Shagging on the Strand is a Hit for Myrtle Beach Vacationers
THE SHAG, the official State dance of both South and North Carolina, has been described as a combination of swing, jitterbug, shuffle and boogie dance styles and “Beach Music”, the music of Shag, is known as a combination of Big Band, 40’s, 50’s and Rockabilly.
With such a mixture of backgrounds and influences it’s no surprise that no one really knows where or how the phenomenon of the Shag began. Most believe that it was born in the African American community of Atlantic Beach – (nestled within North Myrtle Beach) in the 1930’s but all agree this form of dancing gained its popularity in the dance halls of Ocean Drive, North Myrtle Beach in 1940’s. The dance flourished in the Southern States, from Florida to Virginia and has become as much a staple of Southern culture as grits – and ya’ll know how we love our grits!
In the 50’s and 60’s the advent of Rock and Roll slowed the growth of our native dance. Additionally in 1956, Hurricane Hazel hit the Carolina Coast and many of the beloved dance halls were destroyed however; a few local clubs stayed true to their roots and the Shag was kept alive. Then, in 1980, an ex-lifeguard named Gene Laughter organized a dance reunion of sorts in Ocean Drive, North Myrtle Beach. While most folks, including Gene, expected a turnout of only a few hundred people, in actuality a few thousand showed up that first year.
The success of that first reunion got a few people thinking and soon a formal shagging organization was born. S.O.S. or The Society of Stranders, named after South Carolina's 60-mile-long Grand Strand, now hosts two massive shag festivals each year, the Spring Safari and the Fall Migration. As many as 12,000 people attend these annual events and a renaissance of sorts began.
In addition to S.O.S., the NSDC (National Shag Dance Championships) started in Myrtle Beach in 1984 and is the longest continuously running shag dance contest in the United States. This year’s event will be held March 8th, 2012 at 2001 Nightlife in Myrtle Beach. Past winners of the NSDC have performed on countless TV shows and in many events including: Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, PGA Annual Banquets, NBA Games and Beach Music Awards. The Shag has even hit the mainstream by inspiring a movie aptly named Shag in 1989 and several instructional dvd’s and even a music song/ video by country group Alabama.
Even though this dance has seen some national recognition and growth in popularity, folks who grew up in Myrtle Beach consider the Shag as part of our heritage and a perfect representation of life along the Grand Strand. The dance, like the people, is happy and vibrant yet laid back and easy going even when everything around them is going in a hundred different directions... If you ever saw the dance you would understand the analogy.