You don’t have to be going to a 1950s beach party to enjoy the Carolina Shag. In fact, it’s now a recognized competitive dance category and people of all ages are learning it and performing it across the country.
But there are very few people performing it as well as a group of 12-17-year-olds from North and South Carolina (where the dance originated).
The Junior Shag Dance Team is a group of Carolina Shag Dancers who travel all over the world to perform and compete.
Since the team was founded in 2008 by Brennar Goree, they’ve been 5-time US Open Formation Team Champions, 7-time USA Grand National Team Champions, and, most recently, Australian Open Formation Team Champions.
Carolina Shag belongs to the swing dance family, which also includes Dallas Push, East Coast Swing, Hand Dancing, Hollywood Swing, Houston Whip, Imperial Swing, Jive, Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, Rock-n-Roll, and West Coast Swing.
During their championship 2019 OPEN performance, the Carolina Shag dancers boogied down to Rickie Lee Jones’ “Danny’s All-Star Joint,” Aretha Franklin’s epic song “Think,” and The James Cotton Band’s “How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong.”
And after so many prizes already won, they emerged confidently from backstage, ready to rock the house.
With the girls dressed in hot pink jumpsuits (that somehow still manage to be more modest than 90% of other dance uniforms we’ve seen) and the boys in black dress shirts and pants, it looks like the beginning of a debutante ball – at least until they start grooving.
And while those decades-old beach parties were a dancing free-for-all, these competitions have strict rules about what dancers can do and it’s all in the name of safety and community.
While the basic steps for the Carolina Shag are fairly simple, dancers are expected to add flair – but without too many theatrics.
Most of the dance is performed with one hand grasping a partner’s but with both dancers at arm’s length. At it’s most basic, the Carolina Shag is a six-count, eight-step dance pattern, but as you’ll see there are pivots, turns, side-by-sides, kicks, and other fancy footwork that go into a great performance.
Group dancing is especially difficult because it requires more complex choreography and the dancers must be perfectly synchronized.
But judging from the photos, the Carolina Shag dancers have no trouble with that!
Both partner dancing and group line-ups feature in their performance, requiring a good sense of the dancers around you (a team is only as good as it’s least on-the-ball dancer, after all!).
Watching these 7 sets of performers is really a pleasure – especially since partner dance isn’t your average teenage pastime (and Carolina Shag isn’t your average teenage dance genre!).
But rooted in tradition, these young people (as well as the dancers who came before them) are committed to preserving the culture of the Carolina dance.
Of course, you don’t need to be on the East coast to participate in the Carolina Shag – there are studios teaching lessons around the country. And after watching this video you may just be tempted to give it a try!
Be sure to scroll down below to see their first-place performance in the 2019 OPEN Team Formation category.
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