Sunday, February 4, 2018

Modern Dance: Brief history from clogging to tap

Clog dancing became very popular in Victorian times among the working class people in the North of England. The hardwearing wood against the cobbled streets allowed the dancer to create rhythm by tapping with the toes and heels. To make the clog lighter the uppers were cut lower at the ankle and the soles made from ash wood.

Dancers required to be nimble because the steps were complex. Solo dancers danced on a slab of hardwearing wood that made a ringing sound. Amateur dancers added drama to their performance by using metal tags, nailed to their soles, which caused sparks to appear. Clog dancing was mainly a male preserve with troops of male clog dancers found all over the North of England. Gradually however female clog dancers became very popular in music halls.

One of the most famous professional clog dancing troupe were J.W. Jackson's Eight Lancashire lads. A young Charlie Chaplain joined the troupe in 1896 and was paid one pound sterling per week plus his keep.

Clog dancing was introduced to US, towards the end of the nineteenth century, where upon it was quickly transformed into tap dancing. The mania swept from coast to coast. At first the tap shoe was a modified clog but later these were replaced with tap shoes with metal jingles. Initially tap dancing was a male preserve but soon became popular with women and chorus lines.

The girls wore special shoes known as Mary Janes, kept on with ankle straps fasten with a buckle or button. The shoes were often split clogs with half a sole and the heel in wood. To emphasise the sound some shoes had jingles attached to the shank. When the heels hit the floor they made a sound like two coins struck together.

Clog dancing still can be seen at traditional folk festivals and dance exhibitions all over the world.

Reviewed 6/01/2016

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