune of her grandfather’s fiddle, she didn’t know she’d perform for audiences in Germany, Venezuela and beyond.

Carolan first learned flatfooting, a traditional type of clogging. Clogging itself is a kind of Appalachian-based tap dancing. Its roots reach back to Western Europe, primarily England, Ireland and Germany. As people from those countries migrated to the U.S. and made homes in Appalachia, clogging evolved with the bluegrass music of the area. It came to Texas with the first Scotch-Irish settlers. 

Carolan’s group has existed for about 35 years. Although other clogging troupes integrate more modern music or steps, Fire on the Mountain tries to remain as traditional as possible. Line dances and contemporary tunes haven’t infiltrated the group, and they likely won’t on Carolan’s watch. She sees it as a link to the past — both her own family’s, and the broader culture’s.

“Clogging in its original form, its traditional form, is very important to keep alive,” Carolan said. “We will lose it if we do not continue to educate people about it.”

The dances themselves involve complex taps and steps to create a beat with the clogs. It’s typically performed on a hard surface to amplify the sound of the shoes. Sometimes individual dancers will perform on hard wooden boards for maximum effect. The rattling steps are punctuated with high kicks and yelps by the dancers.

Although she’s been clogging for most of her life, Carolan — now nearly 60 — doesn’t plan to stop soon. Not everyone can clog like her, she says, so she’s got to take advantage of her skill.

“I like to dance because I feel like it’s something that was given to me,” she said. “I just feel very blessed to ... be spry enough to do it.”

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