One of the oldest forms of dance in Appalachia is known as “hillbilly tap dancing,” or clogging.
Dating back to the late 1800s, the dance took on its form as a social construct. A mashup of numerous different styles, clogging has roots in tap, Irish step, and African dance.
Story has it that late at night, when immigrants would come home from work, they would all gather in one central location. Everyone would share their native dance style, which eventually gave way to what we now call clogging.
Cloggers wear shoes that have taps on both the toes and heels. These taps are attached using nails, but in such a way that still allows the tap to jingle when shaken. Besides the actual style of the dance, this is the most prominent way clogging differs from tap. The taps on tap shoes are attached so that there is no movement within it, thus giving it a higher pitched sound when struck against the ground.
As of 2006, clogging was named Kentucky’s State Dance. There are several clogging teams located across the state that perform in competitions, at festivals, and for private gatherings. Some of the most well-known cloggers in America have roots right here in Eastern Kentucky. With names like “Kentucky Drag,” even several of the dance’s steps have ties to the Bluegrass.
Clogging has evolved dramatically over the years.
Solely dancing to bluegrass and country music has given way to pop culture. Clogging groups have dominated talent competitions such as “America’s Got Talent,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” and “America’s Best Dance Crew.” These teams have shown the world that the style can be altered to suit any personal preference, and that stereotypical perceptions of the dance are no longer accurate.
Though the times have changed, one thing remains true: Clogging is still Appalachia’s dance. Always has been. Always will be.