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What is Clogging?

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By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

Clogging, or clog dance, originated in the foothills of Appalachia around the mid-1700s, and was adapted from a combination of the folk dances of the early American settlers of the area, who came from England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. Each of these cultures had their own rich history of folk dancing and folk music, which all included some form of percussive footwork, personal expression, and upbeat music.

Clogging was traditionally done as a social dance, and over the years began to incorporate patterns similar to square dancing, where groups of dancers would change formations by listening for cues, or calls. These cues were developed regionally, however, which meant they were all different. 

As the rural landscape evolved to allow for more travel, the many regional styles of clogging cues and steps needed to be codified. Thanks in large part to Sheila Popwell, clogging was codified for the first time in the early 1980s and led the style to become more popular in dance studios.

Today, working from the codified terminology and cueing methodology, clogging has taken on multiple forms. Traditional clogging still includes bluegrass music, individual expression and partnering. The footwork is less intricate, but still focuses on striking the floor in rhythmic patterns. In a contemporary clogging class, you can expect more intricate footwork, popular music, and more unison dancing. 

All clogging classes will require clogging shoes, which are leather or synthetic oxford shoes, in either black or white, with steel jingle taps. Jingle taps, unlike regular taps for tap shoes, have two layers of metal that “jingle” when they strike each other and the floor. In clogging classes, expect high energy movement, intricate footwork, and a lot of fun!

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!