North and South Carolina share more than just a border. We share a dancing tradition that originated in Myrtle Beach, SC in the 1930’s and spread up to NC and along the SC coast as well. This is the dance called “The Shag” and is the official state popular dance in both states.
The early swing music and later rhythm and blues of the 1950s are the tempo that shaggers dance to. Often compared to the jitterbug, shag dancing emphasizes smooth movement above the waist and the dance movement below. The music that we call Beach Music has a 4/4 rhythmic structure and encompasses the genres mentioned above as well as Motown. Although many of the songs would be recognized nationwide, favorite tunes amongst shaggers include: Carolina Girls (Chairman of the Board), My Lady Soul (The Temptations ), My Girl (The Temptations), Under the Boardwalk (The Drifters) and similar tunes.
This is a dance that was often danced barefoot, perhaps on a pier and thus the term “dancing down the boards” has evolved. In other words you and your partner stay in a slot parallel with other dancers. The basic step has eight beats and is counted “1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5, 6”. Other steps can be 9 beat. A little confusing for those of us that have two left feet (eh-hem). I admit a year and a half into lessons I am still very much a novice. Of course it would help if I went to lessons with some consistency. I am fortunate to live in an area that has many functions and belong to a great club that hosts free lessons weekly. But somehow, life’s annoying little obligations keep me from going as often as I’d like.
I am certain that no matter where you are (if you are living in the Carolinas) there is a shag club close by that offers lessons or can point you to a juke joint that does. After you learn the basic step typically you will next be taught the Female Turn and the Male Turn. Yes, a lady gets to turn her male partner. However, he will need to learn to lead and indicate this is what he wants. Other standard steps that you will learn early on are the Pivot, the Front Prep and the Saddle Up. After that move on with some fun and sometimes complicated steps like the Sugar Foot, the Belly Roll, the Hook-Up, the Drunken Sailor and the Duck Walk.
I do not want to weigh this post down with links but believe me, I have plenty. If you would like help finding events and lessons in your area post a reply and I would be happy to put up some more information.
Shagging is not only a great way to be active in our Carolina culture AND a great exercise, but I have found that shaggers are some of the greatest people on earth. They are always ready to have a good time, share their knowledge, bring a covered dish and provide fellowship with and a shoulder for their fellow shaggers.
Shag on y’all !