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If you’ve been to just about any concert on Ocean Isle Beach, or at least one with Carolina Beach Music, then you’ve probably noticed everyone dancing a particular dance. What you’ve been watching is the Carolina Shag. Last week we told you a little bit about the history of Carolina Beach Music, but what is music if not for dancing to. In this post, we share a bit of the history and moves of the Carolina Shag. So grab your dancing shoes, get up off the couch, grab your partner, and get ready to move, groove, and swing your way to happiness.

Where It All Began

Over the years while traveling the United States, I have been to at least three places that claim to have invented the Hamburger. While the Shag isn’t quite as confusing it is hard to point to just one place where “it all began.” However, what we do know for sure is the Shag began on the beaches between Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington, NC. You guessed it, right in our own backyard, which is why it is so popular here on Ocean Isle Beach.

You can’t talk about Shag dancing without understanding the segregated South. At that time in history there was a strict order to society, and regretfully, African American kids and white kids did not socialize. However, like all barriers they are made to be broken and soon at the beaches up and down the coast white kids were “Jumping the Jim Crow rope.” This is to say they were visiting black dance clubs, being allowed in the balconies to watch and listen to the music and dance of the local African American community. It was here that the white kids saw the Big Apple for the first time. The date was the early 1930’s. Soon dancers with names like “Big” George Lindbury, Billy Jeffers, and “Chicken” Hicks were taking the steps and creating ‘white versions’ of the dance they saw. The dances were known as Jitterbug and Little Apple. A dance craze was born and the foundations of the ‘Shag” soon swept up and down the Carolina coast like a hurricane.

Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s the dance craze continued and soon the Shag was created. The term Shag dance begins to appear around the mid 1950’s. Today the Shag is a popular dance that tens of thousands of people love. In many North Carolina homes kids learn the Shag from their parents during the time-honored North Carolina Beach vacation.

It’s Official

In 2005 the Carolina Shag became the “Official Popular Dance of the State of North Carolina.” Today there are competitions throughout the Carolinas. Organizations such as the Society of Stranders have a dedicated and active following who encourage others to learn the Shag while preserving and honoring those who created and made this dance so widely popular.

If you’ve never seen the Shag performed, check out the Grand National 1st Place Winners tear up the dance floor in the video below.

Dancing The Shag

For those technically minded folks here are the details of the Shag. The Shag is a six-count, eight-step basic pattern dance, danced in a slot. It is very close to a six-count swing dance, but don’t be fooled, it is more complicated than that. The dance is male-led and is famous for its free-flowing nature that is suited to improvisation. It is deceptively simple looking.

The basic rhythm is similar to six-count Swing in that it is a triple step, triple step, rock step or counted as “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six.” There are eight shag dance steps in the basic pattern. The “one-and-two” and “three-and-four” steps should take about as much time to complete as the “five-six.” Here is another video that breaks it down into steps for those who want to embarrass themselves in the living room before heading out on the dance floor. The instructors are the legendary Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee. You’ll love the vintage feel of this video.

Are you ready to get out on the dance floor? Well, all you have to do to start planning your Ocean Isle Beach vacation is to call our friendly and knowledgeable staff at 800-727-9222 or click on the button below to begin planning your vacation today.

Do you have a favorite memory of dancing the Shag? Let us know in the comments below.

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