A Brief History of Clogging in the North Carolina Mountains

A Brief History of Clogging in the North Carolina Mountains

If you've visited the North Carolina mountains of Asheville you may have heard a unique sound in the streets. Asheville is home to many great talents, including street performers. But, that sound you hear isn't what you might think. Many people hear the sound for the first time and think it is tap dancers. However, what you are actually hearing is something unique to the mountains. A sound born of the rugged and unique nature of our region. You guessed it –  clogging! This week we pull back the curtain and share a little history about clogging in the North Carolina mountains. So, come along as we journey into the past and present of this regional art form that is hard not to fall in love with. 

Where it all began.

Historians agree that clogging began just down the road in Madison County, North Carolina. Because of its rural nature, the area in and around Madison County developed its own unique culture, music and art forms. While today it is easy to get to Asheville and the North Carolina mountains, that wasn't always the case. Clogging is a mix of dance traditions brought to North Carolina in colonial times by the Scots-Irish who primarily settled the local area. In fact the word "Clog" comes from the Gaelic word meaning "time".

What is Clogging?

You won't find the term "clogging" much before the 1920s. Clogging was just considered the local dance and there was no name for it. However, make no mistake, clogging is not tap dancing, flat footing or buck dancing. This is a common misconception although in a sense it has elements of all of these styles of dancing. Historians also believe many of the moves incorporate African and local Cherokee Indian moves. 

The uniqueness of clogging comes from the way dancers use high kicks. The dancers come down on their toes or balls of the feet and the slap sound comes from those very distinctive high kicks. Cloggers also use the heels of their feet in combination with toe strikes, making it different from another form of dancing known as "Buck Dancing". Is it confusing? It sure is, especially for visitors, but once you observe the dances you will quickly see the difference. 

Get a feel for the dance

There are several different ways that Clogging is performed. Often (as seen above) it is performed in a group that looks similar to a Square Dance, with choreographed steps that are danced in unison. Today, much of the clogging you will run across is a considered "team" or "precision" clogging where the dancers follow specific, choreographed steps to a wide variety of music. In a sense, think of the popular River Dance shows that many of us have seen. 

Want to get a sense for what clogging looks like? Check out the video above from the Shindig on the Green – one of Asheville's longest running events. 

94th Mountain Dance and Folk Festival 

August 5-7, 2021 - University of North Carolina, Asheville

If you are looking for a great event filled with local culture, arts, music and food, check out the 94th Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. During the festival a different show will be presented live on stage each evening, allowing you to appreciate the talent and dedication of the hundreds of musicians, dancers, and storytellers who are preserving the traditions of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This festival is a walk through the culture of the local area, it is simply something everyone will love. 

Now is the perfect time to plan your next Asheville mountain vacation.  We have a great selection of cabins to choose from. Give us a call today at 828-274-6978 or click the button below to see our current inventory of homes. 

A Brief History of Clogging in the North Carolina Mountains

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