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United We Swag

Seattle West Coast Swing [Shaggers, aka swaggers] put our newly found shag workshop skills to the test on the dance floor of the Grand Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia on May 22 to 25th, 1997. With shaggers from all over the South attending this event, were we nervous? You bet.....could we cut the mustard with our pivots?....did that rock step look suspiciously anchored?...and would those shoulders and hips start to twitch?

Many of us had seen Carolina shag only on videotapes and were unprepared for the mesmerizing effect of the dance, the lightening quick weight changes, the languid turns, and the unexpected knee drops. Southerners grew up with the shag and revere the older Hall of Famers and the Queen of Shag, 82 yr. old Clarice Reavis. In his book entitled "Shag -- The Legendary Dance of the South," Bo Bryan recounts the early history of the dance and the story of its revival after Hurricane Hazel wiped out the Carolina beach front dance floors. The Society of Stranders (SOS) now hosts twice yearly events that draw 10,000 dancers. Although shag is popular with the over 40 crowd, Junior shaggers have their own classes, clubs, and competitions.

But back on the dance floor, the big question was, with the crowd almost evenly divided between Swingers and Shaggers, could one partner do the shag "basic" while the other did the WCS (West Coast Swing) "pushbreak" (both being 6 counts in a slot)? As it turned out, the smart money was on ALTERNATING shag and swing. This combination performed in competition left the crowd roaring for more!!! Winning couples seemed to be composed of a WCS woman following with a Shag man leading. Although most couples played back and forth between the two styles of dance, some of the men certainly looked like they were shagging their way through some WCS patterns.....Pregnant Kellese Douglas went spinning down the slot (centering for two?) to her partner/husband renowned shagger Brent Key. In fact, the Grand Nationals hosted their wedding on Sunday night. Not a dry eye in the house as the first "celebrity" wedding united a shagger and a WCS dancer. The baby will certainly be the first true "swag" dancer.

One Seattle dancer had quite an educational experience with a shagger when she asked about the position of the free hand while shagging. In response, the shagger handed the surprised woman a glass of water and told her to hold the glass at her hip without spilling the water. He then removed the glass from her hand and walked away. Grinning over his shoulder, he said "Just keep your hand like that whenever you're shaggin." Another fun incident occurred after a famous WCS instructor taught a shag "throw-out" using WCS footwork and timing. The result was an interesting 4-count crossing syncopation. When demonstrated to a shag lead, he immediately MIRRORED the footwork (shades of East Coast Swing, Batman......). The result was a mutual throw-out with both partners going to the ends of the slot. Intergalactic swing?

Well, did the Seattle swaggers cut the mustard?? Feedback from the native shaggers ranged from "Wheredidya learn that?", a compliment, I'm sure to "You'all did goooooood!" Whewwwww. . . . .

For more information about Shagging in Seattle, contact Jane T Nickell, Seattle West Coast Swing.