By Brian Elmer
Clog dancing is a type of dancing of which the three main characteristics are:
1. boisterous, fast footwork with steel plates or taps on the shoes
2. a fairly rigid torso
3. an up and down knee motion that differs from most other dance forms
Although clogging is a dance form for individuals, it is often done as precision dancing by a group of cloggers. The dancers do the same steps at the same time as cued by a leader using a microphone and recorded music on a sound system. Clogging is often a family affair where all ages participate. It is not unusual for three generations of a family to be clogging together. Not only do they keep fit but they have a wonderful time.
The clog dance is continually in a state of change and improvisation such that today it is performed not only to country and bluegrass music but also to pop, jazz and rap.
Clogging, an enjoyable and healthy dance form, has been around for hundreds of years. It originated in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. There, the early settlers from Holland, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and Africa combined their dance traditions. They called it buck dancing, flat footing or just plain dancing'. It was usually done to live fiddle music. Clogging and tap dancing have common roots. The clog dance became the country cousin of tap. Tap is high impact while clogging is low.
The term "clogging" comes from the heavy shoes once worn by the working people of Great Britain. In Holland, Belgium and France, the dance was done with wooden shoes and today many people still believe that cloggers dance in wooden shoes. In the English steel mills in the mid 18th century, dancing in wooden clogs was a popular pastime. Competitions were held and they danced on cobblestones with the upper body motionless while the feet and legs did all the work. Heavy wooden clogs were a hindrance so a switch was made to leather shoes and, to compensate for the loss of sound, copper pennies were nailed to the toe and heel. Present day cloggers use an oxford shoe with a special extra loud double steel tap.
Traditional Clogging is a flat foot shuffle unlike any other form of dance the body motion is down. This is different from Step and Tap as their motion is up and the dance is done on the balls of the feet with much jumping or hopping. Step and Clog are similar in their appearance as they both have little upper body movement. However, clogging is generally more relaxed with no requirement for arms at all. Tap uses the entire body with specific arm and body movements.
The differences between these three dance forms are becoming more difficult to define. The younger, more energetic clog dancer does a form of Clog called "Buck" and this looks very similar to Step and also borrows a lot of steps from Tap. However, in traditional terms, clogging is a down motion with a lazy shuffle and of low impact while step dancing is an up motion with a lot of jumping and of high impact.
Would-be cloggers usually take a new dancer session of 10 to 12 weeks in duration. All the basic clog steps are taught as well as five or six actual dances. The new dancer starts off slowly then builds momentum and at the end of the instruction is able to dance at a fairly good pace. It's great cardiovascular exercise and just plain good fun. Workshops provide an opportunity to learn new steps and dances and to meet other cloggers from different areas.
Present day clogging is growing in popularity as witnessed by increased numbers attending workshops, conventions and competitions. Canada boasts over 70clogging clubs and there's an International Clogging Team in the United States made up of cloggers from 17 different countries. British Columbia has clog dance clubs in the Lower Mainland, the Vancouver Island cities of Victoria and Nanaimo, the Okanagan Valley cities of Penticton and Kelowna, the Shuswap community of Chase and the East Kootenay city of Cranbrook.