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What is Shag dancing?


Question: What is Shag dancing?
Answer: Shag dancing is essentially an offshoot of swing, specifically postwar styles like the Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing. Unlike either, however, shag is "slotted" -- that is, moving in essentially a straight line -- and keeps the footwork close to the ground and the upper body movements to a minimum (although shaggers in competition will use the arms and shoulders more). It's danced from the waist down, which accounts for its continuous appeal to tipsy college students, but it doesn't use much hip action and isn't as ribald in movement as East Coast Swing has become, either. Nevertheless, moves like the "Belly Roll" were quite risque for their time.

Shag is a couple's dance. The basic step is a six (sometimes eight) count and involves a simple forward-and-back motion and a change step at the end; with the six count, this consists of two triple steps, followed by a rock step for the ladies and an optional kick-ball for the gents. Men lead with their left, naturally, and women with their right; standard swing turns are often used to break the pattern up, but the shag is mainly about footwork. "Mirror moves," or moves where one partner mimics the other at the same time, as if they were reflections of each other, are also popular. Advanced steps include the Round House, the Boogie Walk, and the Roll Out. You can, however, acquit yourself well with just the simple basic step.

(NOTE: Carolina Shag, which is what most folks are referring to when they mention shag dancing, should not be confused with St. Louis Shag, an older and different dance.)

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