HISTORY

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Between the Southern Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountain ranges in the east of America lies the Great Appalachian Valley. Occupied by Indians for centuries, the early 18th century saw European settlers moving inland from their coastal colonies to seek their fortunes. By 1775, some 600,000 Scottish/Irish immigrants had settled in North Carolina, bringing their cultural traditions with them (a Highland Games is still held at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina). The settlers' society became more polarised as the century progressed. By the nineteenth century it could be roughly divided in three: the merchants and tradesmen, wealthy farmers, and the backwoods people. The latter group was the least affluent and least mobile.

The social dancing of the wealthier groups was influenced by the French courts and Playford's English country dances, reflecting the formal and methodical philosophy of the Age of Reason. In contrast, the backwoods people danced lively and boisterous reels, jigs and square dances, brought from their native countries. Into this cultural melting pot were added dance steps copied from the native Indians and the African slaves. The resulting free style step dancing was known as flatfooting, buck dancing or hoofing.

After the Industrial Revolution, this style of dancing survived mainly in isolated areas. However, from the late 1920s square dance competitions were regularly held in North Carolina, and in 1937 the Soco Gap Dancers won a competition by flatfooting throughout their square dance routine. This group went on to perform for President Roosevelt and his guest Queen Elizabeth (who became the Queen Mother). She commented on the similarity to British clog dancing, which is thought to be how the term "clog" came to be used for this style.

Appalachian clog started to become popular in Britain about 15 years ago. There are now a number of groups performing and teaching up and down the country, with the highlight of the year being the Footloose festival in Matlock, Derbyshire, where several hundred dancers meet to learn new steps and have fun. The dancers usually wear shoes with toe taps, rather than wooden-soled clogs. Routines can consist simply of steps, or they may include traditional square dance figures, or even Scottish country dance reels of 3 and 4. The steps often have descriptive names, such as Kick the Cat, Wrens, Cajun Lady, and Charleston.

(NB: source of this information not known.)

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Site updated 10th April 2012