Wayne Nicholson


Memory #2

Mary: What is Buck Dancing?  Where did it come from?  Is it still popular?
Wayne: There is no written documentation to my knowledge of where Buck Dancing originated.  If you read history of the Appalachian dancing you will find many forms of dancing and where they came from.  Many pages are written in the Encyclopedia of Traditional Appalachian Square Dancing written by Bill Nichols and Garland Steele.  Settlers coming to this country from many areas of Europe brought along dances from their culture and some of them settled in the Appalachian Mountains of the Virginias, Carolina's and Georgia.  Community gatherings were held and people shared their dance forms.  To this day many native Appalachian dancers consider Clogging and Square Dancing to be the same dance.  Other words that share a common definition in the Appalachian region are BUCK DANCE and CLOGGING.  Buck dancing is the solo dance you do when you are not square dancing.  Clogging is buck dancing with a partner during a Square Dance.  Each of such terms have previous folk definitions which may have caused the later mixing of terminology.  Some folk definitions were:
Square dancing as you see it on the Grand Ole Opry is doing the buck dance while square dancing.  Thus the response you get when you ask someone to join your square dance group is I can't do those fancy steps I see on TV.  As far as I know today Buck Dancing is Separate from Clogging even though in the minds of a lot of people they think it is the same.  Not so.  Flat Foot Clogging is one of the many dances which can be classified as a Buck Dance.  Today we have Clogging competition and Buck Dance competition.  They are not the same.  Clogging usually is done in lines with a prompter/instructor calling out the steps.  High kicking and swinging of the arms is allowed.   Buck Dancing, defined in dance terminology, is any dance that stimulates a bucking motion by continued bending and straightening of the knees during the execution of the dance.  Arms are held motionless beside the legs.  Feet are not raised or kicked higher that about 4 inches from the floor and the foot work is a rhythmic sound by heels and toes with brushes and slides sounding out the melody of the tune.  Most likely the Buck Dance was influenced by the German Flat Foot Clog dance. 

I remember learning to buck dance when I was about 3 or 4 years old.  When we were at dances my Dad used say to me "Boy show 'em how to dance".  There was no instructors for the Buck Dance.  You learned it by watching and imitating what the person dancing was doing. 

The Soco Gap Cloggers of North Carolina won the World Square Dance Championships (they were doing the buck dance steps while square dancing) and were invited to the White House to perform.  This event made Clogging and Hoedowning socially acceptable.  From that time on the rush to learn clogging became the thing to do and many schools and training sessions are now held for clogging.  I don't know of any training session that teach Buck Dancing.  Most likely it is still learned by watching and imitating.