Stephanie Goodman was in her early teens when she announced, “I’m going to marry Mark Clifford someday.”
Her friend and teammate Whitney Braswell remembers it well.
“We were in middle school and Mark was this cool, old, college guy, and she was completely in love with him,” Ms. Braswell said.
Spoiler Alert: Ms. Goodman knew what she used to say. His teenage crush will really stick, though it will take more than 20 years.
Ms. Goodman was now 35 when she first saw Mr. Clifford’s performance. They were both competitive cloggers, a style of folk dance. In the United States, clogging originated in Appalachia. And while it may make the untrained eye look like a tap dance, there are differences, although there is now a lot of crossover between the two forms. Clog dance takes influence from Wales, Irish line, African folk and class dance. Despite its name, it is not used in clogs in the United States. In its early years it was presented for Bella and Banjo, now regularly choreographed for pop and hip-hop.
Mr. Clifford, now 44 years old, lives all over the world and beyond. He founded an all-male closing troupe called All That! The troupe competed in two seasons of NBC “America’s Got Talent,” Coming in second place during season 1, and performed at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and internationally. All that including Mr. Clifford! Four members of the Carolina Opry perform six nights a week at a variety show: the Calvin Gilmore Theater in Myrtle Beach, SC, where Mr. Clifford and Ms. Goodman now live. (The show took a one-month hiatus during the pandemic closure, but then returned and is currently on winter vacation.) The troupe also performs corporate functions and cruise ship gigs.
Mr. Clifford is the youngest of three children of the late Vincent Clifford and Mary Clifford, who lived in Charleston, SC, where his father was based; Vincent Clifford spent 26 years in the Navy, and then worked in real estate.
Mary Clifford was a tap dancer, so when her son showed interest in clogging, she encouraged him.
Mr. Clifford said, “I was in drums and your feet were liking the sound he made.”
He was only 5 when he started returning and at the age of 6, he started karate lessons. A quick study in both, he realized how martial arts conveyed the fluidity of his movements in dance and vice versa. By the time he was 8, he was on his way to being a child star in the competitive clogging world. Not so academically, Mr. Clifford turned his attention to both clogging and karate. (He is also a third-degree brown belt a short distance from a black belt.) His nonschool hours were essential for competitions and travel.
“It just came really naturally to me,” Mr. Clifford said. “When I dance, I feel like a trifle, which flows all over the floor.”
Mr. Clifford did not see college in his future. But then he said that Mars Hill College near Asheville, NC offered him a clogging scholarship to lead Team, Bailey Mountain Clogger. He graduated with a degree in corporate communications and then went on to produce pro, teaching and instructional videos, and set up the troupe.
Ms. Goodman started pressing at the age of 10. He and his brother are the children of Barry Goodman, who served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and furniture upholstery, and Donna Goodman, a family who grew up on a small farm in Granite Falls, NC. The family lives in Sims Country Bar- B-Q was a regular at a live music venue with a restaurant and a large dance floor in Granite Falls.
Soon they joined a team: Sims Country Clogger. “My mother and I danced together on many stages,” said Ms. Goodman, who went on to compete in the Junior Olympics in 2002 and 2003.
“I didn’t do any other extra-curricular activities at school,” she said. “Like any sport, if it’s your passion, you’re going to rehearsal constantly, and then practice on your own time as well.”
Ms. Goodman also became a closing instructor.
In those early days, in competitions, Ms. Goodman used to record the men’s singles division on the family camcorder, most notably Mr. Clifford.
When Ms. Goodman was 15, she shyly asked Mr. Clifford for her autograph; He has an accompanying photo from that exchange.
In 2003, Mr. Clifford taught a master class for Ms. Goodman’s team. She was now 19, she was 28, and when she remembered him as one of the young cloggers with a camera, he couldn’t help but notice her beauty. he asked her.
Although she had waited years for this moment, it was her celebrity crush, not the one you wanted to go to in real life. He turned her down.
“I said,” I freaked out. “I was really scared.”
While she immediately regrets it, in Hindsight, Ms. Goodman now says, “We both grew up to do a lot. Our stars had not yet aligned. “
In the coming years, they each met someone, married and then divorced.
In 2011, they befriended each other on Facebook. It was a social media friendship with little conversation. For example, before going on television she always wanted him well, but nothing more.
Finally, in 2012, despite still disturbing the memory of her years earlier rejection, Mr. Clifford once again cast her out. This time, Ms. Goodman, now retired from clogging and living in her hometown, did not go bald.
On their first date, they had dinner and took a stroll at Myrtle Beach’s Grande Dunes Marina. “The second we got together, it was like we were old friends, or together in another lifetime,” Ms. Goodman said. “It was like ‘Oh, there you are.”
After a few dates, Ms. Goodman moved to Myrtle Beach.
“I wasn’t really surprised, I felt it was sweet,” said Ms. Bradmel, Ms. Goodman’s former teammate. “He makes her incredibly happy and really encourages her to chase her dreams.”
They soon moved in together, first in an apartment, and then, later, bought a house. They found a dog and three cats.
But Mr. Clifford’s divorce had made him wary of marriage.
“Let’s be independent together,” that’s how it was created.
“We had a great life and I felt fulfilled,” Ms. Goodman said, “so I didn’t want to stress that.”
But as the years passed, Mr. Clifford found himself changing his tune.
He said, “That is my first thought, and my last thought, and indeed, my only thought, all day.” “I had found the person who makes me happy all the time.”
In August 2020, he suggested that they go out to dinner for the first time since closing. He ate at the same restaurant he had on his first date, and was once again walking with Marina. This time, he proposed with a custom-made ring.
As he looked at the dates and locations for a small wedding, it was nothing easy about the plan.
“Things just generally align with us,” Mr. Clifford said. “And the marriage wasn’t happening like that.”
They were on a cruise in January 2020 and fell in love with Puerto Rico. With the blessings of their families, they decided to elope. They settled on January 21, 2021, and when Mr. Clifford scrolled through previous photos on his phone, he noticed that they were in San Juan on a date earlier that year.
So on that date, he married Tim Blackford of Black Love Weddings and a Universal Life Life Minister standing outside the walls of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro stronghold in San Juan.
“He would go to every extreme to make me happy and do anything for me,” said Ms. Goodman, who is taking Mr. Clifford’s name. She recently completed a certificate in cyber security and is in a yoga-teacher training program.
“He is a master of grand gestures,” she said. “But at the end of the day when it’s just for us, even when he sees me in my worst state, he loves me.”
When Jan 21, 2021
where Castillo San Felipe del Moro stronghold in San Juan.
wedding The couple had a ceremony in which Bible verses were viewed on Facebook with friends and family. The only surviving guest was an iguana that had gone astray. After getting married, the audience cheered him on.