CLOG DANCING

Clog Dancing is a solo dance with it's roots firmly based in the stable lofts, fairs and inns where dancers would compete against each other in dexterity and tricks.But it calls for more, much more than fast feet.It is essentially an exhibitionists dance where the personality and character of the dancer must be transmitted to the audience, otherwise the dance becomes mechanical and spiritless.
It is the only unbroken element of traditional Welsh dance that we own and there are many people who remember seeing Caradog Puw and Hywel Wood of Bala clogging during the 40s.
The dance grew in popularity during the 60s and for many years I had great pleasure in teaching children from the Colwyn Bay area to clog dance. Several had individual success but we also performed as a group or with myself leading and the children as a chorus. It was such a performance that won the first prize in the Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1969. Later competition was extended to dancing duets and trios which meant that at last we could recreate on stage the true tradition where one dancer was trying to out-dance the other.
The next development happened when it became a competition for women also - it was even given a theme which invited storytelling. Dawnswyr Nantgarw have led the field in this development and performances such as the "Quarrymen" and the "Cerdd Dant Trio" will stay with me for many years to come.
By now group clogging has become an integral part of our eisteddfodau and dancing tradition. The craft and technique of clog dancing is secure enough and we have many excellent dancers from the age of 7 upwards. Teachers and choreographers are now able to push out the boundaries of step dancing and develop it as they should in any living and breathing tradition.

dances

NANTGARW DANCES
Dawns Flodau Nantgarw, Gwyl Ifan, Ffair Caerffili, Dawns y Pelau, Ceiliog y Rhedyn, Rali Twm Sion Morfa Rhuddlan, Dawns y Marchog, Y Gaseg Eira
These dances were recalled by Margaretta Thomas and noted by her daughter Dr. Ceinwen Thomas. They are dances that she remembered being danced in the fairs, inns and festivals before the religious revivals at the turn of the century. Apart from two solos they are fairground dances of great energy and fun, although if we look beneath the surface we can see traces of Morris and ritual. We must also remember that when Margaretta was a child it was customary at country fairs to lay a wooden floor in a roped off enclosure where the dancers would perform to amuse themselves and also collect donations from the spectators.

THE CLOG
The origin of wooden footwear is thought to be the Roman bath shoe , the purpose being to protect the wearers feet from the hot tiled floors.A pair of clogs was found in the tomb of an Italian king in the 10th century although it's quite certain that they didn't bear any resemblance to what we call clogs in this country.Throughout the ages the clog has been a symbol of the working classes and shunned as a sign of poverty because it has always been a practical shoe and has never kept up with fashion.The Welsh people always had a pair of clogs for working week days and leather, best shoes for Sundays and that was at the beginning of this century.The style of the shoe and the type of wood used was dependant on the work of the wearer.Workers on the fish wharves would have a leather flap to keep out splashing water and the miner would have a special clog called the Blucher Boot after the designer which had a low cut heel so that he could easily slip it off if it was trapped The workers in the warm-floored tin and steel works would have thick soles. Cardigan people prided themselves on having durable Sycamore soled clogs while birch was preferred in Scotland.Birch was also preferred in the mining areas as it had a high resin and was more water resistant.With the industrial revolution came mechanisation and cheap shoes which hastened the decline of clogs in this country and although there was a short lived resurgence during the first world war leather shoes were fast pushing out the unstylish and heavy clog. In 1901 there were 6276 recorded clogmakers in Wales and England, by 1983 there were less than 40, and of these only 3 or 4 could actually produce a complete clog. But there is hope yet - apparently the fashion house Gucci is this year producing a line of wooden soled shoes. Who knows , perhaps clog dancing will be the dance of the next decade!!!

clocsio