Local cloggers take Grand Ole Opry stage

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Soon after clogging team Rhythm 'N' Motion stepped down off the Grand Ole Opry stage Oct. 10, they earned an encore appearance by winning the America's Clogging Hall of Fame nationals against about 400 other competitors.

The repeat champion team features four dancers who first practiced on stages in the Twin Counties — Melissa Pack, Christina Nobili, Dereck Galyean and Kody Hash.

It was a thrill to dance on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, where country greats like Minnie Pearl and Patsy Cline had performed, Pack said after an eventful fall.

She said the dance team members were treated like stars and got dressing room No. 17.

"I walked around backstage most of the night in between practicing and primping, taking pictures of everything to capture that night," she said in an e-mail to The Gazette.

It excited her to be allowed to use the "performers only" doors to the dressing rooms. And, she was happy to share the moment with her husband, who is also a member of Rhythm 'N' Motion.

The experience was made even more special because family and friends, who had supported the dancers at many clogging competitions along the way, got to attend the Grand Ole Opry performance.

"The most memorable moment for me that night was knowing I was dancing on stage with my best friends and my husband with our family and friends cheering us on in the audience," Pack said. "My mom and aunt were as excited as I was, and they probably felt as if they were on that stage, too."

The audience roared, her teammates were all smiling with joy — it was hard to take it all in.

"As our routine was drawing to an end, I bowed and blew a kiss to my family in the balcony, knowing that each step I did was for them, too," she said.

It didn't take Hash long after he joined the group to realize that Rhythm 'N' Motion would be going places. It's an amazing team, he said.

And winding up on the Grand Ole Opry stage is a rare opportunity for a dancer.

It was very cool to be able to talk to Opry stars face to face, those people that he'd only seen on television before, Hash said.

"To make this experience even more special, I danced on stage with my four friends that I started with on the American Heritage Cloggers and also my new friends from Rhythm 'N' Motion," he said.

Hash felt nervous before he went on, but the nerves faded, replaced by the excitement of dancing at the Grand Ole Opry, which he called a dream come true.

"I am really blessed to be on Rhythm 'N' Motion and consider this clogging team my family, because I think of them more than I do my own family, which sets up aside from any other clogging team out there," he said.

Nobili will always treasure the experience of performing on the same stage where Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones once did.

"I definitely have a story to tell my grandkids someday!" Nobili said.

She's thankful to troupe directors Brent and Amanda Herron for creating the dancing opportunities for the team, as well as the support of her family and her husband at all times.

"God has truly blessed me in this lifetime," she said.

Galyean can't describe the feeling of dancing on "one of the most famous stages in the world," he said. "Just thinking about all the people that had been there before, on that same stage, was really surreal."

Marty Stuart was walking around backstage and Jamey Johnson talked with the dancers for what seemed like forever, Galyean said.

"It's still a little hard for me to realize that we actually did get to dance on the Grand Ole Opry," Galyean added.  "It was one of those dreams I had since I started dancing, but never thought it would come true, so I never shared it with anyone. I'm so thankful for the chance to get to fulfill a dream.”

Pack doesn't have a date for the team's return to the Grand Ole Opry yet, but it was part of the prize for the competition held at Maggie Valley, N.C., where Rhythm 'N' Motion won its fifth title.