Shag Dancing in North Myrtle Beach

Shaggers on the Strand
Shaggers on the Strand!

There’re 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. We’re not talking about the carpet, the dog, or even what that means to our friends across the pond (we won’t go there!). We’re 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, it’s 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. It’s a basic dance, using 8 steps and features a lot of back and forth between the couples. The man holds the lady’s 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. It’s 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!

Shag Dancers
The Shag can be as simple or as intricate as you like!

The Shag finds its roots in the 20’s 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 doesn’t like Motown/Beach music, as it has a universal appeal. It’s 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 Catalina’s 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.

Fat Harolds Beach Club
Fat Harold’s is the Mecca of the Shag world!

When teenagers flocked to NMB in the 60’s 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” isn’t 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 Duck’s, The Spanish Galleon, The O.D. Arcade, and the most famous one – “Fat Harold’s”. It’s 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!  

Shag, the Movie
Shag the Movie is a great look into the past of Myrtle Beach

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.

If you want to learn more about The Shag, then you can always visit Fat Harold’s, Ducks, The O.D. Arcade, or the Spanish Galleon on any given weekend. You’ll see folks shagging and hear some amazing music. You can also attend $10 Shag dance lessons with the famous Judy Duke at Harold’s on Monday Nights. Also, Here’s a few links to some great examples of shagging:

Learn to Shag

Shag Contest

With new music, the assimilation of 80’s and 90’s music, and younger folks getting into Shag, there’s a bright future for the continuation of this fantastic culture. As the great Tams say “Be Young, Be foolish, Be Happy”!

The Avista Resort is only a few steps away from all the great beach clubs. It’s easy for those attending an SOS event or those looking for a great time at the beach to book and save. If you are attending an SOS event, make sure you book early! Our vacation specialists are pros at finding the best accommodations with the best deals.

Jason Coker

Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation experiences. The Shag is one of the few dances he can do and his uncle is a legendary shagger! An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.

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