We went to a talk and demonstration of clog dancing last night. It’s a woman-thing; men don’t do clog dancing. The most noted practitioners are Hexham folk band, the Unthanks and they have a little video that you can watch here.
Although the tradition dates back to the Lancashire mills these days clog dancing is more like Irish step-dancing in which you keep your body completely still and only your feet move. The clogs themselves have wooden soles and leather uppers, laced like conventional shoes. I had always believed that they were a cheap form of poor working-class shoes but the speaker yesterday said no, they were a practical form of footwear for a girl on her feet all day on the wet, damp floor of a cotton mill. She in fact came from fishwife stock and had brought with her an authentic creel, a basket for carrying fish. The quayside would also have been a wet environment and wooden clogs, an ideal type of shoe.
The steps are limited: heel-clicks and toe clicks; clicking the feet together in both glancing movements and hard stamping actions and then kicking out to produce a gliding, shushing sound on the return. The tunes too are quite simple although she alleged that one could clog dance to any kind of music.
What she did say was that once she put on a pair of clogs she just had to get up and dance. Like the clogs took over. Didn’t Chic make a disco record about that?