More than four decades ago, the Dixie Darlin’ Cloggers, a Haywood County freestyle team, began performing. The current director, Shirley Finger is not a dancer herself, “But I can tell them when they do it wrong,” she says. Having always loved being around dancers (she married a clogger) and dancing, the Franklin native is adept at directing the team and making up routines, even if she herself is not part of the figures.
From the Dixie Darlins’ earliest days, when they bought themselves a retired school bus with money raised selling donuts, the team has performed throughout Western North Carolina, up and down the eastern seaboard, and as far away as Canada. They have danced at the White House twice, performed for opening ceremonies of the United States Olympic Trials, and won many dozens of first-place titles in major clogging championships (including nine NCHC National Championships). In the troupe’s children’s group, called the Little Darlins, are some second-generation Dixie Darlins, and the adults’ “big team” includes original members who have rejoined the Darlins after years away. The big team has twenty members; eight couples dance at a time, with the two remaining pairs rotating in between sets.
They are regular performers at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Day and at the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival.
The Dixie Darlin’ Cloggers perform or demonstrate at festivals and other events throughout the region. They dance to bluegrass music, and prefer a live band to recorded music. The group can help with band selection.