New book honors Bill Nichols, ‘grandfather of modern clogging’ | Arts

August 8, is being recognized as the third annual National Clog Dancing Day as a celebration of the contributions of the late Bill Nichols. In conjunction with this celebration, “My Mountains: The Story of Bill Nichols, the Grandfather of Modern Clogging” is now in publication, according to a press release.

In addition, the organizers of National Clog Dancing Day have reprinted “The Encyclopedia of Traditional Southern Appalachian Square Dancing” written by Bill Nichols and Garland Steele; and compiled a coffee table photo book called “Into The Light” which features the photography of Bill Nichols.

“My Mountains…” chronicles 80 years of the history and development of clog dancing from an American folk dance to an organized recreational activity and describes the evolution of the dance in reaction to changes in consumer preference regarding music and entertainment.

Chapters examine the economic conditions, cultural aspects, influential people and poignant situations which gave rise to the transformational leadership style of Nichols and address how his identity as a Christian and his pride in being a western North Carolina/east Tennessee native formed his point of view . This book also examines his family life and his role as a father and husband as well as his expertise as a photographer.

“The Encyclopedia…” contains instructions for executing Traditional Appalachian Square Dance figures. It also provides a brief synopsis of the history and definitions of various dance forms found in Appalachia. Chapters include descriptions of the music, the steps, the calling technique and terminology used in Appalachian Square Dance. The information within the pages is a result of the lifelong experiences of both authors.

“Into The Light” is a compilation of some of Nichols’ favorite photography work. Nichols began his career as an apprentice photographer in 1956 while he was employed by Fontana Village Resort, North Carolina. In short order, he was promoted to staff photographer and graphic arts director for the resort. During his over 60 years as a photographer, Nichols developed an eye for color and light. His stunning photography is a true reflection of his appreciation of the miracles God gives us every day.

Growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina and east Tennessee, Nichols’ sharing of clogging with tourists at Fontana Village Resort created a ripple effect that took the dance across the country and abroad. He even had an opportunity to teach Mick Jagger to clog dance.

Nichols is credited as being the first person in America to give terminology, structure and organization to this American folk dance that was a “melting pot” of percussive dances from any culture.

He created a dance movement that has resulted in elevating a regional recreational activity to a national competitive platform with international acclaim. “He never made his work about him,” said his daughter, Simone Nichols Pace, who is the author of the book and the organizer of the National Day of Clog Dancing.

“His work was always for the benefit of future generations of dancers. Around the world, this is a day of celebration of our talents and a day of reverence for those who came before us and the release of these three books adds excitement to this year’s celebration. We can put our dancers in the spotlight and generate a multitude of publicity which will inevitably open many more doors of opportunity,” Pace said. “Through National Clog Dancing Day on August 8, 2022, we will celebrate our history, encourage diversity and inclusion, and create a brighter future for our dancers. We can make a difference.”


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