A dedicated group of competitive cloggers from Hancock County earned the grand champion title at the recent Indiana State Fair talent show.

Five dancers from the Hearts Ablaze Cloggers, directed by Cristy Corwin-Howard, performed a dance choreographed to the song “Rather Be,” by Clean Bandit, and the state fair talent show judges deemed their performance not only the best of the dance entrants, which included tap, jazz, modern and hip-hop performances, but the best performance overall.

The performers from Hearts Ablaze who competed in the state fair talent contest were Cassie Wilhelm, a senior at New Palestine High School, Carlie Dalquist, a senior at Greenfield-Central High School, Sarah Wheeler of Fairland, Ellie Roudebush, a junior at New Palestine, and Emma Wiggington, a senior at New Palestine.

Seeing the group perform brought emotions to the surface for several reasons, Corwin-Howard said.

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“That group of five has been together for the last six years of our studio,” she said. “They really have grown up together. This was probably their last time to ever compete at the state level. This time next year, several of them will be moving into their first dorm room at college.”

Each of the dancers and Corwin-Howard recorded short voice-over messages for the beginning of the performance, in which they talked about how important the hobby and bond they share has become over the years.

It felt really special to win at the state fair level, Dalquist said, because her group has been working really hard, and the dancers were able to compete against other types of performance, not just other cloggers.

The Hearts Ablaze Cloggers have earned the grand champion award at the Hancock County 4-H Fair three times since the studio opened in 2008, but they have never nabbed the top title at the state fair before, Corwin-Howard said.

Judges typically are trained dancers who rate performances based on technique, form and poise. But clogging’s unique history makes it hard to compare to other dance types, Corwin-Howard said. Clogging evolved from its origins as a Dutch dance form, borrowing from Canadian step dance, Irish step dance and buck dancing, a form that originated among African-Americans during the era of slavery, she said.

“I think that’s where some of the struggle is because it’s not a perfect fit between the clogging world and the rest of the dance world,” Corwin-Howard said. “It’s definitely one of the most melting-pot type of dances.”

The Hearts Ablaze cloggers will next perform during the Riley Festival on Oct. 8 at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, 122 W. Main St., Greenfield.

Dancing dates

The Hearts Ablaze Cloggers will next perform Oct. 8 at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, 122 W. Main St. in Greenfield, during the Riley Festival.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.