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Myrtle Beach Shagging on The Strand

Myrtle Beach calls itself The Home of Shag, a claim that has drawn fire from Folly Beach, Columbia, Charlotte, Greensboro, Burlington, Durham, Raleigh, Dunn and Carolina Beach. Whatever its roots, shagging is a decades-long dancing tradition that has taken off and thrived in South Carolina, kept alive through continuous innovations and embellishments that over the years have given us the boogie walk and the fly-back. Carolina Beach emphatically claims the 360-degree pivot.

When shag first took to the dance floor in the 1930s, Mama wasn’t too keen on what she considered to be race music, and she was firmly opposed to the sexually suggestive moves that went along with it. Teenagers pretty much snuck out of the house through the usual methods. Maybe boys were a little better than girls at shimmying down drainpipes, and that could account for a high male-to-female ratio in shag’s early days.

The term “shag” traditionally has had overtly sexual connotations in the British lexicon, not to mention in the old Austin Powers movies (“The Spy Who Shaggged Me”). In any event, times have changed and now Mama is likely to be out on the dance floor executing the belly roll in front of hundreds of onlookers.

The basic shag step is done in a six- or eight-count rhythm in four/four time, stepping forward, stepping backward, and a rocking step, which in combination looks deceptively easy. Dance historians believe it originated with swing dancing during the Big Band Era-the breakaway, the hop and the Lindy-and made its way southward from the fabulous Savoy Hotel in Harlem. Interestingly, they also somehow believe it migrated northward from the Mississippi and Louisiana deltas, following the same route as jazz and the jitterbug.

Little wonder the ownership claims are so difficult to establish, but since shag hit the dance floors, it has always had a home in Myrtle Beach. Dozens of shag clubs, shag associations, and places to get down have popped up all over the Grand Strand. There are even competitions and festivals to celebrate the spectacle of the shag. So on your next vacation, take a night out and try your feet at South Carolina’s homegrown dance craze.

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