Clogging for the fun of it, and the friends

It was a shared passion for dancing that brought Gregg Nevitt and his wife, Cami together.

"We met square dancing," Nevitt said. "At that point, I'd also been clogging for eight years. And so while we were dating, she started taking classes."

Today, 24 years later, the Nevitts, residents of Anaheim and active members of the Huntington Beach-based Apple Creek Cloggers, revel in the joy of their shared hobby.

According to Nevitt, clogging is a form of American folk dance best described as a cross between tap dance and western line dancing.

"This isn't clogging with Dutch wooden shoes," he said. "It is Appalatian mountain-style clogging and is more like what you would see on Riverdance."

The percussionary dance form includes a lot of quick foot movements, such as double toe-action, toe and heel tapping and stomping. Some dances contain minor arm routines, but mostly the arms help dancers maintain balance.

While footwear plays a central role in clogging, dancers can wear any style of shoes, ranging from tennis to dance shoes, with metal taps attached to the toes and heels of each one. As a general rule, the dress is casual and varied, with people turning up in sweaters, shorts, and also dresses.

"I enjoy clogging because it's a great form of exercise," said Nevitt, 49, who was introduced to clogging in 1980 by a friend. "It's not like jogging where you're out by yourself on the road and it's good cardio. Being a form of dance, its also very social and we get to interact and spend time with a vast number of people."

As a group, the Apple Creek Cloggers is a 65-person strong clogging club, which meets every Monday for classes and hosts a dance on the second Saturday of every month. While some clubs use community centers or other recreational venues, this one uses the cafeteria at the First United Methodist Church of Huntington Beach.

"We attend classes to learn different steps — dozens of different steps — and specific routines that go with each song," Nevitt explained. "At the dance, we just get together, our cuer puts on music and we dance — there's no instruction."

The monthly dances cost $5 per person and last from 7 to 10 p.m. Open to members from other clubs, it also features a potluck dinner with attendees contributing a variety of treats.

"Sometimes I like to say that we're an eating club that likes to clog," Nevitt joked.

The Apple Creek Cloggers, which was established in 1985 by veteran clogger Marlyn Hanson, kicks up its heels to the accompaniment of bluegrass, country-western, and even hip-hop music. Each year, the club also put on shows at the Orange County Fair, Los Angeles County Fair and San Diego County Fair.

The cuer and instructor at Apple Creek Cloggers is Eric Bice, 45, from Lakewood.

Starting early, Bice and his sisters clogged their way through childhood along with their parents. A clogging instructor since 1986, Bice joined the recreational clogging group in Surf City in 1999.

"I love teaching people how to clog," said Bice, who not only met his wife clogging, but has also gone on to becoming a national clogging instructor. "It's a great activity and I've met some wonderful people doing it. Our club consists of people from various fields who are united by a common goal — to dance."

The club's members, hailing from central Orange County and the South Bay, range from pre-teens to retired citizens.

"The activity is such that it can be made as easy or difficult as you want on your body so many senior citizens clog to get their exercise, but don't jump around as much as the younger people," Nevitt, the president of the Apple Creek Cloggers for three years, said.

On Monday the club is rolling out a class, which will be open to new beginners, from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. The class will accept new students on Jan. 7, 14 and 21.

"It takes four to six months to graduate a level, so our January class ends in June and September, in December," Nevitt said of the $6-a-night class, at which a sense of community is palpable. "A lot of intermediate dancers come to the beginners' class to help out and show them the steps."

The beginners' class is held in addition to easy intermediate, intermediate and advanced classes organized at different times on Monday. People are welcome at the start of the evening and can dance for three and a half hours, gaining exposure to dancing at all levels, Bice, who spends several hours a week choreographing routines, said.

The club's registration dues are $18 per year, which covers rent, publication of the monthly newsletter and members' insurance. It also allows the club to travel to and participate in several workshops throughout the year where they interact with fellow clogging aficionados.

"Between 200 and 300 people clog across Southern California because it's really effective exercise within the framework of a fun social atmosphere," Nevitt said. "One of the key things that draws people in is that clogging doesn't require a partner. You can go to a class or a dance and meet new people there."

Twitter: @Rmahbubani

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