Tuesday, 11 August 2009
DANCE: The Carolina Shag
Fancy a shagathon?
ON A MUGGY CAROLINA NIGHT, MY FRIEND TRIES TO COAX A GENTLEMAN STRANGER TO JOIN HER FOR A SHAG ON THE BEACH. FLATTERED, THE MAN EXPLAINS THAT HE'D LOVE TO, IF ONLY HE KNEW HOW. THE EPITOME OF SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, MY DEAR FRIEND REPLIES, "DARLIN', I'LL TEACH YOU HOW TO SHAG."
Where I come from, the Shag Shack on Folly Beach is not a whore house, and shaggin' by the sea ain't a crime. The Shag is the South Carolina state dance, much to the amusement of its British tourists.
A six-count descendent of first the Little Apple and then the Carolina Jitterbug, the Shag is a broad name for a range of swing dances originating from the big band era of the 1930s. According to a Shag historian (you heard me), the term was coined on Carolina Beach, North Carolina as it was widely practiced along the coasts between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wellington, North Carolina. The phenomenon that evolved as the Carolina Shag is, for the most part, associated with the 1960s, the era's easy-going r & b (think Chairmen of the Board), and, oh yes, the beach. Preferably at night.
The shag is just so sunny, lazy and, as you can imagine, flirtatious. While you must keep your hips and upper body relatively stationary, the shag comes alive in the fancy footwork, kicks, turns and twists. When both partners get the hang of it, the result is an extremely fluid and fun work of art - put a warm, salty southern breeze into that equation and it's easy to see why shagathons and beachfront shag competitions have such a big following even today.
To get a good feel for the dance, you can Youtube it, or there's actually a feel-good, 1963-based film called Shag that was shot on the Carolina coasts (with Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda). There's even a couple/dance team here in Edinburgh who can teach you how to shag (har har!). I caught the Fly Right Dance Company recently at the festival and they demonstrated the Collegiate Shag, a form from New Orleans, that is best practiced, I can only presume, to a bit of Fats Domino! So find a partner you fancy and start shaggin', ya hear?
Fly Right Dance Company
Unit 2C, Station Yard
Also published in the dance pages of Bite Life Magazine, September 2009