Featured Image: Jarrett Hucks
From the Carolina Wren to Carolina Gold Rice, South Carolina is full of iconic state symbols. One that stands out above the rest is the Palmetto State’s official dance: the Carolina Shag.
In the 1940s, the Shag became a favorite dance among young people of that decade. Born only years before on the beaches of South Carolina, Shag quickly gained popularity originally after the rise of big band swing music in the decades before. As popular music began to shift to beach music and R&B, the Carolina Shag was created to the beat of those genres.
Initially, this phenomenon was called “Fast Dancing” and those that danced along the beach in this style were called “Jitterbuggers” or “Beach Cats.” The name “Shag” did not come until years later after beaches along the Carolina coasts had already picked up this new dance style.
As people continued to dance in coastal pavilions of South and North Carolina, each town and each beach gained its own variation of the Shag that still exists today. Across South Carolina, you can see regional differences in how people approach the Carolina Shag.
At its root, though, the dancing pattern is a simple “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six” step. In terms of those not familiar with the Shag, the steps are simply stepping forward and backward while shifting your weight from right to left. With those simple steps, the Shag allows dancers to spice things up with more advanced moves like the “pretzel” or “twist hooks.”
With its rich South Carolina history, the Shag officially became the state dance in 1984. Today, its tradition carries on with events and functions throughout the Palmetto State and the South centered around Shag.