Tennessee Hoedowners clog their way through London in New Year's Day parade

Jeff Bobo • Jan 22, 2019 at 12:14 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — Earlier this year, the Surgoinsville-based Tennessee Hoedowners competitive clogging team brought home multiple national championships from Nashville, but on New Year’s Day, eight members took the show to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Those members performed in the London New Year’s Parade as part of the six-state, 92-member "America’s Clogging All-Stars."

The eight local Tennessee Hoedowners were Megan Wheat, Abbey Hammonds, Krista Christian, Malia McAmis, Alyssia Smith, Abby Simpson, Nia Ailshie and Kelly McKinley.

The group spent six days in London, performing on TV on multiple occasions, as well as in the London New Year’s Day Parade Festival Concert Series at Cadogan Hall and in the New Year’s Day Parade.

The parade route went through Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, ending near Big Ben and Westminster.

An estimated 600,000 spectators watched in person while another 3 million tuned in on TV and live stream.

Aside form dancing, they also toured the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, where they took turns clogging on the Prime Meridian. They were also able to see the Oxford University and Christ Church, the Tower of London and Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross railway station.

To prepare for this event, the girls were required to learn the dance via videos sent from All Stars organizers and leaders Marci and Ryan Rickard, who are based in Atlanta. There were also regular practices held in North Carolina and Georgia where all 92 dancers prepared and got in sync with each other.

They arrived in London on the morning of Dec. 29, and their first group activity was taking a walking tour through London that included the two-mile parade route, followed by a team practice with all 92 members.

On day two, they hopped on tour buses and toured London, which ended with a performance at Trafalgar Square. That performance was also a media event to give the public a preview of what they would be seeing at the parade.

"It's a real honor to be invited to perform at Trafalgar," said performer Krista Christian. "It's an hour-long program, and we were only given about 10 minutes to perform. All we could see as performers were dozens and dozens of TV cameras. We weren't really performing for the onlookers who were there, we were performing for the television audience."

The next day there was another performance at Cadogan Hall, where the London Symphony Orchestra performs.

"One of the most meaningful things that came out of that performance was the standing ovation we received," Christian said. "The organizer for the United States who coordinated our concert said he'd never seen a crowd give a standing ovation. When we finished it was a unanimous standing ovation. It was a huge thing."

On parade day, they did a 10-minute performance for a televised parade preview show that was at the foot of Big Ben and Parliament and across the street from Westminster Abbey right off Whitehall.

During the parade, there were seven grandstands where they stopped for planned performances, as well as two other locations for a total of nine planned performances within a two-mile stretch.

When the parade got backed up and they found themselves standing and waiting for it to begin moving again, the dancers would improvise some dances as well to keep the crowd entertained.

"The very last grandstand for our finale was actually back at the location where we danced in the preview,” Christian said. “The finale was a more difficult, more high-energy competition-level dance. Through the parade is more about surviving the two miles, but we tried to put one more of a production number for that last performance."

Tennessee Hoedowners co-director Kelly McKinley noted that the Rickards invited the Tennessee Hoedowners "to join in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"We were honored to be asked," McKinley said.

“This opportunity was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said 15-year-old dancer Abby Simpson. "We were able to meet so many new people, experience London with some of our closest dance friends and create lifelong friendships with cloggers from other teams.”



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