The following feature article was written by Josie Syzman and originally published in the Jersey Journal, November 3, 2004:
FORMER DANCE INSTRUCTOR BRINGS HER LOVE OF CLOG DANCING TO HOBOKEN
Mary Beth Yakoubian of Hoboken says there’s no dancing like clog dancing. A retired high school physical education teacher, Yakoubian teaches clog dancing at the Hoboken YMCA every Saturday.
“Nothing is as much fun as clogging, and it’s great exercise too,” Yakoubian told me as we walked into the uptown Starbucks recently. “Clogging is an American folk dance based on a step dance style that developed from Southern Appalachian flatfoot dancing,” she explained. In her favorite form of clog dancing, known as “precision” clogging, everyone dances the same steps at the same time, as in line dancing.
Mile Square Cloggers working on "Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy"
featuring Mary Beth, Ethel, Diane, Betsy, Mary
The elements that identify clog dancing are loud, fast footwork, a rigid torso and the up and down knee motions. Feet become percussion instruments. The shoes have two taps on the end of each sole in a loosely joined “sandwich,” so these taps can strike one another with each step.
Clog dancing is done to all kinds of upbeat music, including bluegrass, rock, country and even hip-hop. “I’ve always loved bluegrass music, and that’s probably what led me to clog dancing. It’s easy to learn because it’s not technical, and it’s not physically demanding,” said Yakoubian, who has always been physically active. “I know 80-year-olds who enjoy clog dancing.”
She explained that “each person can dance based on his/her ability. The knees can be bent, or held straight, and you only lift your legs as high as you are able.” Clog dancing is good for all ages, from school children to seniors “and you are burning about 400 calories an hour,” she added.
| Mary Beth Yakoubian
Yakoubian performs at country fairs and outdoor festivals all over the Northeast. She wears colorful costumes she makes herself, featuring lots of sequins, she said.
“It’s fun to entertain. You get caught up in the performance and you meet lots of wonderful people in clog dancing!” (When she travels to competition, she keeps occupied by doing cross-stitch needlework.)
Yakoubian belongs to the national organization of cloggers known as C.L.O.G. and enjoys attending their annual conventions. “Clogging is very popular in many different places, like Florida, Maine, Utah and Canada,” she explained. Clog dancing was included as a competitive dance sport in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) Junior Olympics in 2003.
A former Arthur Murray dance instructor, Yakoubian has been married to her husband, non-dancer Daniel Cox for 18 years. Dancing has always been a big part of Yakoubian’s life. She also enjoys Middle Eastern-style dancing, Broadway-style dancing and line dancing, she said.
Yakoubian, who grew up in an Armenian community in Stratford, CT, remembers wonderful summers in Asbury Park where the Eighth Avenue beach was a center of Armenian social life. Since her retirement two years ago, she has found many interesting activities, including a writing class at the New School in New York City and piano lessons with Hoboken music teacher Phillip Dieckow. “Retirement is the best. It’s too bad you can’t do it when you’re young,” she said with a laugh.
Yakoubian is very dedicated to spreading the word about the joys of clogging. “My class is mostly made up of beginners,” she said. “I don’t know anybody who couldn’t learn to clog – you’ll be in good company, and you’ll have so much fun!”