Doing the Shag at CMW

Shagging at the Rivoli.JPG

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

K, now calm down. It's not a euphemism for the horizontal bop, as in the UK, but a new/old dance craze that's sweeping the American South. Although the idea of a mass shag-in did cross my mind. Let's think of it as a cross between swing and jitterbug, a prog-rock kind of mutation. Individual dancers bring their own thang to the floor, with the result shag is by now hybridized as all get out and very entertaining. Consequently, when the shaggers from North Myrtle Beach hit the floor at the Rivoli, it was like somebody dropped a cherry bomb. Sliding and gliding, there were rubberized ankles, way limber legs, intricate, close order jive moves, a dab of dirty dancing here and there, grace and kinetic beauty everywhere.

The term "Carolina Shag" is thought to have originated along the Atlantic Ocean strands between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940s. According to Bo Bryan, a Carolina Shag historian and resident of Beaufort County, the term was coined at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. The Carolina Shag is a descendant of Carolina Jitterbug, and its predecessor, Little Apple which was the white version of the Big Apple (dance) (whose origins can be traced to Columbia, South Carolina in 1937) after whites sat (after "jumping the Jim Crow rope") in the balconies in the black clubs to watch the dancing.   

Shag also played a role in desegregation in the Forties. Its roots are in the cross-pollination of black music and black club dancers in North Myrtle with the dancing loving, white teen beach culture. Mainstream radio in the Forties did not play black music so the kids flocked to the jukeboxes of the Beach strip, where their money and numbers convinced beach club owners to stock black records on the jukes or lose business. Local acts began hearing this and adapting it to white pop of the time to create the r'n'b influenced sound known as Beach Music, and peculiar to the Carolinas.

That was cut and salted by old-school r'n’b acts including The Platters, The Embers, Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs. Early shag was faster and more jitterybuggy, more crazeeeey. By the early Fifties, shag had slowed down and adopted the feel and tempo of r'n'b, which remains the dominant element in Carolina Shag.
Since writing about dance is like dancing about architecture, do check the vid below.

Much thanks to North Myrtle Beach Shag Dancing's Kimberly Hartley for the deets.