Introducing the Shag: The Swing Dance that Isn’t Quite Swing

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When it comes to the shag dance you may not have heard as much about it as some of the other styles of swing, but it’s definitely one that you should be looking at because it can be fun. Of course, you have to be able to get the hang of it first and that takes a little bit of effort. That’s because there are a whole lot of steps involved when it comes to this one. So don’t assume you’re going to get too far, too quick with this one.

Where it Started

Like many of the different styles of swing dancing, this one actually originated out in South Carolina. Danced with two people and with a male leading the charge, it has a whole lot of space for you to improvise and do just about anything that you want. It’s a characteristic of many different types of swing dancing to be able to do just that. With this one, originating as far back as the 1760s in Charleston, you’re going to have something that moves a little bit slower in the music.

What’s really interesting about this dance is that it was never really called the shag until much later after it was already popular. In fact, it wasn’t even called shag until after it stopped being popular. It was sometime around the 1950s when this happened and rock and roll started to become more popular. But that wasn’t a problem for shag. It found its way back into the spotlight about 20 years later, in the 1970s when it found a revival and started gaining popularity through into the 2000s.

What It’s Like

This style of dance is full of a whole lot of forward and backward motions. It’s a lot of switching your weight from one side to the other and it’s about mirroring the movements that your partner is performing. That means you’re going to be going through a whole lot of movements and you’re going to be moving a whole lot faster than you might think while you’re at it. These things together are going to make it more fun for you, though if you’re really trying to get into it you’re going to find a lot of the different areas to be more complicated.

How to Shag

If you’re ready to get started keep in mind that you definitely are going to need a little time to master this dance. There’s a bit to it that can make it more complicated for those who haven’t been at it. You may be able to pull off some of the basics without a whole lot of trouble, but if you’re planning to jump into anything other than those basics it’s going to take a lot more time and effort than you might have thought to give the process.

  1. The count for this dance is 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5, 6. Make sure you can understand what this rhythm is and just how it’s going to fit before you get into the dance itself.
  2. Step forward with your left foot, a small step that’s just the size of your foot or less.
  3. Now step forward with your right foot during ‘and’ count.
  4. Next, bring your left foot back to where it started during the ‘two’ count.
  5. Bring your right foot back behind the left foot, so it’s moved twice as far as with the previous step and in the opposite direction.
  6. During the second ‘and’ you’re going to shift your weight so it’s over to the left foot, but don’t move your feet forward or back.
  7. At the ‘four’ shift your weight back over to the right foot without moving your body forward or backward at all.
  8. Now bring the left foot back so it meets the right foot.
  9. Step forward on the right, a smaller step from the earlier part of the dance.
  10. Step forward on the left, repeating all the way through the steps over and over through the entirety of the song.

That’s it. That’s all the moves that you’re going to need in order to get the basics of the shag down. Of course, there’s going to be a whole lot more to it as you keep moving and you get further into the dance, but for now, that’s going to keep you occupied and make sure that you’re prepared for whatever is going to come next. Just make sure you’re open to learning new things and that you and your partner are mirroring each other when you’re doing the different steps for this dance.


If you’re ready to put in the work and you’re ready to really start one of the more popular versions of dance you’re definitely going to want to learn how to do the one that’s used most in Southern events. This dance is one of the most popular at weddings and parties in the south, so if you’re going to be heading anywhere in the south you should make sure that you’re familiar with the shag, even if you’re talking about a more modern wedding. That’s because this dance is almost synonymous with the culture in the south, especially all those special events.

What to Keep in Mind

When you’re thinking about learning how to shag you want to think about some of the different features of this particular style of dance. It’s an interesting one and one that has definitely survived the test of time. It continues to evolve and grow and it definitely just keeps coming back every time it seems to have faded off into obscurity. That’s one reason you’re definitely going to want to take another look or you could wait until it just comes right back around again if you have trouble finding a class.

It’s Very Social

You’re going to have a whole lot of movement with other people when you’re engaging with this dance. You’ll also get an opportunity for pairing with some of the best possible partners out there. You won’t have to worry about finding someone either because there’s always going to be someone that you can have fun dancing with. You just need to know how to do the basics of the dance. If you’re not so good at that you might have a harder time. But the more you actually know about the dance and the intricacies the better off you’re going to be.

It’s Great for Tradition

You’ve probably heard a whole lot about different styles of dancing and different formal styles that were very popular during the same time frame. But this one is not quite the same. In fact, when it was first popular it was definitely not considered a classy option. Now, however, it’s considered a little more traditional. If you’re looking for something that’s a little bit of both you’re definitely not going to have any kind of problem getting some of everything going on right here. Just give it a try.

It’s Not Swing Dancing Per Se

You’re technically doing a type of swing, but it’s not actually swing dancing. The real swing dancing is going to be what you’ve seen in the Lindy Hop and the newer versions of the Charleston. On the other hand, when it comes to shag dance it’s been well known as the swing dance from the South. That means it’s going to have its own little tweaks and changes that make it something completely different. You’ll definitely have this type of music playing at all of the most formal events, which is definitely going to mean our should know how to do it if you live in the area.

It’s an 8 Count Dance

You need to be able to find the beat in each different section of the song. That’s going to mean learning how to recognize where your steps are going to occur and just how they’re going to occur. You’ll need to spend a little bit of time just listening to some of the most common and popular shag music and learning how you’re going to move on the beat for each one. Then you’ll be able to actually start practicing some of the steps to make sure you’re ready for that next event.

What You Shouldn’t Be Doing

Since we’ve already started out with things that you need to know, let’s take a closer look at the things that you need to know in the opposite direction. These are the things that you absolutely shouldn’t be doing. They’re things that are definitely going to cause you problems in the long run and they’re going to make it a whole lot harder for you to actually learn the dance and enjoy it with your partner. Not that you can’t do those things, but you’re going to struggle more than most.

Putting Your Head Down

It’s difficult to know what your feet are doing if you’re not watching them, at least, when you’re starting out. But it’s still going to be even harder to actually do what you’re supposed to be doing if you’re staring down. You need to have the right posture and that means you really need to be standing up straight. Start moving your feet around the way they’re supposed to and make sure that you’re letting your body go through the motions as smoothly as possible. That’s how you’re really going to learn to move the right way.

Ignoring Your Hands

You’re going to be holding your partner’s hand in one of yours, but that hand is actually going to be out a distance. You and your partner don’t dance too close for this one, so make sure you’re letting your hand be a little loose out there. You should look like you’re connected but only slightly. The other hand should stay above your waist at all times. Move it around with you but try not to get too wild and crazy with it. You definitely don’t want it to just be down at your side making you look stiff and awkward all the time.

Losing Your Step

If you lose your step and you can quickly jump back in the right way you’re not going to be in too much trouble. You might look a little less than smooth but that’s not going to be a problem. You just slide back in where you should be and keep moving on. But if you can’t figure out where you are or what you should be doing once you miss a single step you’re definitely going to be in trouble. Make sure you’re paying close attention to your steps and that you know how to find the right step if you happen to get off.

Moving to Much

You should be moving around and each step is going to make your travel, but this dance isn’t about making huge strides and getting far across the dance floor. If you’re taking too large of steps you’re actually going to make it harder on yourself and you’re going to lose out on the timing that you’re supposed to have. This is a somewhat quick dance, after all, and that means you need to be able to move to the next motion fast. If you take too large of a step that’s just not going to happen.

If you’re looking to learn a new dance that’s going to allow you and your partner to move in more choreographed ways you’re going to love this one. That’s exactly what this one is about and if you’re willing to spend some time on the process? You’re going to get a whole lot better. You’re going to have the opportunity to learn a lot more steps and you’re definitely going to have the freedom to improvise a bit more. So if you want something that’s a bit more traditional without getting you into something far too stuffy you’re going to want the shag.

By | 2019-05-07T05:18:45+00:00 May 12th, 2019|Categories: Swing Dance|Tags: |0 Comments

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