TRADITIONAL APPALACHIAN CLOG DANCING
Bill Alkire (1993) and updated by the Cedar Valley Cloggers (2022), Wooster,
Clog dancing is a form of step dance that developed in the Appalachian Mountains by the people who settled there. These people were from several ethnic groups with long traditions of step dance unique to their own culture. These groups included the Cherokee Indians, English, Irish, Scottish, and African peoples. Over the years the dances from these groups have been shared and intermingled through a naturally evolving folk process, until now we have a uniquely American dance. Besides clogging, the terms buck dancing, flatfooting, and others have been used to label these types of dances. Although there are many variations and styles, efforts by many groups have been made to standardize terms to make teaching effective. Despite these efforts, the creative folk process continues to enrich the vocabulary with many different names for certain steps or combinations.
There are two main branches of clogging groups active today. The first is based on the use of traditional old time music and old time dress for performances. The second group tends to use contemporary country and rock music with more contemporary costumes. Both types of groups may use precisely choreographed dances making a presentation of precision dancing as each dancer in a group performs each step together. The main difference here is in the music that gives the dance its unique style. Both types of groups may dance figure dances where the steps are not necessarily done exactly the same. Some people have called this hoedown style clogging.
The Cedar Valley Cloggers started dancing in the late 1970’s. It is a traditional clogging group, maintaining the use of the old time music and old time dress. This group performs line, figure, and contra-style dances, with two to more than twelve dancers performing together. Figure dancing is a major activity, adapting some of the traditional dances to clogging and creating some of our own. Individual freestyle clogging is also encouraged. The Cedar Valley Cloggers is essentially a social and recreational clog dance club. The group performs at many venues, to include fairs, festivals, and senior citizen centers. A factor in the club’s popularity with audiences is club members show the great fun they are having in dancing and many times after a performance people will say “Hey, I think I could learn to do that.”
The study of clogging has produced many authorities who have become well known through their teaching, performing, and writing. Those who have had the most influence on Bill Alkire and successive Cedar Valley Cloggers instructors include:
Ira Bernstein – Asheville, NC Appalachian Clogging and Flatfooting Steps, 1992
Donna Lamb – Berea, Kentucky Flatfootin': mountain clogging,
Jerry Duke – San Francisco Clog
Dance in the Appalachians, 1984
Fiddle Puppets (now known as Footworks) – Annapolis, Maryland
Bob Dalsemer – Hayesville, NC
Steve Smith –
Rhythm in Shoes – Bloomington, Indiana/Dayton, Ohio (retired in 2010)