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28 February . 2019

How Carolina Shag Dancing Rose to Popularity & Where You Can Shag in Wilmington

On any warm summer night in Wilmington, North Carolina, there’s bound to be a grassy lawn or back patio filled with music, good drinks, and a beach-y breeze coming off the water. If the mood is right, those spaces will also have happy couples dancing the night away — and there’s only one top locals’ choice when it comes to the dance style!

The “Carolina Shag” was born on the beaches of North and South Carolina more than 75 years ago, and the movement swept up and down the coast not long after that. Whether the craze officially started in Myrtle Beach or Wilmington is still disputed, but either way, this Southern tradition originated right in our backyards.

The smooth-stepping, laid-back dance gained popularity during the 1940s and 50s, and it has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity on dance floors at weddings and outdoor festivals all across the region. Though it shares many qualities with a swing dance, the Shag has its own unique distinctions. The basic rhythm is a six-count step counted as “one-and-two, three-and-four, five six.” Dancers fit eight small steps into the six counts, including a rock back. With shuffle-steps that stem from the Jitterbug and provide a lot of room for improvisation and partner work, the Shag offers a fun way for a couple to get groovin’. It certainly is a popular choice for the folks around these parts!

In fact, the Carolina Shag became the official popular dance of North Carolina in 2005. So if you claim Wilmington as home — or even plan on visiting — break out your dancing shoes (or go barefoot) and join in the tradition! You don’t have to have it down perfectly — the Shag is all about having a relaxed, good time together.

If you do want to learn the proper technique and get a little practice time in, check out the lessons offered at Ballroom DanceSport or Babs McDance Social Dance Club & Ballroom. Whether you’re prepping for a big event like a wedding, or just looking for a fun social outlet, these studios can deliver.

Find a full list of places to Shag, upcoming events with Shag music, and other helpful information about Shagging in the Wilmington region at www.capefearshagclub.org/.

Want to dip a toe in before you hit the dance floor? Push aside the living room furniture and learn the basics with this — although it’s a little dry, you can grasp the gist. Before you know it, you’ll be slingin’ and swingin’ your partner around like you’ve grown up doing it! To see the Shag performed with all the bells and whistles, check out the

Or, head down to the pier on a happening Saturday night and see longtime locals do it live. With a little live music and the salty sea breeze running through your hair, even the most inexperienced Shaggers may surprise themselves!

Be sure to keep an eye on the RiverLights Events page — live music under the oaks is a favorite family activity around here, and the perfect opportunity to practice the Shag!