WHAT IS CLOGGING?
Clogging, or clog dancing, is a lively dance with roots in Irish jig, English country
dances, Scottish dances, African steps and rhythms and possibly even a bit of Cherokee
Indian. It is a percussive dance, meaning the dancers beat out rhythms with their
feet. Settlers brought their own dances and music to the Southern Appalachian Mountain
area, where they were relatively isolated from other parts of the country. These
steps and styles mixed together into what we now call clogging.
Characteristic of clogging is the rhythmic beat that the dancers’ feet are continually
making. Traditional clogging involves fewer than ten basic movements, but these combine
to make quite a variety of steps. New steps and styles from other dances are often
icorporated into traditional clogging steps to make even more variety in contemporary
Originally a solo dance, it was considered rude if you showed off, or did your steps
while dancing with a partner. Eventually, however, clogging became a part of Appalachian
Big Circle Dancing, which is a relative of modern square dancing. Square dances in
the Appalachians can still include people clogging while executing the simple figures
of Big Circle Dancing called by a caller. Although each dancer may be doing different
steps, they all keep the same rhythm and a hall full of cloggers can be quite impressive.
Traditional clogging was danced to banjos, fiddles or whatever the settlers had to
bang or twang to make a lively tune. A dancer would improvise or show off his/her
favorite steps. Each dancer and each area had a distinctive style. Eventually, these
styles blended together to create what is now called clogging.
Clogging is related to tap dancing, but has a different style. Cloggers have a distinctive
up and down body motion and emphasize the downbeat of the music. There is also a
distinctive “chicka-boom” sound that cloggers make. Tap dancers tend to be lighter
and tap out the melody, rather than the beat. Most cloggers today do wear taps, usually
the 2-piece kind. to emphasize the sounds of the feet.
Modern cloggers often do precision clogging, which means that all the dancers are
doing the same step at the same time. This can be in choreographed routines (often
written to perform in front of an audience), or in recreational style line dances.
Clogging line dances have become the most popular form of clogging these days. Workshops
and convention often include teachers introducing new line dances and a floor can
have 100 or more dancers all doing the same steps. It’s something to watch!
Today cloggers dance to many styles of music, but always music with a lively beat.
Bluegrass music is the traditional music of clogging, but you’ll find country, pop,
and hip hop used just as often these days. Line dances are the most popular style
of dance in many areas, but clogging can be done solo, in couples, small groups,
or large groups. Freestyling, or hoedowning is where each individual dancer is doing
his or her own thing, executing steps as they come to mind. Precision clogging refers
to two or more dancers executing the same steps at the same time. Cued dances are
a popular form of recreational clogging where the sequence is cued to the dancers.
The dancers are familiar with the steps, but they don’t have to memorize the entire
dance sequence. This way dancers can enjoy many more dances than if each one were
Many groups also spend additional time to learn precision clogging routines to perform.
These may include fancy steps sequences as well as the dancers going through figures
and different patterns with each other. Usually the dancers will all wear the same
costume as well.
There are also clogging competitions in some areas of the country, however, not in
Northern California. Categories can include a cappella, line dances, precision routines,
traditional routines, show routines (with a theme), and individual freestyling.
Interested in learning more? Contact one of the teachers
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