|Shagging is the official popular|
dance in North Carolina.
The Baby Boomers of today are the teenagers of yesterday who escaped to beach towns for a weekend, a full week, or the entire summer (if they could get permission). After Baby Boomers matured sufficiently to win political office, they nurtured a bill through the N.C. General Assembly to recognize the importance of shag music in our culture. In 2005 the legislators established shagging as the official popular dance of the state. The rationale for this recognition: shag brings entertainment value to “participants and spectators in the State.”
Not only is shag the official popular dance, but shaggers now enjoy their own personalized license tag that was recently approved when the minimum 300 applications were submitted. The “shag tag” conveys the logo of “I’d Rather Be Shaggin’.” Part of the license fee supports the Hall of Fame Foundation, begun in 1991 by shaggers to help friends in need.
Modern shag dancing gained in popularity along the Carolina coast in the 1940s and early 1950s. According to the General Assembly, shagging “evolved from the jitterbug and jump blues of the big band era.” A better source on its roots, however, is the Fayetteville Area Shag Association, which dates the shag to the 1930s and proclaims that the standard tempo is 110-135 beats per minute. This club describes the shag as smooth and graceful and emphasizes footwork rather than turns.
|Harry Driver in the early|
1950s at Myrtle Beach, SC
The shag dancers of today recognize the contributions of Driver and his generation in creating a culture they enjoy. Driver, who served as a shag contest judge in the 1980s, said that part of the reason for the dance is that guys wanted a way to impress girls. The classic tune “Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” explains:
Even guys with two left feet
Come out alright if the chick is sweet.
The website of the Society of Stranders, a group that perpetuates “the dance, music, and culture that make up the shag,” opens with the Fantastic Shakers singing the song to also let us know:
The best things happen while you’re dancing.
Things that you would not do at home
Come nat’rally on the floor.
According to Driver, the dance wasn’t called the shag until the ‘60s. After the music survived through the ‘60s and ‘70s, it enjoyed a renaissance in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Then groups, such as the Society of Stranders formed in 1984, were created as Baby Boomers reached middle age to preserve and expand the music that shaggers love. Also established in 1984 were the Association of Beach and Shag Club DeeJays, formed Chapel Hill, and the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs, formed in Columbia, SC.
As shaggers were brought together by these associations, Baby Boomers organized local clubs as they settled in the Triangle, Sandhills, and other areas distant from the coast, proving that proximity to the beach is not a factor for organizing a club – only an interest in preserving shag music. In fact, North Carolina has more shag clubs that any other state.
In 1984, the same year that regional shag associations were formed, the Fayetteville Area Shag Association was founded as a local club. In central North Carolina, soon other clubs were encouraged to capitalize on the growing interest in shag music and dancing. The Burlington club has been active since 1985. Raleigh shaggers waited until 1993 to form their club. Clubs now cover the state from Boone to Wilmington, with a club in Fuquay-Varina established as late as 2006.
As shag historian Bo Bryan writes in his poem on shag dancing, “If you are a Baby Boomer, / you won’t be alone / in The Land of Shag.” Nurtured by the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs, local clubs bring people together to preserve the shag dance and its music while they enjoy fellowship and develop friendships. The club in Pittsboro says, “It’s not just a dance; it’s a lifestyle.”
|A new Guinness Book record|
was set with 744 dancers.
Note: This post appeared originally as a longer article in the June 2015 issue of OutreachNC, a monthly magazine distributed in 10 counties of central North Carolina. Click here to see the article as it appeared in print.