Clogging is a type of folk dance in which the dancer's footwear is used percussively by striking the heel, the toe, or both against a floor or each other to create audible rhythms, usually to the downbeat with the heel keeping the rhythm. The dance style has recently fused with others including African-American rhythms, and the Peruvian dance "zapateo" (which may in itself be derived from early European clog dances), resulting in the birth of newer street dances, such as tap, locking, jump, hakken, stomping, Gangsta Walking, and the Candy Walk dance. The use of wooden-soled clogs is rarer in the more modern dances since clog shoes are not commonly worn in urban society, and other types of footwear have replaced them in their evolved dance forms. Clogging is often considered the first form of street dance because it evolved in urban environments during the industrial revolution.
As the clogging style has evolved over the years, many localities have made contributions by adding local steps and rhythms to the style. The dance has origins in Wales and England. In the fifteenth century the all-wooden clog was replaced by a leather-topped shoe with a one-piece wooden bottom. By the 16th century a more conventional leather shoe with separate wooden pieces on the heel and toe called "flats" became popular, from where the terms "heel and toe" and "flatfooting" derive.
In later periods it was not always called "clogging", being known variously as foot-stomping, buck dancing, clog dancing, jigging, or other local terms. What all these had in common was emphasising the downbeat of the music by enthusiastic footwork. As for the shoes, many old clogging shoes had no taps and some were made of leather and velvet, while the soles of the shoes were either wooden or hard leather.
In the United States, team clogging originated from square dance teams in Asheville, North Carolina's Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (1928), organised by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in the Appalachian region.
American Clogging is associated with the predecessor to bluegrass—"old-time" music, which is based on Irish and Scots-Irish fiddle tunes. Clogging developed from aspects of English, Irish, German, and Cherokee step dances, as well as African rhythms and movement. It was from clogging that tap dance eventually evolved. Now, many clogging teams compete against other teams for prizes such as money and trophies.
Solo dancing (outside the context of the big circle dance) is known in various places as buck dance, flatfooting, hoedown, jigging, sure-footing, and stepping. The names vary in meaning, and dancers do not always agree on their use. The term "buck," as in buck dancing, is traceable to the West Indies and is derived from a Tupi Indian word denoting a frame for drying and smoking meat; the original 'po bockarau' or buccaneers were sailors who smoked meat and fish after the manner of the Indians. Another source states that the word "bockorau" can be traced to the "Angolan" word "buckra', and was used to refer to white people, which is disputed. Eventually the term came to describe Irish immigrant sailors whose jig dance was known as 'the buck.'"
One source states that buck dancing was the earliest combination of the basic shuffle and tap steps performed to syncopated rhythms in which accents are placed not on the straight beat, as with the jigs, clogs, and other dances of European origin, but on the downbeat or offbeat, a style derived primarily from the rhythms of African tribal music.
Buck dancing was popularised in America by minstrel performers in the late 19th century. Many folk festivals and fairs utilise dancing clubs or teams to perform both Buck and regular clogging for entertainment.
Traditional Appalachian clogging is characterised by loose, often bent knees and a "drag-slide" motion of the foot across the floor, and is usually performed to old-time music.
Four organisations sanction competitive events in the modern American clog dancing world.
The longest running of the organisations, the National Clogging and Hoedown Council, began in 1974 and is now a part of the C.L.O.G. National Clogging Organization. The sanctioning body hosts its annual grand championships at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee each Labor Day Weekend. The N.C.H.C. was influential in establishing the basic rules and scoring guidelines that have shaped clogging competition. Information about the organisation can be found on its website at www.clog.org .
America's Clogging Hall of Fame (ACHF) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of the old time square dance and clogging. ACHF was founded by Dan and Sandy Angel in 1981. ACHF calls the Stompin' Grounds in Maggie Valley, North Carolina its home.
ACHF sanctions many competitions throughout the year where teams and dancers can qualify to compete in the ACHF National Championships dance-off the last full weekend in October at the Stompin' Grounds. Any team finishing 1st or 2nd with each dance in TWO sanctioned competitions qualifies to compete at the World Championships Dance-Off. Also, all grand champion solo winners at each sanctioned event earn the opportunity to compete in October for a chance to dance on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
America's Clogging Hall of Fame honours many of its dancers at the October Championships. An All-American Clogging Team is selected each year through a nominating and selection process in which 24 of our best dancers are chosen. ACHF also selects 16 dancers to the Junior All-American Team and 4 dancers to the Senior All-American Team each year. These dancers are showcased at the National Championships. Also honoured at the National Championships are at least two individuals who are inducted into America's Clogging Hall of Fame. These inductees have been clogging for at least 25 years and have been a positive influence in the preservation of the dance. College scholarships are also awarded in October for up to three deserving students.
The ACHF competition year runs from 1 October to 30 September. A list of those competitions and information is available on the organisation's website at www.achf.net.
Clogging Champions of America (C.C.A.) was formed in 1998 to generate more activity and interest in clogging and competition, to promote a spirit of fun and fellowship, and to make sure the beginner clogger will get to enjoy competing as much as the clogger who has been in it for years. The goal of C.C.A. is to create an atmosphere of spirited and sportsmanlike competition, and to provide more opportunities for cloggers within the competitive and entertainment realms. Competition, C.C.A. feels, is a healthy and entertaining part of clogging because it offers dancers the opportunity to travel to different locations – meeting new clogging friends, step sharing, and supporting each other competitively.
C.C.A. devised a system to give the amateur dancers a chance to gain their self-esteem and prepare them to finally compete against more experienced teams. At any Clogging Champions of America affiliated event, a team qualifying as an Amateur – having never won a first place honour in a clogging competition, may compete under Amateur status now for two (2) C.C.A. calendar years, January to December. At each Clogging Champions of America event, the top three scoring teams in each category and division of Challenge, including Junior and Senior, will qualify to dance at the Showdown of Champions which will be held at the beginning of the following year. The top four scoring teams in each category of Amateur will also qualify for the next year's Showdown of Champions. You only need to qualify once per category, but you may dance at any or all affiliated competitions, and you will receive "Star" Points for doing so. In 2011, the C.C.A. organisation added a STARZ level of competition to its events which gives competitors the chance to be judged against a point system rather than each other, making every dancer recognised.
To recognise clogging's brightest, C.C.A. devised the Showdown of Champions, which brings together the winners from the best competitions in the country to compete under one roof. They also recognise the Solo dancer. First place Solo winners in each age division from each competition will qualify for the Showdown of Champions. The Showdown of Champions draws the most geographically diverse attendance of any of the sanctioning bodies, with teams from East to West Coast participating on a regular basis. The organisation's website is www.ccaclog.com
America Onstage is a clogging and dance competition circuit based in Utah. The organisation hosts events in Utah, Idaho and Arizona during the months of February through May culminating in a three weekend dance-off at Lagoon Amusement Park. The organisation's website is www.americaonstage.org.
Fusion, or the adding of new styles into another, has continued to affect clogging. Modern competitive clogging, also called precision clogging, is inspired by traditional styles but performed to a wide variety of music, including bluegrass, modern country, rock music, pop, and hip hop. Today competitive precision clogging has several sanctioning bodies that oversee competitions held throughout the United States, with the majority located in the southeastern states. The style has also evolved from flat foot to dancing on the balls of the feet. Toe stands are a recent adaptation from other dance forms. These high-energy styles have opened the forum to a wide audience with hundreds of workshops and competitions every year.
Clogging shoes are often black, white, or black and white, and generally have double taps or "jingle taps". There are four taps on each shoe—-two on the toe, and two on the heel. One is securely fastened to the shoe, while the other is more loosely fastened and hits both the floor and the fastened tap while dancing or simply walking about. Cloggers with this type of tap can be heard on carpet as well as hard surface floors.
One more recent example of clogging is the dance show America's Best Dance Crew on MTV, where Dynamic Edition danced their way through the 3rd season, all the way to 5th place. Another recent example of clogging is a talent show America's Got Talent on NBC, where Extreme Dance FX from Season 3 and Fab Five from Season 4 danced their way of clogging.
Green Grass style clogging is a relatively recent style of Appalachian "folk clogging" developed by and associated with the Green Grass Cloggers of Greenville, North Carolina (and later also of Asheville, North Carolina). They began in 1971 as students at East Carolina University in Greenville. Their style is not traditional flatfooting, nor is it traditional mountain-style clogging, or contemporary precision clogging, but it is a form of precision clogging in the sense that it features choreographed routines where the dancers are all dancing in unison (same steps at the same time), while moving through figures. The figures are taken from western square dancing, rather than from traditional southern Appalachian dancing. It is usually performed to old-time music.
- American traditional informal freeform solo folk dancing
- Buckdancer's Choice
- Ira Bernstein
- Sean-nós dance including as practised in America
- Step dance
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- Doubletoe.com – A clogging magazine for cloggers
- ccaclog.com – The Clogging Champions of America
- The World of Clogging Workshop and Championships
- The Fontana NC Clogging Jamboree
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- Talking Feet
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