These dances originated in the Textile Mills, mostly in Lancashire and the Durham area during the 1800's. The stone floors in the Textile Mills were cold and sometimes damp. Shoe leather was expensive, and so most shoes were made with wooden soles in a clog style. This meant that shoes tended to last longer and were cheaper. They also kept the workers feet warmer and drier.
The mills were very noisy places to work, with very monotonous rhythm of the machines. The workers found that they could make up tapped rhythms with their feet to the sound of the machinery, and soon began to make up steps, and consequently dances. These steps were often practiced during their rare break times on the cobble streets, and sometimes they used to compete with one another, to see who could make up the best dance. These were subsequently set to music, and over time became the more stylised form of step-clog dance that we are familiar with today.
They can be danced as a solo, or with others in a formation. It is not the easiest style of dance to learn, and can take up to three years or more to learn properly, depending on your ability. However it is great fun, and our young group really enjoy the challenge of all these steps.
Click here for the dance notation for the Durham Waltz, here to hear the music, and here to read the words to the songs.
Click here for the dance notation of the Ossy Jig, and here to hear the music.