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Carolina Shag ... The Queen of Dances !

    The Carolina Shag is considered a main form of Swing Dance. It is the Official State Dance of South Carolina (since 1984.) Originally written, the Carolina Shag formed out of the Charleston, and Collegiate Shag. However, today there is no resemblance to them at all. The name, Carolina Shag originated at Myrtle Beach in So. Carolina in the 1930's, when back then, the dance was originally a mix of the Charleston and Collegiate Shag (according to 10/1938-Dance Index Magazine's article on the dance. "Carolina Shag" descriptions) with some of the original basic steps being called the: Cuban Step, Shuffle, Twinkle, etc.

    The original Carolina Shag as a dance is said to have originated in Atlantic Beach area, and was known prior as just

along the coasts between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wellington, North Carolina. Most agree on the modern form of the dance being danced in the Myrtle Beach area (The Pavilion?) in the mid 1940s (WWII) when the R&B bands were playing the beaches and the clubs. As time went on the music slowed down considerably as well as the shaggers. Billy Jeffers, Chicken Hicks and and "Big" George Linberry are credited for developing the Shag that we see today. The music and the times changed the dance up to its current look and feel (It has a great feel by the way.) Dancing on the beach (sand) helped change this dance as well, plus thats how it got it's nickname "Beach Dancing" and/or "Beach Music." In 1954 Hurricane Hazel had demolished most of the old dance pavilions and Rock and roll music was taking over the airwaves. By the 1960s almost all couples dancing was in a steep decline, including the Shag. It got a second wind during the 1970's and has been getting more popular than ever before.

    Today, it is basically a slotted East Coast Swing style dance with a splash of the West Coast Swing slot or a kind of slotted east coast swing, including both 6 and 8 count patterns. The "Shag" consists mainly of fancy footwork by the leader, with the follower matching the leaders's footwork occasionally. In the past it was the lady who called out the footwork she wanted to "mirror" or follow (The follower occasionally will call out a name of footwork or a sequence and the leader will then lead it with her). Choreography usually is not done socially or competitively (but that's slowly changing) except in team competition. There are very few patterns/spins done in Carolina Shag (originally due to beach/ sand dancing) however there is an immense amount of "footwork." The dance has a very laid back and easy look to it as well with the shaggers mainly focusing on each other rather than showcasing the audience (looking at the audience more than each other.) Generally, there are very few times when both hands are used when leading ... (like two handed patterns/wraps etc.,) with almost the entire dance using only a one handed connection.

    Some claim the Carolina shag as pre-existing the Lindy Hop due to some music title's having the Shag in its name or description, how-ever they are confusing the earlier "Collegiate Shag" with the later Carolina version. The earliest mention of the Carolina Shag I have found, with the actual words "Carolina Shag or it's modern day description" of the dance is 1938. (if anyone has other information, I would like to see it ... and will gladly make corrections ... not hearsay, myths etc.) There are basically four dances known as Shag ... Carolina Shag", "Arthur Murray Shag" aka "Collegiate Shag" and "Saint Louis Shag" all are different to one another except Collegiate/Murray Shags while the Carolina Shag is the only one that is a main swing form/style, the others are companion dances to swing like the Charleston, Shim-Sham Shimmee, Balboa, Truckin', Black Bottom etc.

    Carolina Shag became known as "Beach Swing" and was done to "Beach Music," which was basically old Motown, Blues and Oldies music today. The Shag is done primarily in the Southern States such as Florida, the Carolina's, Virginia, Georgia, etc. and has a very smooth, and very connected feel with your partner and the music. Today, West Coast Swing and Shag are starting to merge by some folks in both dance worlds due to the US Open Swing Dance Championships with the best qualities of each of the two together and forming a newer, but not as popular a style called SWAG! It's really cool tho, unlike the name lol. However, the Carolina Shag will always be a mainstay in the Carolina Swing Dance communities. Shag became the official state dance of South Carolina in 1984. The clip on the left is from Charlie and Jackie Womble, legendary champion shag dancers whose style has stood the test of time.

    Many folks ask what style of swing (aka Jitterbug) is best, West Coast, East Coast, Whip, Push, Lindy, Shag, etc. However, there is no best style. The best style would depend on what type of music you are dancing to at the time, Geographies, who your partner is, the theme of the dance being held, the speed in which the music is played and the dance knowledge of you and or your partner. If you're partner only knows one style of swing, then their style would be the best style to dance with them at that time. If they only know one style they usually will declare that the style they know is the best style above all other styles and usually will make derogatory statements for many varied reasons.

    Swing (aka Shag, Whip, Push, New Yorker, Jitterbug, etc) is a wonderful dance form in all it's versions that fits all types of Music, Personalities, Finances etc. Calling yourself a swing dancer means you can at least do the basics in many forms of swing and a few well. So learn to swing dance whatever style, you're unique and your dances should be varied and your style should represent your knowledge of dance that other, newer dancers (and they are the majority) don't possess, not limited to only one. However you will eventually find you like them all and soon you will understand the importance of them all as well as understand why there are different styles to begin with. So enjoy them and mainly smile, laugh and have fun.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Atlantic Beach 1930s (1940's) n/a Swing / Rhythm / Partner

Various Swing Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music preview clip

Music Titles

Black Thunder Swing 1925 - New Orleans Shag Video Clip not available at this time 1930s - Any fast broken Rhythm Fox Trots
Cabin in the Sky (Swing Movie) The Shag Video Clip not available at this time 1937 - The Shag (Ager)
Chick Webb and Ella Savoy (Swing)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
1937 - The Shag (Shep Fields)
Daddy-O (Swing Movie)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
1959 - The Shag (Billy Graves)
Groovie Movie (Swing Movie)   Video Clip not available at this time 60 Minute Man
Hellzapoppin' (Swing Movie Poster) 2   Video Clip not available at this time Beach Music, Motown, Soul, Rock and Roll
HI-DE-HO (Cab Calloway)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Do The Shag (King Kurt)
Hot Mikado (Swing Play)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Doin' The Shag (OC Smith)
Juke Girl (Swing Movie)   Video Clip not available at this time Fine Brown Frame (Lou Rawls)
Keep Punchin' (Swing Movie)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
I Love Beach Music (Embers)
Micheux Swing (Swing Art Print)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
It Will Stand (Showmen)
Prisoner Of Swing (Swing Movie)   Video Clip not available at this time Marla's Memory Lane
Private Buckeroo (Swing Movie)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Mr. Beach (The Shag Time Band)
Rock, Rock, Rock (ECS Swing Movie)   Video Clip not available at this time New Orleans Shag (1925 see collegiate)
Shag The Movie (Shag Dance)   Video Clip not available at this time Red Beans (And Rice) various artists
Stormy Weather (Bojangles, Horne)  
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Shag, the (Tommy Page)
The Girl Can't Help It (Swing Movie)   
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Shaggin' On The Strand (General Norman Johnson)


Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Shaggin' On The Strand (Will Canaday)
    Video Clip not available at this time Shaggin' The Night Away*
    Video Clip not available at this time Strokin' (Clarence Carter)
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
The Shag (Alec Martin) (Video dancers not doing C. Shag)

Night Clubs, etc.


Popular Locations (Geo.)

1938 - Dorminy Dance Studios (Salem, NC) n/a Florida
1940s - Surf Club       Georgia
1940s - The Pavilion (Grand Strand)       Myrtle Beach
1950s? - Ebb Tide       North Carolina
1950's - The Savoy of the South - (The Pad)       South Carolina
1960 - Myrtle Beach "Pavilion"       Virginia
1960s - Embers Club       Ocean Drive (Carolina)
1974 - The Jolly Knave        
Ducks I & II        
Fat Harolds        
Folly Beach Pier        
Loafers (Raliegh, N.C)        
Memory Lane        
The Pad (aka 'the Savoy of the South' 1950s)        
Video Clips (pop-up)

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1989 - Shag, The Movie n/a n/a
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
Dancin', Shaggin' On The Boulevard (Alabama)        
Video Clip not available at this time Please Don't Tell Them My Name        
Video Clip not available at this time          
Video Clips (pop-up)

Instructional Videos



Video Clip not available at this time 1995 - Everybody Dances Swing! [DVD 1]       10/1938 - Dance Digest
Video Clip not available at this time 1998 - Everybody Dances Swing! [DVD 2]            
Video Clip not available at this time              

Other Related Dances of the time...

Arthur Murray Shag Carolina Shag Flying Lindy (see WCS*) St. Louis Shag
Balboa Champion Strut Jitterbug Steppin'
Ballin' The Jack Charleston Jive Sugar Foot
Baltimore Buzz Collegiate Shag Lindy (Hop) Suzy Q'
Big Apple Creep, the New Orleans Shag Tango
Black Bottom D.C. Hand Dancing New Yorker, the (aka ecs) Tap Dance
Boogie Woogie Eagle Rock Peabody, the Texas Tommy
Bop East Coast Swing Peelin The Peach Truckin'
Breakaway Foxtrot Rock and Roll Waltz
Bugg Funky Butt Shim Sham West Coast Swing*
Camel Walk Flea Hop Snake Hips Fast Dancing (fas)

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Algie Solomons Floretta Baylin (Dorminy) 1938 n/a
"Big" George Linberry Londa Cook  
Billy Jeffers (1940s) Maggie Lunn Foss (1940s)  
Charley and Jackie McGee Norfleet Jones  
"Chicken" Hicks (1940s) Sam West  
Danny Bean "Spider" Kirkman  
Ellen Taylor Stan Lancaster  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
Dance Digest Magazine Floretta, Baylin 10/1938 n/a
The Shag, Legendary dance of the South Bryan, BO 1995 Foundation Books



Poets / Writers

Chairmen of the Board n/a n/a
Clarence Carter      
Delbert Mc Clinton      
Jackie Wilson      
Catalinas, the        
Dells, the        
Embers, the        
Melody Makers, the        
Showmen*, the        
Tams, the        
Venturas, the        
Wilson Pickett        

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Beach Bop Beach Music Association of Carolina Shag Clubs -
Beach Dance Mirror Moves Society of Stranders    
see also ... [ Shag Dance Clubs ]

Basic Step ...

Music is Beach or R&B 4/4 time. The lower body does most of the moving in the shag step, smoothly and softly. The upper body should remain generally erect, and without swaying from side to side.

Start in Open Position (Push Basic); Leader starts left, follower starts right foot.
1) - Move towards each other, 123 (fwd. coaster step 1&2)
2) - Move away from each other 123 (back Coaster step, 3&4)
3) - Rock-Step and repeat #'s 1-2 (Back-Forward 5-6)
Start Forward-Together Back 1&2 (L,R,L)
Middle Back-Together-Inplace 3&4 (R,L,R)
End Rock - Step 5, 6 (L,R)

some Carolina Shag basic names are:
Start, Release, Female Turn, Male Turn, Basic (Push Break / Sugar Push), Side Pass, Pivot (Return Lindy / 1 arm Whip)

Some Pattern names:
the Applejack, Boogie Walks (Shorty George), Kick-Backs, Flamingo, Belly Roll, etc.

April 11, 2013