American clogging, like most other American cultural forms, is a mix of several influences around the globe. Based primarily in Great Britain, it is believed everybody from Africans to Native Americans have shaped this dance form.
Starting in Northern England, the beginnings of this dance were born out of the Industrial Revolution. The original urban street dance, the story goes that while working in cotton mills, girls would keep time with the shuttles by tapping out the rhythm while wearing heavy wooden clogs. Steel mill workers helped to popularize the steps through intense competitions. By the 1840’s, it had arrived in the States through immigrants.
The settlers of the Appalachian Mountains, including the Scottish, Irish, English, and Dutch-Germans, helped to further cultivate this high energy dance. Each group had brought their own folk dances, which included the tapping of the feet, to the area. In 1927, the first official competition was held in Asheville, NC. Bascom Lamar Lunsford, who was a lawyer and cultural historian, organized it as a way to preserve the dance and music.
This humble dance received national attention for the first time in 1939 when the Soco Gap Dance Team from Maggie Valley, NC performed for the King and Queen at the White House. According to legend, the Queen remarked that it looked a lot like “clogging” from her own country, and the label stuck.
After the Second World War, clog dance began to look a lot more like the modern style. Steps and terms became standardized. Choreographed group routines in competitions became the norm as opposed to improvised solos. The jangly sounding tap shoes became widespread. With widespread popularity in the 50’s and revivals in the 70’s and 80’s, it has received widespread attention.
Over the years, there have developed four main styles:
The Pitter Pat is a quick form of line dancing with modern tap steps.
Waltz style is an easy going dance, done to waltz time, while wearing wooden soled shoes.
Flatfoot mostly resembles the Appalachian style with gentler steps and is done without taps.
Buck style has the most flair with more kicks and shuffles. They routinely make up to three times as many sounds with their double tapped shoes.
The difference between a clog dance and tap is both in the shoes and the technicalities. Where tap uses mostly the toes as a base, the other uses both the toes and the heels. In tap shoes, both the aluminum mounting plates as well as the taps are screwed into the shoe. With a clog, only one is which is why they have that jangle sound.
More dances that influenced tap like clogging!
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