Did you know that almost every U.S. state has an official dance? Pennsylvania has its polka, Hawaii has the hula, Kentucky has clogging, and South Carolina has the shag…and no, it’s not danced on deep-pile carpeting from the 1970s.
History of the Carolina Shag
The Carolina shag is a distinctive partner dance that originated in the 1930s and evolved in the boardwalk pavilions and beach clubs of either Carolina Beach, North Carolina (where it’s also their state dance) or in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina–the story varies, depending on who you’re getting your history from. Ultimately, North Myrtle Beach has become the epicenter of this dance which has become synonymous with warm sand, cold beer, and summertime fun with friends and family.
The Carolina shag has elements of the jitterbug and the Lindy Hop, so it’s a lively dance that’s as fun to watch as it is to do, with a 6-count swing step that will definitely give you a fun workout. Much of the dance focuses on the fancy footwork and gliding, improvised steps of the male dancer, who really gets to strut his stuff. The shag is best danced to “beach music,” a regional musical genre with big-band era swing roots that also blends R&B, rock and pop music styles of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
The Carolina Shag Today
Today, the Carolina shag is recognized as an official style in domestic and international dance competitions. There are also numerous regional competitions, festivals and events that showcase the dance as part of the history and culture of the Grand Strand beach communities that hug the coastline of Long Bay along the northeastern coast of South Carolina. But if you want to see the shag performed by Carolina natives to genuine beach music and get a good dose of local flavor, be sure to pay a visit to several area venues where the beach music’s always playing and the dance floor is packed with couples dancing the day (and night) away:
In North Myrtle Beach, Fat Harold’s is a local landmark where everyone makes you feel welcome. They even hold shag dance classes on Tuesday nights, so bring your dancing shoes and give the Carolina shag a spin!
Also in North Myrtle Beach, Duck’s is a long-time area favorite that features live beach bands every week, and also showcases monthly shag dance events. Grab a bite to eat at their sidewalk café, then head to the dance floor and try out some moves of your own!
Originally built back in 1940 as the local bowling alley, today this local beachfront hotspot is a favorite gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Live music and an enormous wood dance floor have made Pirate’s Cove one of the Grand Strand’s best venues for Carolina Shag, where you can catch a different beach band playing almost every night of the week during the summer months.
Coastal Carolina pavilions were the birthplace of the shag dance, and the Ocean Drive (OD) Pavilion in North Myrtle Beach carries on this legacy by providing a beachfront venue for shaggers to meet, rekindle old friendships, make new ones, and dance, of course!