CONYERS -- Though the Sole Momentum clogging team earned accolades at a recent competition, dancing well is only a portion of what the activity is all about for her students, said Lora Scott Garcia-Carreras, director of the group and owner of The Barn clogging studio in Conyers.
"Clogging is the least important thing we do. The most important thing we do, by far, is learning how to be responsible individuals in the community," said Garcia-Carreras. "When we are given a gift, we have the responsibility that goes with it and we have to figure out what that responsibility is."
Considering the attitude Garcia-Carreras has toward the clogging, it's not surprising that her team won the sportsmanship award at the Explosion Clogging Championships held in Charleston, S.C., in June. Out of 18 teams, Sole Momentum also earned overall in traditional line and show routines and overall in traditional line, exhibition and artistic expression routines.
More contests for Sole Momentum are lined up for August and October, which will involve about 18 students ranging in age from 8 to 26.
"We'll have a busy competition year this year and hopefully go to the nationals in January," said Garcia-Carreras. "I think we're going to do the best we've ever done."
Garcia-Carreras said she only enters competitions every few years because too many contests can cause students to lose focus on the community service aspect of being on the team.
In addition to weekly rehearsals, clogging students stay busy "clogging for a cause" -- performing for nursing homes, camps for the disabled, cancer fundraisers, schools and churches, as well as at festivals. The group has also raised money to help victims of disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.
"Children don't have a lot of control over everything and I just don't want them to get complacent," said Garcia-Carreras. "I want to help them feel like they're making a difference."
Clogging, which has its roots in Scottish and Irish jigs, evolved in Southern Appalachia and along the way was influenced by African-American step dance and even some American Indian dances.
Garcia-Carreras picked it up as a 7-year-old watching her older brother dance on the Conyers Middle School team, the Cotton Pickin' Cloggers, in the early 1980s. Her parents, who square danced, also mesmerized her with their fancy footwork.
"Life (for me) is just so musical anyway, everyone in my family plays some kind of musical instrument, so clogging just goes hand in hand with it," said Garcia-Carreras.
As a teacher's assistant fresh out of high school (Garcia-Carreras graduated from Rockdale County High School in 1992), Garcia-Carreras found that a lot of her students were interested in learning how to clog. She started teaching clogging for free out of a parent's garage.
Six years later, she got her business license and opened a studio in Olde Town Conyers, eventually moving The Barn to 1264 K Parker Road in 2005. Garcia-Carreras teaches clogging several nights a week to children and adults, and her sister, Lisa Gregor, assists with instruction, accounting, coordinating shows and running sound.
Garcia-Carreras has a long-term goal of turning The Barn into a hub for Appalachian music, art, dance and crafts but, until then, she aims to provide a wholesome experience for students who enjoy dancing and the fellowship of other children and teens.
All of her instructors are former students and many return year after year, even though they have other extracurricular activities.
"There's something at The Barn they love that they always come back to. They grow up and it's a place where they can be vulnerable and truly themselves without judgment," said Garcia-Carreras. "It's a place where they can feel welcome and comfortable and we work hard to create that environment."
Rachel Collins, 23, started clogging at The Barn at age 8 and she is now an instructor, in addition to being a college student. She continues to stay connected to The Barn because of the camaraderie and the joy she finds in making others happy through her dance.
"I get to follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Garcia because she's always been an inspiration," said Collins. "I get to teach what she taught me as an instructor and hopefully share that love."
For more information about The Barn, call 770-761-6036 or visit www.clogatthebarn.com.