Clog America International Festival Ensemble is a non-profit dance organization based in Utah and comprised of about fifty award-winning dancers and musicians who volunteer their services. Organized by Shawnda Bishop and Bonnie Romney in 1990, the dance group represents the United States at folk festivals in various countries each summer. Members of the ensemble are housed with host families or stay in dorms throughout Europe, England, Canada, Mexico, China, Mexico, Brazil, Korea, Turkey, and Haiti. The group has appeared on national television in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Brazil, Macedonia, Hungary, and the United States.
Most of the dancers and musicians are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During the tour, they schedule time to perform firesides for local members of the Church or to provide humanitarian performances. They also form bonds with other festival dancers.
In the early years of Clog America’s formation, Bishop and Romney choreographed all the dances, constructed the costumes, planned the tours, and made the arrangements. Romney now oversees all the costuming and Bishop has been on every tour with the group since the beginning. She is the director, oversees administrative and logistic demands, and plays the washboard in the band.
As a requirement of competing in international folk dance festivals, Clog America tours with a band of accomplished musicians who play banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, and percussion instruments. Musician Clive Romney was the group’s first music director, who put together a troupe of versatile musicians.
Clog America includes dances that represent the diverse culture of the United States. Clogging is the focus—an American dance form born in the Appalachian Mountains. The clogging dances include traditional precision and hoedown as well as line, novelty, and character numbers. The group’s program also focuses on time periods in American history that include rock and roll, the Charleston, Swing, and pioneer dances. Clogging was brought to the West by Dennis Cobia and is especially vital in Utah. Cobia lives in Nevada and devotes his summers to Clog America.
Also devoted to Clog America is the Ahuna family who are specialty dancers from Hawaii who perform a Native America Hoop Dance and a Polynesian Fire Knife Dance. The family joined Clog America in 1997. The Ivan Keller family has also traveled with Clog America since 1993. Nate Keller is currently the music director. He arranges the music, plays banjo and guitar, and sings.