Entries by Jess Dennis

Bring Your Feet – SOS Fall Migration

SOS is September 15 – 24, 2017 at the beach this year. What do you get dancing the shag at SOS? Everybody gets what they come for.  That’s my impression. I hoped SOS wouldn’t end before it got old. You never want the music to stop, to go back where you come from, where the rules […]

Now

Waking up in the dark, before the earth rotates and the sun appears to rise, I sit on the edge of a bed, facing a wall-size mirror. I position myself so the mirror divides my reflection: half I can see, as if the mirror were the past, where in the mud of memory, I get bogged […]

Pertinent Points

“Dancing is a vertical expression of horizontal desire,” said Robert Frost, maybe America’s most famous poet. The first time I heard that line quoted I wondered who said it first. I was in a crowd of shag dancers. I can’t remember who told me, but at the time, I asked, thinking “vertical expression of horizontal […]

Florentine Patio

Among the originators of the Shag was a bright-eyed kid from Florence, South Carolina, the night owl, Billy Jeffers. Billy had trouble with asthma as a kid. He grew up in the humid tobacco country just inland of the beaches and had to take life easier than most rascals. He was a natural athlete, and […]

Rosy Red Magic Box

There were only a few hundred thousand jukeboxes scattered around the United States prior to World War II. In North and South Carolina they were few and far between. They waited to be played in the well-lighted basements of country clubs, in drug stores near soda fountains and on the decks of public swimming pools. […]

Society of Stranders

Nostalgia for the Shag took root in the early Seventies. Competitive dancing rescued the art from oblivion. In 1980, an old lifeguard from Richmond, Virginia, Gene Laughter, thought he’d throw a party for a couple of hundred ex-beach bums and mature magnolias. Thousands of people showed up. Ocean Drive, that is, North Myrtle Beach was […]

Philosophical Shaggers

The Pad was dilapidated on the day it opened in the mid-Fifties, and it stayed that way for thirty-nine summers. The interior of the place sort of fermented over the years. The rafters and upright supports became collage-like with graffiti. The scrawled signatures and initials of future banking executives, safecrackers, beauty queens, doctors, lawyers, and […]

Wild Peacocks

In the late Thirties and early Forties, the Shag was performed to swing music, the jazzy sound of the big bands. As the Swing Era waned, the Shag continued to evolve to a new beat, that of race music, the forbidden melodies that were the godfathers of rock ‘n’ roll. Like the racy new sounds, […]

Invention

In the old days, it was not cool to learn to Shag in public. You stood rather sheepishly in the crowd and watched the top dancers work out. You tried to mentally photograph their moves. Later, you went home and danced with a doorknob or a bedpost, hour after hour, just to learn the basic […]