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Shag (or "Shag")
is a partner
primarily to upper tempo jazz music (usually 200+ beats
per minute). It belongs to the swing family
of American vernacular dances that arose in the 1920s, 30s,
"Shag" itself (when used in reference to American social
dances) is a very broad term used to denote a number of
swing dances that originated during the early part of the
Shag in his 1937 book "Let's Dance".
This article states that shag was known throughout the
entire country under various names, like "Flea Hop". A New
York writer sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma in late 1940/early 1941
noted an "...Oklahoma version of shag done to the Western
Wills and his
Texas Playboys at the Cain's Dancing Academy in Tulsa."
Today the term "Collegiate Shag" is most often used in
reference to a kind of double shag (see explanation below)
that is believed to have originated in New York during the
1930s. To call the dance "collegiate shag" would not have
been common during the swing era. The addition of the word "collegiate"
was supposedly a marketing ploy to attract 'college age'
dancers to certain studios. And this name later became
somewhat standard in the latter part of the 20th century (see swing
revival), presumably because it helped to distinguish
the dance from other contemporary dances that share the "shag"
designation (e.g., Carolina
Shag has no clear historical record but is often assumed, as
with many other swing dances, to have evolved from Foxtrot.
In the late 19th century the term "shagger" was supposedly a
nick-name for vaudeville performers ,
who were known to dance the Flea Hop. Later "shag" became a
blanket term that signified a broad range of jitterbugging
(swing dancing). In the 1930s there were arguably a hundred
or more variations of the dance, which differed depending
upon geographic region. These variations were later
generalized into three categories: single, double, and
triple shag. The different names are intended to denote the
number of 'slow' (e.g., step, hop) steps performed during
each basic. The slow steps were then followed by two 'quick'
steps (e.g., step, step).
The dance is still performed today (primarily double shag)
by swing dance enthusiasts worldwide.
Described below is double shag, which uses a 'slow, slow,
quick, quick' rhythm. The basic is six-count.
Shag Position: the lead's left hand is held straight up
overhead with his left elbow touching the follow's right
elbow (her arm being fulling extended overhead as well).
This was not always practiced, but it is understood to be
one of the features that make collegiate shag unique. Some
dancers prefer to hold the arms much lower, similar to
conventional ballroom positioning. Follows usually mirror
the lead's footwork in closed position. The shag basic is
danced in a 'squared-up,' closed position (i.e., the lead
and follow's shoulders/toes line up so the partners face one
defined as: a
transfer/change of weight to the other foot while hopping (very
minimal; almost more of a scoot than a literal hop). Step is
defined as: a
lift-and-plant motion on the same foot. Planted
the foot with the dancer's weight on it
- Basic: (from
the lead's point-of-view) Beat 1: hop onto left foot,
beat 2: step on left, beat 3: hop onto right foot, beat
4: step on right, beat 5: step onto left foot, and beat
6: step onto right foot.
As mentioned above, this is often broken down verbally as "slow,
slow; quick, quick" where the 'slows' cover two beats (or
counts) each and the 'quicks' mark a single beat (or count)
each. Hence, for the lead this would be two counts with the
weight on the left leg while the right leg moves, two counts
with weight on the right leg while the left leg moves,
followed by a quick step onto the left and then a quick step
onto the right
- Circle kicks:
(like basic, but where the non-planted foot moves in a
- Camel kicks:
(done with the partners positioned side-by-side) the
same movement as the basic but where the non-planted
foot kicks on each slow, and where the quick-quicks are
done with one foot behind the other (in tandem).
- Breaks: A step
and hold action where the non-planted leg is extended
fully and the planted leg is bent underneath the dancer
for support (hop onto left, leaving out the step; hop
onto right, leave out the step; step left and step right)
- Turns: the
follow can be turned with an overhead, a free, or an
Apache turn on the slows or the quicks-quicks (to do so
on the quick-quick is considered more traditional)