Carolina Shag
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The Carolina shag is a slotted swing dance that shares many figures with “jitterbug” and east coast swing. The Carolina shag is very popular in the southeast region of the United States. In the last ten years, shag and west coast swing have traded many figures.

Carolina Shag
Learning Area


The Moves

The Carolina shag is a slotted swing dance that uses the same footwork timing as east coast swing: triple step, triple step, rock step. Some dancers use a “kick-ball-change” step in place of the rock step. The music tempo averages about 125 beats per minutes. Shag is a smooth, graceful dance with an emphasis on footwork rather than on turns.
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The Music

The Carolina shag may be danced to classic “beach music” tunes such as “Carolina Girls,” “Under the Boardwalk,” and “I Love Beach Music,” or the Carolina shag may be danced to Motown and blues. Most shag music is interchangeable with west coast swing music. The standard tempo range is 110-135 beats per minute. The music is normally blues style, written in 4/4 time.
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The shag originated in the late 1930’s in clubs of Myrtle Beach, SC. The shag has roots in jitterbug and Lindy Hop Swing, which date to the 1920’s. Early Shaggers called themselves "Jitterbugs.” The early swing music was fast, big band swing. The term "Shag" came about over a decade later. By the early '50s, shag adopted the tempo and feel of rhythm and blues.

The Carolina shag is the official state dance of South Carolina. Over 15,000 shaggers attend the Myrtle Beach "Spring Safari" shag convention/party every March.

Certain individuals, such as Billy Jeffers and "Chicken" Hicks are credited with developing the early aspects of the dance.
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Tips & Info

Shag emphasizes grace and smoothness over turns and athleticism. Unlike free style and hip hop dancing, shag is “danced from the waist down.” You need to achieve smooth, tight footwork with the look of having rubber knees.

Here are some "universal tips" for learning how to dance a partner dance such as polka.

  • First, acquire a few audio CD's of the music and play the music over and over in your home or automoble. Next, count the step timing in time to the music. This you can do sitting down, perhaps while driving. For example, for waltz, call out the 1,2,3 1,2,3 step timing in time to the music. For foxtrot, call out the step timing using slows and quicks. For cha cha and rumba, it's important to recognize the first beat of each measure. Otherwise you may dance on the incorrect beat. If necessary, have your instructor assist you in learning to count the step in time to the music. Dancing in correct time to the music is absolutely essential. Continue this "sitting down and listening" exercise for as long as necessary until you can easily and automatically count the step in time to the music. The Ultimate Ballroom Practice CD sold by The Dance Store might be a helpful
  • Next, practice the basic step, including the step timing, until the step is automatic - like tying a shoe. Using east coast swing as an example, practice the triple step, triple step, rock step basic until it's automatic. Next, practice this basic to music until it becomes automatic. Many basic steps can be practiced without a partner.

At this point, your brain is "freed up" to allow learning steps and patterns because you no longer have to concentrate on timing and step counting.

Many folks get frustrated if they can't dance competently immediately. Certainly individuals vary in dance aptitude, but all dancers must go through the awkward stages before they get to the polished stage.
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