Shag dance competition heats up in North Myrtle Beach

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If you love dancing, you won't want to miss the National Shag Dance Competition in North Myrtle Beach this year. Preliminary rounds of competition take place at the end of January, with finals scheduled for March. Some of the top dancers in the country will perform for crowds and judges to determine who are the best shag dancers in the nation.

The National Shag Dance Competition started in Myrtle Beach in 1984. It's now the longest continuously running shag dance contest in the U.S. You may have seen past winners perform on shows such as “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning.”

The competition features a style of dance that is deeply rooted in South Carolina history. The Carolina shag is a partner dance that is descended from swing dances popular in the 1920s.

Originating in the late '30s in the Myrtle Beach area, the shag is now the official state dance of South Carolina.  Its roots can be found in the blending of African-American music and dance of the 1940s and the culture of freedom and fun among white teenagers of the same era, according to shag historians. Mainstream radio stations of the South in the '40s did not play African-American music, so the teens of that decade often went to beaches and black night clubs to hear it on jukeboxes. They adapted what they saw and liked, historians say.

Early shaggers called themselves “Jitterbugs.” The music they danced to was fast, big-band swing. But over time, the term “shag” gained popularity and the music changed to feature more beach music, slower with a more rhythm and blues tempo.

After World War II, big-band and swing generally lost popularity. But in the South, the Carolina shag continued to grow in popularity and became a tradition among some families.

Today, the shag is danced primarily to beach music with 100 to 130 beats per minute. The basic step is a six-count step danced in a slot, with a triple-step, triple-step, rock-step rhythm.

But that doesn't capture the excitement of a shag dance competition. The National Shag Dance Competition is a spectacle, and the winner of two Feather Awards for best swing dance event in the United States. You won't hear the same song twice at the competition, nor will you see the same routine, as dancers pull out all the stops to present their flawless performances to judges and audiences.

And of course, there's a lot more than dancing going on in North Myrtle Beach during the competition. The town is full of activities, restaurants and of course the spectacular beaches of the Grand Strand, a year-round draw.

If you want to attend the competition, preliminaries (qualifying rounds) are January 30-31 at The Spanish Galleon at the OD Beach & Golf Resort (end of Main Street in North Myrtle Beach). The competitions begin at 8 p.m. sharp both Friday and Saturday, with doors opening one hour before start time. General admission (no reserved or guaranteed seat) is $20 per person each night. Reserved grandstand seating (there are only 70 seats available) is $30 per person per night. Tickets are first come and are reserved when order form and payment is received via check to:  NSDC, 5111 N. Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29577.

The finals will take place March 12- 14.

The dance competition has several divisions, including professional, non-professional, masters, senior, junior and collegiate. Judging is based on smoothness, degree of difficulty, togetherness, execution and repertoire, except in the masters division. In masters, judging is based on smoothness, togetherness, style and showmanship.


(Posted: 12/29/14)