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What is Clogging?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Clogging is a form of folk dancing that is undergoing a renaissance in the 21st century. Originally popular in England, Wales and parts of North America, clogging has become popular among young dancers. Clogging is a rhythmic dance somewhat related to tap, Morris dancing and step-dancing; its revival is somewhat inexplicable but certainly entertaining to watch.

The basic steps of clog dancing are somewhat similar to tap. Dancers wear special shoes to accentuate the sound of their heels and toes on the floor. The dance is extremely dependent on coordination and rhythm. Skilled performers move so quickly, it is almost impossible to keep track of their feet hitting the ground.

One of the oldest forms of traditional clog dancing comes from Wales, where it has been a folk dance since at least the 12th century. Popular at the Welsh music and culture festivals called Eisteddfod, clog dancing competitions were held as early as 1176. Welsh clogging is still done in a traditional style, rather than being a revival form, it has never died out in cultural practice.

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In England, clog dancing was a product of the industrial revolution, although tales of its beginnings vary. It gained popularity in Lancashire mill towns and throughout much of Northern England, spawning competitions and festivals throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the practice died out during the later 20th century, a recent revival has begun to take shape in parts of the United Kingdom, most particularly in the Northern English town of Keighley.

The American version of clog dancing originated in the mining and mountainous towns of the Appalachian Mountains. The dance, also called jigging, is the official state dance of both Kentucky and North Carolina. Traditionally, American clog-dancing is performed to upbeat music from Irish and Scotch bands, such as reels and jigs.

Clog dancing's renewed popularity may be in part due to several recent portrayals of the style in popular media. In the blockbuster 1997 film, Titanic, lead characters Rose and Jack engage in a form of clogging during a raucous party with the third-class passengers on the ship. More recently, a clogger was featured on the popular American television show, So You Think You Can Dance? During auditions for the third season of the show, a young dancer named Brandon Norris so impressed the judges with his clogging that he was invited back for a special performance later in the season. The performance became a hit on the show as well as on video-sharing websites like YouTube, bringing clogging to a wider audience.

Today, clog dancing competitions are gaining popularity and fans around the world, although they remain most notable in the countries in which they originated. In addition to the traditional music used for performances, clogging is now done to rock, bluegrass and punk music. To the surprise of many, clog dancing has survived for nearly 1000 years, and through innovation and experimentation, is holding on to its place in the modern world.

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