Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clog Dancing

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


  1. In the North of England, most clog wearers had the sense not to walk with wooden soles on cobbled streets. To stop the wooden soles wearing out quickly, they were shod with irons or caulkers, or softer materials such as leather or rubber. Once the irons or rubbers wore out, they would be pulled off the wooden soles, the holes filled in and new ones nailed into place. If clogs were kept in a good state of repair, they could last for many years. I bought my first pair in 1980 and they are still wearable.

    Clog dancers did dance in clogs with bare wooden soles, usually indoors and never on cobbles.

    With the exception of the 8 Lancashire Lads, I have never heard of teams of male clog dancers anywhere in the North of England (in Victorian times?), but I would be pleased to see any evidence. Is there possible confusion with Morris dancers, some of whom danced in clogs in Lancashire and Cheshire?

  2. I had attended a party where I witnessed a clog dancing. And believe me it was really amazing to watch it out. I really enjoyed that dance a lot.
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  3. Clog Dancing or clogging if you may, has been a part of the festivities of many cultural groups around the world. It all Started with Swedish Wooden clogs and it took no time for people to realize the fun attached to it.

  4. Clog dancing is a beautiful dance form. It is thrilling how things were introduced before and how they evolved in the recent times. Like Wooden heeled clogs led then the introduction of a dance form.


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