Celebrating the Shag: South Carolina’s State Dance

By:Staff Writer


History of the Carolina Shag

The "Carolina Shag" is said to have been born along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean near Ocean Drive in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The basic step for this upbeat, quick and smooth dance is a six-count, eight-step pattern danced in a slot. The dance originated in the African American community in the late 1930s and rose in popularity among a broader audience in the 1940s, as interest peaked in the “beach music” that accompanied it.

The Shag, specifically the Carolina Shag, has been called the “swing dance of the South” and lives in a class of its own. It has since been described as a “cold beer on a warm night with a hot date and no plans for tomorrow.” It’s often linked to the term “swing dancing,” though the two dances shouldn’t be lumped into the same category.

shag south carolina myrtle beach
Dino Thompson, author of “Boogie Woogie Beats.”

The Shag in North Myrtle Beach

Lifeguards, waitresses and other young adults are the ones who are credited with starting the Shag in Myrtle Beach. Dino Thompson, author of Boogie Woogie Beats and one of South Carolina’s original Shaggers, explains the dance’s origins: “We started dancing like we talked to girls at the beach – laid back, slow and easy.”

One thing that makes the Shag such a popular dance is that anyone can do it – whether you’re six years old or 96 years old. It breaks barriers and brings everyone together with one common purpose: to have fun and enjoy the music. Dino explains that it was the music that changed everything for the young dancers back in the day. “The sheer power of the emotional appeal of music brought the races together. Black and white, rich and poor, jumped the rope and came down from the balconies to share the music and a memory.” All that mattered was the dance floor, and this school of thought still rings true for dancers today.

Where to Shag in South Carolina

When it comes to the best Shagging spots in North Myrtle Beach, the Spanish Galleon Nightclub and Fat Harold’s Beach Club are two popular establishments. And if you stop by, you’re almost guaranteed to see a few Shag legends busting a move on the dance floor. So, if you’re looking to learn a few new steps and take part in a true South Carolina tradition, start planning your next family vacation in North Myrtle Beach.

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