It’s Time to Dance on the Grand Strand

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While most of our neighbors to the north are putting on their winter boots in the month of January, folks on the Grand Strand will be slipping on their dancing shoes for a couple of annual conventions that revolve around the dance floor.

The Carolina Shag, which got its start on the beachfront dance clubs along the Carolina coastline, and Square Dancing, which has its boot heels deeply rooted in the Carolina soil dating back to the Colonial era, take center stage on the Grand Strand in January. The 36th Annual SOS (Society of Stranders) Midwinter Break is set for Jan. 15-17, while the 41st Annual South Carolina Square & Round Dance Convention is at the Springmaid Beach Resort & Convention Center on Jan. 22-23.

Both the shag and square dancing are considered official state dances of South Carolina. The shag became popular in the 1950s, '60s and '70s as teenagers flocked to the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach to scoot their shoes and swing their partners across the sawdust and sand-covered dance floors and boardwalks. Meanwhile, generations before, during and after practiced the techniques of square and round dancing, which are considered the state's official folk dances.

Today's dancers are dedicated to keeping their histories and heritages alive, beginning with the SOS Midwinter Break. The same people who used to do the shag in North Myrtle Beach as kids still return to these quarterly SOS dance parties to take a stroll down memory lane and Ocean Drive. Popular shag spots like Fat Harold's Beach Club, the Spanish Galleon, and the O.D. Arcade are among the many clubs that participate in the weekend event of dancing, live beach music and good times.

Shag dancing is a modern variation of swing dancing, incorporating the wild dance moves of the swing with the smoother sounds of beach music. Dancers slide their soft-soled shoes on the floor and join hands while the lead, usually the male, guides his partner through a series of spin moves and twists. Although the SOS functions are generally geared toward club members and experienced shaggers, newcomers are welcomed and offered opportunities to learn the basics at social events throughout the weekend.

The dance theme moves a little farther south to Springmaid Beach Resort & Convention Center for the South Carolina Square & Round Dance statewide convention. Dancers from around the state invade the Strand for a long list of activities, including a round dance party, line dancing, a sock hop and a contra dance party. Newcomers can watch or attend the Callerama, an introductory lesson in how to follow the calls and master some of the moves required by the traditional American dances.

On Saturday, the state convention will host a series of workshops, dancing clinics, competitions and awards, and other activities and events, such as a fashion show and the Parade of Clubs. The highlight of the event is saved for last – the formal final call. Featuring colorful costumes and classic dance steps, the event sees couples and groups perform complex routines under the instruction of some of the best callers in the business. Proper square dance attire and protocol is requested for participation.

Founded by the earliest settlers from Europe who brought their customs with them to the New World and gave them a distinctly American twist, square dancing is most often done by couples or larger groups. The dance begins and ends with couples rotating and returning to a square formation. Round dancing refers to classic ballroom disciplines, also known as circular chain dances, which are also performed by couples under a callers’ direction.

So get up off your cozy spot at Bay View Resort and get into the groove of the Grand Strand’s most popular dance month of the year. These January events will have you on your feet and dancing in the streets of Myrtle Beach.