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This article is about the folk dance. For the article on the traditional clog manufacturer, see clog (British). Otherwise, see Clog (disambiguation).

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,[1] 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[2] 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 flatfooting, 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.


Traditional dancing in the Netherlands is often called "Folkloristisch", sometimes "Boerendansen" ("farmer-dancing") or "Klompendansen" (clog dancing).[3] Wooden shoes are worn as an essential part of the traditional costume for Dutch clogging, or Klompendanskunst. Clogs for dancing are made lighter than the traditional 700-year-old design. The soles are made from ash wood, and the top part is cut lower by the ankle. Dancers create a rhythm by tapping the toes and heels on a wooden floor.

In 2006, nearly 500 teenagers attempted the "Guinness Book of World Records" bid for the largest number of clog dancers.[4] It took place in The Hague. They were dancing the ballet version of the Dutch clog dance rather than the folk version. The ballet La fille mal gardée contains a well-known clog dance. For this specific dance the choreography was created by Stanley Holden (1928–2007), though Frederick Ashton took overall responsibility for it.

United Kingdom[edit]


English clog dancing began in 19th century England during the Industrial Revolution.[5][6] It is thought to have developed in the Lancashire cotton mills where wooden-soled clogs were preferred to leather soles because the floors were kept wet to help keep the humidity high, important in cotton spinning.[7] Workers sitting at the weaving machines wore hard-soled shoes, which they would tap to the rhythms of the machines to keep their feet warm. At their breaks and lunches, they would have competitions, where they were judged on the best rhythm patterns. By the late 1800s they clog-danced[8] on proper stages at competitions. In these competitions, the judges would watch the routine and judge it according to footwork, precision, and technique.Clog dancers were a common sight at music halls throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century. One such group was The Eight Lancashire Lads which included a young Charlie Chaplin as one of its members.[9] Dan Leno became the world champion clog dancer in the 1880s, although records show that competitive clog dancing was a frequent occurrence throughout the 19th century.[5]

Cecil Sharp frequently encountered step dancing, clog dancing and North West morris dancing (a type of morris often performed in clogs, but not the same as clog dancing) in his search for folk dances in England, but it was Maud Karpeles who was more effective in documenting some of these dances.[citation needed] She encountered groups of North West morris dancers in the North-West of England. Her book The Lancashire Morris Dance was published in 1930.[10] In 1911 John Graham had published Lancashire and Cheshire Morris Dances from the same area. Both in the USA and in England clog dancing was also known as "buck and wing" dancing. The "wing" referred to is the step where a foot is kicked out to one side, striking the ground as it goes.

Clog dancing traditions still exist in some festivals in Northumberland, and are danced to the traditional music of the area. Clog dancing is also still practised in parts of Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Derbyshire and there are teams dancing the Northern traditional dances (and newer ones) in many other parts of England. British clog dancing, unlike most types of clog dancing practised in the US, is usually done with traditional wooden-soled clogs. Clog dance competitions currently held in England include the Lancashire and Cheshire Clog Dancing Contests (focussing on Lancashire style clog dancing) held every September as part of the Fylde Folk Festival in Fleetwood, and the Northern Counties Clog Dancing Championships (focussing on Durham and Northumberland style clog dancing) held every year in Tyne and Wear.


Clog dancing is a traditional form of dance in Wales and is a regular feature of both local and national eisteddfodau. Competition can be energetic, including tricks performed by males such as leaping over brooms, clapping under and over legs as well as behind the back in a continuous manner, jumping over a handkerchief, jumping over ones "Welsh Clog Dancing is not like North-West or Lancashire Step. It is not a revival, as it is danced in the style of the unbroken tradition."[11] Welsh clog dancing is stylistically distinct from English clog dancing.

Clog dancing is a solo dance with its roots firmly based in the stable lofts, fairs and inns where dancers would compete against each other in dexterity and tricks.But it calls for more, much more than fast feet.It is essentially an exhibitionists dance where the personality and character of the dancer must be transmitted to the audience, otherwise the dance becomes mechanical and spiritless.

It is the only unbroken element of traditional Welsh dance that we own and there are many people who remember seeing Caradog Puw and Hywel Wood of Bala clogging during the 1940s.

The dance grew in popularity during the 1960s. Later competition was extended to dancing duets and trios which meant that groups could recreate on stage the true tradition where one dancer was trying to out-dance the other.

The next development happened when it became a competition for women also - it was even given a theme which invited storytelling. Dawnswyr Nantgarw (Nantgarw Dancers -based in South Wales) have led the field in this development and performances such as the "Quarrymen" and the "Cerdd Dant Trio" will stay with me for many years to come.

By now group clogging has become an integral part of our eisteddfodau and dancing tradition. The craft and technique of clog dancing is secure enough and there are a number of young dancers performing and competing in Wales. Teachers and choreographers are now able to push out the boundaries of step dancing and develop it as they should in any living and breathing tradition.[12]

The Welsh Clog

The origin of wooden footwear is thought to be the Roman bath shoe, the purpose being to protect the wearers feet from the hot tiled floors.A pair of clogs was found in the tomb of an Italian king in the 10th century although it's quite certain that they didn't bear any resemblance to what we call clogs in this country.Throughout the ages the clog has been a symbol of the working classes and shunned as a sign of poverty because it has always been a practical shoe and has never kept up with fashion.The Welsh people always had a pair of clogs for working week days and leather, best shoes for Sundays and that was at the beginning of this century.The style of the shoe and the type of wood used was dependent on the work of the wearer.Workers on the fish wharves would have a leather flap to keep out splashing water and the miner would have a special clog called the Blucher Boot after the designer which had a low cut heel so that he could easily slip it off if it was trapped The workers in the warm-floored tin and steel works would have thick soles. Cardigan people prided themselves on having durable Sycamore soled clogs while birch was preferred in Scotland.Birch was also preferred in the mining areas as it had a high resin and was more water resistant.With the industrial revolution came mechanisation and cheap shoes which hastened the decline of clogs in this country and although there was a short lived resurgence during the first world war leather shoes were fast pushing out the unstylish and heavy clog. In 1901 there were 6276 recorded clogmakers in Wales and England, by 1983 there were less than 40, and of these only 3 or 4 could actually produce a complete clog.

United States[edit]

Clogging is the official state dance of Kentucky and North Carolina and was the social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.


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.[citation needed]

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.[13] Another source states that the word "bockorau" can be traced to the "Angolan" word "buckra', and was used to refer to white people,[14][15] which is disputed.[16] 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.[17]

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.

Competitive clogging[edit]

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 .

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

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

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

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Retrieved on 3 March 2012
  2. ^ A brief history of English clogs Retrieved on 3 March 2012
  3. ^ "Folk Dancing in the Netherlands". Retrieved 22 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Young dancers clog up The Hague". BBC News. 9 July 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Wallis, Lucy (11 December 2010). "Is clog dancing making a comeback?". BBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  6. ^ English Clogging in Lancashire in the 1800/1900s Retrieved 3 March 2012
  7. ^ B. A. Dobson Humidity in Cotton Spinning : A Paper Retrieved 3 March 2012
  8. ^ CLOG DANCE – a brief history Retrieved 3 March 2012
  9. ^ Clog Dance: English Folk Dance and Song Society accessed 1 November 2015
  10. ^ The Lancashire Morris dance: containing a description of the Royton Morris dance; collected and edited by Maud Karpeles. London: f. English Folk Dance Society by Novello; New York: H. W. Gray, [1930] (accompanied by: tunes as pianoforte arrangements by Arnold Foster. Rush cart lads – The girl I left behind me – Corn rigs, or, Sawney was tall – Radstock jig – Balquhidder lasses – Shepton hornpipe – Nancy Dawson, or, Cross Morris)
  11. ^ Welsh Dance
  12. ^ "dances". Retrieved 2016-01-04. 
  13. ^ "History of clogging". Adelaide Bluegrass Cloggers. Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  14. ^ Hashaw, Tim (2007) Children of Perdition: Melungeons and the struggle of mixed America. Mercer University Press; p. 42 ISBN 0-88146-013-3
  15. ^ Tim Hashaw, Children of perdition: Melungeons and the struggle of mixed America, p. 42.
  16. ^ Igbos in Virginia
  17. ^ Ames, Jerry & Siegelman, Jim (1977) The Book of Tap. David McKay Company ISBN 0-679-50615-2; p. 41

Further reading[edit]

  • Spalding, Susan Eike & Woodside, Jane Harris, eds. (1995) Communities in Motion: dance, community, and tradition in America's Southeast and beyond. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

External links[edit]