The traditional dances of clogging and buckdancing are popular forms of percussive dancing that originated in the southern Appalachian mountains. Though the eighteenth-century Scottish and Irish settlers brought with them the clog, a step dance characterized by a very erect upper body, the additional influences of the traditional dance of Native Americans with its toe-heel, toe-heel movement and African American buck dancing, in which the arms hang loosely at the dancer’s sides, made for a distinctly American style. The basic clogging and buckdancing step consists of a double toe shuffle, where the dancer brushes forward the toe and then the heel of the free foot, shifts his or her weight to that foot, then rocks onto the other foot, before stepping back onto the foot that had originally been free. The leg is generally raised a little more than six inches off the ground in clogging, while the feet stay close to the ground in traditional buckdancing.
The term “clogging,” as it was first applied in the 1930s, signified the act of coupled dancers executing individual step dances together in group configurations. In freestyle (or traditional) clogging, the dancers performed spontaneous footwork, which allowed them to improvise while moving about the dance floor in time to live music provided usually by string bands. The addition in the 1940s of taps, costumes, and the concept of teams for the dancers indicated a shift underway from the perception of clogging as family or community entertainment to that of public performance. The Tennessee Travelers, a group featured on National Barn Dance radio shows in the 1940s, may have helped generate another form of clogging called precision clogging that developed in the 1950s. Precision (or modern) cloggers synchronize their steps, emphasizing identical footwork choreographed to be done in unison.