Clogging Class Video With Colleen

Line Dance Clogging

I’ve read a lot of theories about the origin of line dancing. Some claim it dates back to ancient times while others think it spawned from folk dancing. I remember line dances like the Stroll from the American Bandstand days and most everyone has been exposed to dances like the Electric Slide and Macarena done at nearly every wedding and holiday party. Country line dancing that I learned back in the early eighties had it’s own unique style with steps called hooks, hitches, chugs, scoots and heel splits. Most of the original moves have been replaced in recent years with smoother ones taken from jazz, ballet and hip hop dance. But it looks like line dancing may be about to make another change. Clogging steps are becoming the new rage.

I suspect that our original country line dance moves already have some roots in clog dancing. If you have ever watched clog dancers perform you will notice that they dance in lines, sometimes pairing off as square dancers do, but returning to their lines to dance in perfect unison. Their cue sheets differ from ours but the steps like chug, brush, hop, rock step, scoot and scuff sound familiar. If you think that clogging is too hokey, you should check out the “All That” dance team videos ( Clog dancers dressed in leather combining country hitch & shuffle steps with jazzy hip hop moves, they won 2nd place on last year’s Dance Fever television show.

Clog dancing has Celtic roots but it has become a true American folk dance. The dance is a mixture of styles originally brought to America by early English, Irish, Scottish and even Dutch and German settlers. I read that the word clog is derived from a Gaelic term meaning time but I could only find a definition for it in the Irish Gaelic Dictionary. It was a noun translating to the word clock. Clock makes sense because clog dancers or “cloggers” wear footwear like taps that makes a noise as they strike the floor to the beat or time.

One type of freestyle clogging that is done mostly to bluegrass music is called traditional Southern Appalachian clogging. It is found mostly in the mountain areas of North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. Modern or Precision clogging is another style that consists of more choreographed footwork than the traditional clogging. Like line dancing, pop culture dance influences including pop, rock, oldies and hip-hop have crept into clog dancing choreography. Constant shuffling distinguishes clogging from tap dancing. Flatfoot clog dancing has a low-to-the-floor shuffle style with intricate movements to percussive rhythms. Buck clog dancing also emphasizes the percussive rhythms by making more use of the heel and toe for extra sounds and also using a greater bent leg position.

I first noticed the infiltration of clogging into line dancing when I watched Nashville’s world renowned line dance instructor and choreographer Barry Amato perform a clog dance routine at a popular line dance weekend. The crowd went wild as he danced. Soon after Barry’s dances like Do Your Thing (the “Joey” step is a clog movement), The Sugar Foot Rag (the wagon wheel is a popular clog movement) and Tic Toc started to include some clogging footwork. Barry looks as if he has clogged his entire life but he says that he learned it on-the-job while performing in country theme park shows in Branson, Dollywood and Opryland, starting at the age of 19.

Clogging lessons are creeping into the line dance weekends. Barry Amato taught a class at the Las Vegas Masters In Line event, which he said was very popular. I took a class at the Line Dance Boogie weekend in Virginia taught by a very sweet little 12 year-old clogger, Colleen Ward. Colleen, her sister Cherylann and friend Ashleigh discovered line dancing a few years ago when asked to perform clogging in a line dance weekend show. They were hooked and now attend many line dance events as well as perform with their competition/exhibition clogging troupe called the Hi-Horse Cloggers. Although young, Colleen was a very professional, competent instructor and taught us basic clog movements in a line dance styled routine to the Bob Seger song, Old Time Rock and Roll. It was one of the best workshops I have attended. Once we mastered the shuffle step move we were able to apply it to the Triple Hop, Chain Steps, Basic turns with kicks and the basic clogging step. I interviewed the instructor (and her mom) after the class and was told that the troupe consists of 30 members with ages ranging from 8 to 74 years old. Some of the older dancers were in the show that evening and I was impressed with their endless energy. I was told that practice is 2 hours long of non-stop clogging with only one 5-minute break. So if you want to add some high-impact energy and fun to your line dancing, try clogging!