Shag dancing and beach music, staples of coastal living

Bill Anderson


Shag dancing and beach music, staples of coastal living

Shag is the state dance of South Carolina, and to members of the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club, it is not just a dance, but a way of life.

The Shag originated in the late 1930s in clubs of Myrtle Beach. It has roots in jitterbug and Lindy Hop Swing of the 1920s. The early swing music was fast, big band swing. By the early '50s, Shag adopted the tempo and feel of rhythm and blues.

Unlike either Lindy Hop or East Coast Swing, Shag is "slotted" - that is, moving in essentially a straight line - and keeping the footwork close to the ground and the upper body movements to a minimum. It's danced from the waist down, and doesn't use much hip action.

There are many different patterns and movements in Shag dancing.

The Carolina Shag is danced primarily to beach music, but can also be danced to many popular R&B, rock and country songs. Today, the Shag is a recognized dance in national and international dance competitions held across the United States.

The seeds of the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club were planted in late 1993, and an organizational meeting formalized the club in 1994. Shag lessons were offered and became so popular that at one point the club had lessons three times a week.

The organization adopted by-laws with the stated purpose of "the mutual enjoyment of the people who like to shag or people who want to shag. The primary purpose is of a social nature."

That purpose continues today. The club hosts Shag lessons, activities and parties on Hilton Head throughout the year. Club members participate in many Shag social events throughout the state and the Lowcountry region.

HHICSC is committed to serving the community and provides financial assistance to organizations in the Lowcountry from funds raised during the its annual Winter Classic.

The Club also supports Junior Shaggers, inspiring youth to develop positive character and social skills while expressing their creativity and individuality through Shag dance.

Shag lessons are available at no charge to HHICSC members. Fall classes begin Sept. 5, with additional beginner lessons starting Oct. 3 and Nov. 7. Classes are taught from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dolphin Head Golf Club, 59 High Bluff Road in Hilton Head Plantation. Registration begins at 5:45 p.m.

New members, including singles, out-of-towners and seasonal residents, are welcome. Club membership dues are $30 per year. A $5 floor charge is waived during a new member's first four weeks of lessons.

The Club hosts social dances Friday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dolphin Head Golf Club. There is a $5 floor charge at Friday Social Dances. Prospective members are invited to join the fun.

For more information and a calendar of social activities, visit www.hiltonhead shagclub.com.

Bill Anderson is a member of the Carolina Shag Club.