Therere several things that are synonymous with North Myrtle Beach, depending who you ask. Many will mention salt water taffy, wonderful pancake houses, or beautiful beaches. Others might say family-oriented attractions, Barefoot Landing, or Vanna White. Perhaps the most common allusion to our culture here at the beach, is The Shag. Were not talking about the carpet, the dog, or even what that means to our friends across the pond (we wont go there!). Were talking about our bonafide, official, state dance. The Shag is truly beloved and has brought millions to our area through the years.
The Shag Dance can be defined at its core, as a two-person, male-led dance with a basic step that allows much room for improvisation and imagination. While this is a very apt definition, its like calling the Mona Lisa a very pretty painting. There is so much that comes along with the Shag: History, Great Music, and at its very core - love, friendship, and celebration. The Shag is super easy to learn, which is one of the main reasons it became popular and is still popular today. Its a basic dance, using 8 steps and features a lot of back and forth between the couples. The man holds the ladys right hand with his left, as they face each other. Spins, turns, and easy crossovers can be added and expanded upon. The Shag can be as easy or as complex as you want. You can be an absolute beginner and still look good and more importantly - have a blast while doing it. Its also a great dance to hold a cold drink in one hand and your honey in the other! The smooth steps and gliding moves of the shag are thought to originate from folks dancing on the beach and not wanting to kick up sand!
The Shag finds its roots in the 20s when the Jitterbug and Charleston were king. Through the years, as music evolved and Myrtle/North Myrtle Beach grew, the shag came into shape. The explosion of Motown music was very influential to the dance and culture. Motown is happy, upbeat, easy to dance to, and makes people feel good. When more and more bands from the Carolinas began playing at the beach, they created a wonderful sub-genre called Beach Music. Beach music is very similar to Motown, but has lyrics and content about the beach, romance, and letting it all hang out! You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesnt like Motown/Beach music, as it has a universal appeal. Its the perfect backdrop for a warm ocean breeze, as you eat peel-and-eat shrimp, while enjoying a cold beverage and watching the waves. Again - Beach Music just makes you feel good. Bands like The Drifters, The Tams, and a band that I have been very fortunate to perform in - the Catalinas have created both lasting songs and lasting memories. Many of the great beach bands still perform today and there has been a renaissance of newer groups with original charts recently.
When teenagers flocked to NMB in the 60s to visit the great beach clubs and shag the night away, they began a tradition that happens several times a year - the S.O.S. The Society of Stranders isnt just a society which includes shag clubs all along the east coast, but is also what we call the pilgrimages to North Myrtle Beach by thousands looking to dance, relax, see old friends, reminisce, and create new memories. These yearly events include the Spring Safari, D.J. Throwdown, and Fall Migration. Beach clubs like Ducks, The Spanish Galleon, The O.D. Arcade, and the most famous one - Fat Harolds. Its such an economic boom to our area, but the cultural significance can not be overstated. The Shag has created so many great memories, lasting friendships, and people. YES - people! Thousands exist today because their folks met at S.O.S. or during Spring or Summer break and got married. Take that, Woodstock!
If you want a great view into the heyday of Shag, check out the 1989 movie, Shag starring Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda. It has a great soundtrack and you get to see how the entire culture was centered around the dance. It takes place in 1963 and does a great job of recreating the experience.