In the 1940s, the Shag dance became popularized in South Carolina's Ocean Drive beaches. Also known as the "Carolina shag," it was beloved by many a summer vacationer on their trips to North Myrtle Beach. Though some believe it was actually conceived as a descendant of the jitterbug on the beaches of North Carolina, it spread in popularity, becoming the "swing dance of the South." Given its origins with vacationers, it's no wonder it's become one of the most popular ways to dance to beach music. Shagging can't get more southern, being described as "cold beer on a warm night with a hot date and no plans for tomorrow."
The technique originally stuck thanks to big names in the dance world like Billy Jeffers and "Chicken" Hicks helping spread the style around the beaches in the '40s and '50s. The dance became so popular, there was even a Bridget Fonda film in the '80s called Shag, which was filmed in Myrtle Beach. The movie shows high schoolers on a summer trip dancing the shag moves at local dance clubs.
Dino Thompson, author of "Boogie Woogie Beats" and one of the original "shaggers" in South Carolina, explained to Discover South Carolina that part of the appeal of the dance was that anyone could do it. Young, old, black, white, nothing mattered out on that dance floor!
"The sheer power of the emotional appeal of music brought the races together. Black and white, rich and poor, jumped the rope and came down from the balconies to share the music and a memory."
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What originated in the shag clubs around the beach has turned into a form of dance that you can see at national dance competitions. But the best part about the dance is that you could be a beginner, have competed at a state dance contest, or just want to learn. It can be fun for everyone of all ages and stages.
Do you want to tear up the dance floor with your shag dancing like you're in Charleston? We've compiled some tips and a helpful video so that you can teach yourself the incredibly fun and versatile Carolina shag dance from the comfort of your home. Next up? All the Carolina beach clubs!
The Basic Step
The two partner dance is actually fairly simple once you get the hang of the footwork. You'll start across from your partner, beginning with the woman's right foot and man's left foot. Follow the basic six-count as you dance step to and away from your partner. It helps to watch the video above and have a dance lesson to see how it looks in action before trying it yourself.
Once you get the steps down, you can get crazy on your feet, spinning around and having fun with it like this couple at this shag dance competition. The most important rule? Have fun and you'll be a shag dancer in no time!
This article was originally published on August 14, 2020.