Twice each year shaggers flock to the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach for September's Fall Migration and April's Spring Safari. Once here, they participate in dance workshops, contests, a parade, a fun run, a golf tournament, and many other activities, including the creation of human letters on the beach to form S.O.S., a tribute to the organization that brings everyone together, the Society of the Stranders. The spring and fall S.O.S. events, and many smaller ones scheduled throughout the year, fill dance clubs throughout the area with the smooth, sultry sounds of rhythm and blues, and crowds of shaggers show off their latest moves. The only requirements are a hardwood dance floor and plenty of leather on the bottom of your sand-filled shoes! The Drifters knew all about it when they sang their big hit, "Ive got sand in my shoes!"
Oh, How we fell in love down by the sea-ee.come back to me, with the sand in my shoes! Shag dancing seems to transcend age and brings together all kinds of enthusiasts ever-seeking to perfect its laid-back, seemingly effortless moves. In fact, it's become so much a part of the culture, it's been declared the official dance of South Carolina! A close cousin of the 1930s craze called the Big Apple, the shag has been the subject of a movie, books, and countless magazine and newspapers articles. And although the jazz sounds of the 1930s helped to create the acrobatic Big Apple, the laid back Carolina "Southerners" slowed it down and smoothed it out a bit. It needed it! Much more than a dance, the shag is also a feeling - of friendship, and of sand, salt, and surf combined with smoothly worn hardwood floors. It's become a way of life set to rhythm and blues and an opportunity to re-live youth..lost or not!
The name, Carolina Shag originated in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the 1930's, when back then, the dance was a mix of the Charleston and Collegiate shag with some of the original basic steps being called the: Cuban Step, Shuffle, Twinkle etc. Some claim the Carolina shag as pre-existing the Lindy Hop, due to some music title's having the Shag in its name or description, however they are confusing the "Collegiate Shag" with the later Carolina Version. The actual Carolina Shag soon became known as "Beach Swing" and was done to "Beach Music", which was basically old Motown, Blues and Oldies music today. The Shag, however, is done primarily in the Southern States such as Florida, the Carolina's, Virginia, Georgia, etc. and has a very smooth, connected feel with your partner and the music.
Most agree that the modern form of the "Shag" was danced in the Myrtle Beach area (The Pavilion?) in the mid 1940s (WWII) when the R&B bands were playing the beaches and the clubs. The music slowed down considerably and the dancers, the music and the times changed the dance up to its current look and feel. (It has a great feel by the way). Dancing on the beach (literally) helped change the dance, too, and that's where the nickname, "Beach Dancing" and/or "Beach Music" originated. Today, West Coast Swing and Shag are starting to merge the best qualities of each of the two together and forming a newer style called SWAG! Its really cool. However, the Carolina shag will always be a mainstay in the Swing dance community.
Today, the "Shag" consists mainly of fancy footwork by the leader, with the follower matching the leaders's footwork occasionally. In the past it was the lady who called out the footwork she wanted to "mirror" The follower occasionally will call out a name of footwork or a sequence and the man will lead it with her. Choreography usually is not done socially or Competitively but that seems to be changing. There are very few patterns in Carolina Shag, however an immense amount of "footwork" can be seen. True seasoned "Shaggers" take pride in adopting their own versions of the dance, each being distinctive and smooth. Using the balls of their feet and small steps, "Shaggers" manage to perform this very "cool" style of dance to individual perfection!
As "Shag" has evolved, so has the music. Now "Shaggers" enjoy performing their magic to everything from gospel to music from the big band era, known in the Carolina's as "Smoothies." This Myrtle Beach "pastime" has become much larger in nature with Shag Clubs popping up everywhere. All of the clubs are members of the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs and there are more and more major events such as the Grand Nationals in Atlanta where "Shaggers" can show their stuff and compete against the best in the country. "Shag" has even spread internationally to London, Ontario, where it is a favorite for many.
"Shag" has become such a way of life to so many people that it is hard to imagine a time before "Beach Music" and pink shoes. Stay tuned for more on this ever-growing dance phenomenon.it just keeps going and going.and going.and going!