The History of Carolina Shag


Robert’s Pavilion aka Ocean Drive Pavilion in Myrtle Beach | Screenshot via Youtube

Thanks to South Carolina, we have sweet tea, the X-Men, and the Shag. The Shag dance — often called the Swing dance of the South — was born on the SC coast near Ocean Drive in Myrtle Beach about 90 years ago. Here’s how the Shag came to be.

The dance originated in the Black community in the late 1930s, when swing dancing was a popular pastime. If you were in Columbia back then and found yourself in need of weekend plans, you’d most likely go dancing at The Big Apple, at 1000 Hampton St.

People from all over would swing dance at The Big Apple, leading to variations like a Single Step in place of a Triple Step and new interpretations as music changed. Early iterations of the Carolina Shag were just called “Fast Dancing” and if you were a Fast Dancer, you’d be called a Jitterbugger or a Beach Cat.

As this smooth, upbeat dance moved inland, it became mainstream in the ‘40s because people loved the beach music that went along with it. Shag was a hit until rock music took over in the 60s and 70s, but it’s been kept alive by various Shag Preservation Associations + competitions.

Here’s where you can Shag locally:
Palmetto Shag Club

Columbia Shag Club

The Venue on Main

The Woody

Blue Moon Ballroom

Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor

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