An Evening of Shagging is Always a Good Time
Thirty plus couples clamored into the River City Brewing Company’s Brewhouse Lounge. Sounds from The Embers and other beach music classic flooded through the speakers as members of the First Coast Shag Club dance around the room.
For those of you who don’t know, Shag Dancing is a couple's dance.
"The basic step is a six (sometimes eight) count and involves a simple forward-and-back motion and a change step at the end; with the six count, this consists of two triple steps, followed by a rock step for the ladies and an optional kick-ball for the gents,” according to about.com.
But, for a kid growing up with a mother from South Carolina and a father from North Carolina, Shag has always been a classic dance I have been exposed to, along with the beach music songs that go along with it.
While I have seen “Shagging,” (as it is called-get your mind out of the gutter) I have never actually learned the dance, despite many failed attempts.
So this week I decided to try my hand, or rather my feet, at Shag Dancing.
We arrived for our free beginners lesson around 7:15 pm on Wednesday. The intermediate class was in full swing (that class began at 7 pm) and intermediate dancers seemed to float on the floor with their fancy footwork. I watched in awe.
After introductions from a few members, the instructor called for the beginner class to take the floor.
With the women lining up on one side and the men on the other, we briefly learned the first count of steps. “One, two, three,” she would call out. I stepped quickly and tried to keep up. Then, the class was instructed to grab a partner.
A nice elderly gentleman quickly grabbed my hand and led me to a spot on the floor. The music started and the instructor counted the steps. We went over the basic step and then added the rock step, where you simply rock back on your right foot.
I made multiple apologies to the men who moved with ease through each step. I felt terrible for being so bad at shagging, additionally, I did not even have on the right shoes. Who knew Rainbow Flip Flops were not correct dance wear?
As I moved through the men, some took the time to help me count and showed me which directions I needed to be in. But then we got introduced to turns. I stepped on multiple toes as I tried to master the turns.
In a turn, you stand in a “V” with a man and then he leads you into the couple position of facing each other. I have never done well being led by a man, and Shagging was no exception. However, as we began practicing with the group, and cycling through partners, I began to get the hang of it.
The class was surprisingly quick, which I realized once my thirty minutes was pronounced over. I was having fun and rather sad to see it end. However, leave it to the First Coast Shag Club to throw in a surprise.
At 8 pm, free dancing ensues. Classy couples, mostly above 40, yet seemingly going on 21, took to the floor. The music got louder and I got the sense I was in a club, with the lights on and the clothing classier, of course.
The people of the First Coast Shag Club are funny and fun -- and they can dance the Shag better than the people I’ve seen growing up.
Shagging is definitely something I would recommend if you are looking to have fun with a new spin.
I left feeling accomplished and excited to hone my skills -- I want to be able to impress all the men that I Shagged, when I come back next week.
Mary Elizabeth Robertson is a journalism student spending her summer on the First Coast. She'll be interning for the Jacksonville Observer and writing a twice-weekly column about her experiences called New Girl in Town. Look for it online every Tuesday and Friday.