Have you ever wanted to do something excitingly challenging to you, while knowing it’s good for you and won’t require lots of boring work from you. Then, that something is clog dancing, also called clogging. You can do it solo, with a partner, or within a group. All three ways are fun, fun, fun. Also, if you join an organized clogging group, you’ll find yourself having a new set friends while becoming more acceptable to yourself and your peers. Since clogging groups are special in their own way, you will be, too.
What is clogging?
Several sources describe the American form of clogging as hillbilly-tapping or foot-stomping folk dancing, where the dancer makes musically synchronized sounds with his/her feet. In the past, it was done to mountain and bluegrass music with high-kicking leg movements combined with foot shuffling, stomping, and tapping. Nowadays, it’s done to many kinds of music the same way. Kids and teenagers generally do it at high speed, faster and more precise than adults.
Where did clogging come from?
Clogging dates back to the 16th-Century-or-prior European folk dances and jigs. It’s been traced to the dances done by the Scotch-Irish steppers, Dutch cloggers (done in wooden shoes or in soft shoes having wooden soles), Euro-Russian gypsies, and English-French-German folk-dancers. In this continent, it evolved into its own early style through the immigrants who settled in Canada, the Appalachian Mountains, and the hill regions of the South. Among all the early settlers who liked to stomp and dance were the Native Americans, frontiersmen, African Americans, cowboys, farmers, ranchers, and the backwoods, hill-abiding, and small-town folks. All of these regional sects have influenced the clogging styles in one way or another at one time or another. Today, it’s being shaped further through contemporary clogging groups, and through the various kinds of modern music in addition to the traditional ones.
How is clogging taught or done?
Generally, clogging is learned in groups under an instructor who carefully teaches its terminology and step-routines, and who makes sure it’s done to the time of the music. However, if no such group is nearby, instructional videos and DVD’s can be found in a few dance shops and on the Internet.
Briefly, the basic clog step is a double-toe tap done with one of your feet, followed by stepping on the balls of each foot. First, starting with your left foot, brush your toe forward and then backward, tap-tap, and then step on the same foot (ball). Immediately following that left tap-tap-ball movement, step onto your right ball, and then step back onto your left one, once more. That’s it, the basic step, left-toe-tap-forward, left-toe-tap-backward, left-step-ball, right-step-ball, left-step-ball.
Now, repeat this step movement starting with your right foot, and then again with your left one, alternately. Once you have learned to repeat this step continuously in a light-footed manner, you will be able to do the slight variations it easily. As your balance and knee-bending capabilities increase, you’ll move into longer and slightly varied routines based on these steps. Additionally, you’ll be able to do them solo, with a partner, or within a group as in line dancing or as a team. You can also develop your own solo freestyle routines.
Note: the initial double-toe tap of the basic step can also be done as a heel-toe tap as it’s sometimes done in certain parts of the country. The basic movement is same as above, except the initial toe-tap is replaced with a heel-tap, as heel-tap-forward, toe-tap-backward, step-ball, step-ball, step-ball and so forth.
Where is it done?
Clogging can be learned or done anywhere, out in the country, or in the villages, towns, and cities, usually on a fairly hard surface. Today, organized clogging is done mostly within local clogging groups under the leaderships of certified instructors. These groups meet and practice in schools, gymnasiums, churches, civic centers, ballrooms, garages, or homes large enough to accommodate them. Membership includes all ages and types, both adults and youngsters. These groups often have members who compete regularly at regional clogging events in addition to their having leisurely in-group fun. Many of the competitive dancers are young people, who can learn it easily, and do it fast.
Because these groups are generally nonprofit and semi-private, only a few of them are listed in the yellow pages. Still, clogging groups exist everywhere in North America, similar to the way square-dance clubs do. If you have a square-dance club nearby, chances are they can point you toward a clogging group. Some clogging groups can also be found on the Internet.
Additionally, in the regions where clogging has been done routinely for decades, the local cloggers might get together spontaneously without much organization. These cloggers will show up at local parks, community events, or county fairs, where small portable wooden clogging floors and recorded music are available to them and anyone else who wants to try it. A fiddler, guitarist, or banjo player might show up there, too.
How is clogging organized?
Modern clogging groups are organized under nonprofit federations. That is, each group operates under its own bylaws and the general provisions of a state board or council. The state board or council might sponsor annual workshops for the local chartered groups to attend. Such workshops offer expert clogging instruction, demonstrations, competitions, and entertainment, like, performances, games, or parties of sorts. They’ll also provide displays of recent music, cue sheets, equipment sources, and other clogging information.
What does it cost?
Generally, group members pay annual dues to keep the group solvent, about $20-50. The dues cover the cost of rental space, member insurance, and a newsletter. For guest beginners, the only cost is for the instruction, $10-50, for about 10 weeks of classes, one-to-two nights a week. If you decide to go further into clogging after graduating, you’ll need leather clogging shoes with “jingle” (double-action) taps attached to them, $35-70. The dues and shoes are the main costs. Normally, the dress codes are casual, T-shirts and jeans or shorts, for weekly lessons or practice sessions. You won’t need special clothing unless you decide to perform competitively with the group, or to perform with them entertainingly for local charities, senior centers, conventions, and festivals. Even so, the outfits often are homemade.
Clogging groups are family friendly and socially fun. Because children are included in them, these groups maintain high behavior standards for its membership. They hold many get-togethers, potlucks, holiday parties, and fun times for everyone. Yet, some groups are setup for the grownups or for youth only. This condition occurs for the older grownups whose kids have left home, or for the youth who travel frequently to many competitions. Still other groups might be subdivided into both grownups and youth for training purposes. This kind of organization means participation of some kind of is available to almost everyone there. So, if you are looking for a clean, fun way to burn off your energy, and to gain some of it back with other benefits at the same time, try clog dancing. Your fancy footwork will glide you gracefully over the floor, faster and more uniquely than most folks can.