There are several styles, including Lancashire, Durham, Westmorland and Welsh.
If no practitioner is available, dances can be learned from videos, but most expert dancers prefer to pass on dances and routines personally and there is some considerable pride and sense of history involved in this.
Unless the steps specifically require otherwise, clog dances are done on the ball of the foot and in the main, heels should not touch the floor.
Clog dancing was never a form of ceremonial dance, like Morris dancing, nor did it originate in courtly dancing. Although dances were inspired by the rhythms of the machines with which the dancers worked, they also incorporated the steps of hornpipes and reels which had been danced in England for many years.
1. Don't start with anything too hard. Learners need success within the first lesson. Start with a simple routine involving shuffles. Show them how to get two sounds with a shuffle. Vary the rhythms but maintain the action until they can all do it.
2. Move on to toe - heel walking movements. Again two sounds must be obtained.
3. Continue with jumps - cross legs, then back to stand position. Try brushes and taps. Vary rhythms , but keep movements easy.
4. Less is more - encourage small movements.
5. Keep learners on their toes if possible. Discourage heel bangs unless part of dance, also wild arm movements.
6. At first you don't need any music (especially not recorded music!).
7. When learners are ready, encourage them to listen to the musician by playing the same music at different speeds and asking them to just tap, or walk heel-toe in time to the music.
8. Help learners to anticipate the breaks in the music at the end of the A or B part by asking them to change foot or direction at these points. This will help them later when they are learning a routine. Counting is not a good way to learn a routine, as it draws attention away from the music.
9. Learners don't need clogs to start, but it's a good idea to get into them soon as the balance is different in clogs.
Music is commonly supplied by fiddles and squeeze boxes (concertina, melodeon, accordion).
Before you can play for clogging you need to get to know the dance:
You don’t have to play a note for every tap. Dance and music should complement each other; this may mean playing sparse chords during very busy stepping to mark the first beat of every bar and will certainly mean varying the tune to suit each step. Waltz steps, for example, often end with 2 silent beats in the last bar. The tune as played in a session may have notes there – decide whether you want to play those notes, or stop the phrase and accompany the non-sounding beats with silence.
It’s best to rely on the dancer for tempo. Different dancers will be comfortable with different speeds and the musician needs to be flexible to allow for this.
The feel of the dance is very difficult to define – try different tunes to see which motivates the dancer better.
In summary, don’t just play the tune as you might in a session or as a listening piece for a concert – watch the dance intently and work out how best to complement the stepping.
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