The word “clog” is a Gaelic term meaning “time.” Clogging is “time” dancing in which the heel is the timekeeper. It is a great form of aerobic exercise. Some of the health advantages are it helps coordination and rhythm, develops flexibility, lowers blood pressure, increases endurance and strength, increases lung capacity, relieves stress, and helps weight loss (burns around 400 calories per hour.) With all these benefits, clogging is definitely one of the best ways to keep in shape and enjoy it at the same time.
In the United States, clogging takes two major forms: traditional southern Appalachian or precision. There are many other types of clogging, but these seem to be the most prominent. Appalachian clogging can still be found in western North Carolina, West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and other places in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Cloggers in this style dance mainly to live music. This music usually consists of bluegrass type music with banjos, fiddles, and guitars. Most of this type of clogging is freestyle, which means that the dancers have no choreographed footwork. On the other hand, precision (or modern) clogging was developed around World War II, and is danced to a variety of music. Specifically, the music can range from country western and bluegrass, to modern pop music, oldies, rock, rap, techno and hip-hop. Precision teams wear elaborate costumes and shoes with jingle taps. This type of clogging reaches for the goal of everyone clogging the same step at the same time.
A true folk dance has no written history. Because of this, clogging is a true American folk dance. Its roots come from the combined folk dances of the Irish, English, Scottish, and Dutch-Germans who settled in the Appalachian Mountains in the mid-1700s. Russian gypsies and African Blacks who passed through the area, as well as the Cherokee Indians who originally inhabited the land, also influenced clogging.
Taking a closer look, the English were probably the first to bring clogging to America. On the other hand, many of the Scottish and Irish who came to America were outcasts and were looking for a way to escape the English. They settled in the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains and were both hard working and playing. After a hard day’s work, these outcasts joined their fellow neighbors and rejoiced with food, music, and dancing. Everyone had their own style from where they were raised, but they watched each other and mimicked what they liked. This was the very beginning of the clogging steps.
Until the late 1950s, there weren’t any clogging instructors, classes, or workshops, just some clogging competitions. If you wanted to clog, you watched someone else and tried to imitate him or her. All this changed when a man named Dennis Abe organized the first clogging workshops. At a workshop, cloggers gather from near and far to learn new steps, dances, and to socialize. An instant demand for clogging instructors was then created. A man named Bill Nichols put names to some of the foot movements, so that it could be more easily taught. Today, workshops are held almost every weekend. Groups and clogging organizations, such as the National Clogging and Hoedown Council (NCHC), are holding more and more competitions and workshops every year. Cloggers, group directors, and anyone who loves clogging come together on a regular basis to share their passion at these events. National clogging instructors travel around the United States to teach their original clogging routines and steps.
Unfortunately, clogging was not an accepted dance until a while back when the Soco Gap Cloggers won the World Square Dance Championship. After this accomplishment, the team was invited to the White House for a performance. This made clogging socially acceptable and from then on cloggers self esteem soared.