It’s just about summer in the Lowcountry, and there are a few things you just have to do if you truly want to live in Charleston (or pretend you are while you visit).
One, go walking along the Folly Beach Pier in the late evening. Two, turn up your tunes and learn to shag. Three, find others of like minds and shag the night away to old tunes, including “With This Ring” and “Girl Watcher.”
The shag has been described as a warm night with a cold beer and a hot date.
I’ve never excelled at the shag but watched in awe as my usually proper mother and dad turned back into teenagers, perfectly in sync with the music and each other. Their shag was slower than you see in the movies but just as much fun.
They learned it the original way by heading to beach bars in Myrtle Beach in the ’40s, listening to the jukebox at a time when it was the underground music of its day. The shag is danced to beach music, which was black music played only in clubs and on records back then.
Those teens were moving their feet long before Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon became beach music icons in 1963.
Fast forward to 2013 and the shag is the official state dance of South Carolina (how could it not be), and it’s still best danced on boardwalks under the stars.
There are two opportunities to dance the night away this month at the beach: Shaggin’ on the Cooper in Mount Pleasant on June 15 and the Moonlight Mixer at the Folly Pier on June 21.
Both are run by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission and are so popular that the $10 tickets often sell out.
The music plays outdoors, and the ocean breezes do their bit to cool you off when you get too sweaty. Or there’s the concessions available on-site. No one cares how you dance, so you can just move your feet as you watch other dancers.
But what if you really want to know how to do the shag? Well, make like a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant and find some lessons.
There are several local shag clubs. For instance, the Summerville Shag Club offers free shag lessons every Monday night except holidays at the Summerville Country Club, 400 Country Club Blvd.
You don’t need a partner for lessons, and they open it up to according to age groups. Juniors come at 6 p.m. with basic adult lessons at 7 p.m. and an open dance until 10 p.m. And best of all, it’s free.
And on Fridays, the Charleston Shag Club will have one of its bimonthly socials at Max & Henry’s Restaurant, 1175 Folly Road on James Island.
Vickie Sessions, club president, says the club mission is to pass down the dance, and they welcome everyone. While they usually draw an older crowd, she says that Max & Henry’s also will draw some 20- and 30-somethings out to have a good time at the beach. They give demos to any who ask, too.
“We taught some sororities how to dance so they could hold fundraisers. And then, groups come in for conventions, and we give demonstrations,” she said.
Of course, ask Sessions how she learned to shag and she deadpans: “I’m a Charlestonian. You don’t live in Charleston without learning how to shag.”
Reach Stephanie Harvin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5557.