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Dancer adds own style to clogging

OREM — Twelve years ago, 10-year-old Jenny Verhoef went with her friend to a clogging class for the first time.

Now, at 22, Verhoef is a champion dancer who teaches students at her own studio — and in her own style.

"They do know that I'm young, but it's not like it's a huge corporation," Verhoef said of her students, whose ages range from 4 to 20. "It's just a dance class, and some of the best teachers are young."

Verhoef competed at the 2004 Junior Olympic games, both individually and with some of her students.

In all, Verhoef won four gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal.

Although Verhoef's friend stopped clogging long ago, Verhoef said she instantly loved everything about it.

At 13, she went on tour with her dance troupe. At 16, she started directing the girls with whom she danced. Soon, she became the studio's classes director.

Two years later, with a little help from her father and some bank loans, she bought her studio, which she named "Pride and Passion."

"As far as teaching goes, I fell in love with the kids," Verhoef said. "I drew off of their energy and excitement. I love to express to them and show them how much I love (clogging), and see how much they love it."

And energy and excitement are something that Verhoef needs as she juggles school, work and more work. Verhoef's day starts at 5:30 a.m. with a part-time job making food at a convenience store, then she has classes at Utah Valley State College in the afternoon, and dance classes in the evening on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Dancers from her studio can be found at various venues, performing their "percussion dance show," a term that, according to Verhoef, describes her style of clogging, as opposed to the old-fashioned, traditional style of dance.

"It used to be country; used to be all dresses and big, white, fluffy skirts underneath," Verhoef said. "Now it's just strait black pants and a nice top. There's nothing fluffy or ruffly about that."

Verhoef said that most of her routines are set to more upbeat music, combining stomp techniques, Irish step dancing, traditional clogging and tap dancing.

But her real joy comes from working with her students.

"I can go on the stage and win as many trophies as I want," Verhoef said. "But that's not as important to me as seeing my students win and run off the stage and give me a hug."