Celebrating 40 years of SC’s State Dance: The Shag

It was the 1940s, and a cross-fertilization of culture was underway along the Carolina coast in the local juke joints and teen-age hangouts. Rhythm and Blues music had found its way into the jukeboxes and the local beach bums, displaying the typical slowed-down Southern life style, re-invented the faster-paced jitterbug into what would become the signature dance style that can still be found in pavilions up and down the Grand Strand. With sand in their shoes and a slowed down, soulful rhythm in their hearts, the kids that frequented these dirt floor, oceanfront dance halls created the dance phenomenon known as The Shag.

The Shag incorporates jitterbug and swing moves into a slower, smoother, six-count basic style that is danced in a shuffling motion on the balls of the feet. Most of the action happens from the waist down while holding hands with your partner. Several rearrangements
of footwork can be added to enhance the uniqueness of the Shag style. Having no set-in-stone moves, being able to adjust the basic steps, and adding embellished footwork, twists, and turns with your partner adds to the enjoyment of learning and perfecting one’s own Shag style.

Teens and college kids who migrated to the beach during summer break frequented clubs like The Pad and Ocean Drive Pavilion, where the popularity of The Shag was quickly
spreading. Before long the dance became a fixture of Southern culture. Kids were shagging in parking lots, Debutante parties, and sock hops. No Southern wedding reception would be
complete without a little Beach Music and shagging. But the most popular places to go were still the ram-shackled pavilions and juke joints that were sprinkled up and down the Carolina
Coast. The dance became such a popular event that in 1984 it was named the Official State Dance of South Carolina.

Wait, did I say Beach Music? Yes- That’s right! We have our own style of music that goes along with the shag. If you have ever listened to the local radio station, you have heard Beach Music. If you haven’t, you need to. Beach music aided in the development of the footwork, enhancing the smooth, rhythmic flow of the dance. On any given summer weekend, all you had
to do was migrate to one of the many oceanfront spots and you would be able to catch live performances by Beach Music groups such as The Tams, The Catalinas, The Drifters, The Embers, The Clovers, and The Fantastic Shakers. No self-respecting local can hear music by any of these groups and not start shuffling their feet, it is bred into our very souls!

While visiting the Grand Strand, take a drive to Ocean Drive in North Myrtle Beach, known to locals as “The Horseshoe”, where you will find several Shag clubs. Many of these clubs are kid-friendly during the daytime, so you can even make this a family event. In addition to the annual Society of Stranders festivals when shaggers from all over the country migrate here, be on the lookout as the city of North Myrtle Beach has several celebrations planned throughout the year to commemorate this special anniversary.

Nicholas Sparks says it best, “Learning to Shag dance is like learning to be from The South.” He gets it! Shagging is about taking what the rest of the world knows and slowing it
down a bit. It’s about breathing in some salty ocean air, feeling the sand in your shoes, humming to the smooth beats of some good music, and showing off your cool side.


The Spring Safari will take place April 18-24, 2024.  SOS will host a parade April 27th at 1pm on Ocean Drive. The SOS Fall Migration is set for September 12-22, 2024. SOS Mid-Winter Break will be January 16-19, 2025.

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