North Carolina State Popular Dance



Adopted in 2005.

The General Assembly of 2005 adopted Clogging as the official folk dance, and Shagging as the official popular dance. (Session Laws, 2005, c. 218)

The Shag is of much more recent origin, being a type of swing dance that developed in the 1930's and 40's. Shagging, combining nimble footwork with upbeat rhythm and blues (known as Beach music) originated at open air beach parties on the North and South Carolina coasts, and is also the  official dance for the State of South Carolina.

North Carolina State Popular Dance: Shag


The original Carolina Shag is said to have originated in Atlantic Beach area, But most agree on the modern form of the dance being danced in the Myrtle Beach area (The Pavilion?) in the mid 1940s (WWII) when the R&B bands were playing the beaches and the clubs, the music slowed down considerably and the dancers, the music and the times changed the dance up to to its current look and feel.

The roots of shag can be found in the cross-pollination of black music and club dancers in Myrtle Beach with the natural openness of a fun-loving and carefree group of '40s white teenagers. The racially myopic mainstream radio stations of the '40s South did not play black music. The kids had flock to the beaches to hear it on jukeboxes. Dancing on the beach (sand) helped change this dance as well, where it gets it's nickname "Beach Dancing" and/or "Beach Music."

The Shag, one of the great developments of terpsichorean culture and native to South Carolina, is performed to music known as rhythm and blues. Both the music and dance are structured on time signature and can be performed to almost any tempo, as long as the basic step is maintained and kept in time to the music.

The shag basic is one of the most comfortable partnering basic steps in swing dance. The connection is relaxed, but steady: no subtle leverage and compression as in West Coast Swing. Compared to the East Coast Swing basic, it doesn't bounce: it glides. A lot of repetition doesn't tire out the beginner, as it does for those who regard the "Swing-Out" as Lindy Hop's basic. The shag basic is smooth, and really feels great with the right music.

The dance has a variety of styles, depending on who is dancing, or on who describes it to you! For some, the dance is playful, with a lot of partner interaction, and both partners taking opportunities to "shine". For others, it is "mirror moves" galore. For yet others, the leader "peacocks" a variety of complex improvisations, while the follower performs subtle (or no) footwork variations. It depends on the skill level and mentality of each partner, as well as on regionality and decade. At the forefront of mutual partnering in shag are national shag champions many times over, Jackie McGee and Charlie Womble.

Shag is a swing-type of dance. Meaning it has 6 count (12 3&4 5&6, traditionally counted 1&2 3&4 56) and 8 count (12 3&4 56 7&8, or 1&2 34 5&6 78) patterns. It is like ECS in that it uses a rock step, it is like WCS because it is done in a slot. It is smoother than either of these: there is little or no hip motion.

The patterns are fairly simple, but you can do absolutely wild syncopations. We're not talking break endings, we're talking taking 2 or 3 whole basics and cutting the rhythm to pieces.

A distinguishing characteristic of Shag is that these syncopations can be done with teh man/woman mirroring. Since they are so long and complicated, and unleadable, the are called out by verbal cues.

Socially, shag is an interactive dance between the leader and follower. The couple would do challenge steps, mirrored patterns, or just dance. A challenge step would be when a leader or follower would do a sycopated basic and then the other person would try to out dance that step.

North Carolina Law

The law designating shagging as the official North Carolina state popular dance is found in the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 145 Section 145-245(b).

Chapter 145: State Symbols and Other Official Adoptions.
§ 145-24. Official State dances.

(a) Clogging is adopted as the official folk dance of North Carolina.

(b) Shagging is adopted as the official popular dance of North Carolina. (2005-218, s. 1.)

State Dances
State Dances
At least there are currently 31 states that have designated square dancing as their State Folk Dance.