May 09, 2014

#73: Is S.O.S. Fall Migration for WCS?

What You Need to
Know Before Bringing
Your Swing
I'm really glad so many of you are making the decision to head on over to North Myrtle Beach. Whatever SOS you attend, you're guaranteed to have a blast. Carolina Shag IS a swing dance after all! And they've done a great job of preserving it. I'll say more on that in a second. 

Here are a few things to know, though, before you go plunging into to a huge SOS, where thousands of dancers have descended into a single beach town to rock it out with each other. These survival tips will help prevent you from being buried in the crowd:

#1: Is it okay to dance WCS? 

Of course it is! But only if you play by the rules. This is the South after all, and people still hold the business of manners to be important. Keep your slot small, don't expand and bump into anyone in any way and most definitely don't elbow anyone. Be extremely respectful.

You might think this is highly restrictive. I get it. So let me paint the picture for you. Every dance floor will be packed like sardines. Exactly like sardines! In tiny rows, in tiny slots, all swinging, swinging, swinging! So you won't really want to dance big in the first place. It will feel natural to stay small. Just watch out, because your body is used to being really big on a dance floor, and now you have to remember how to be really small.

We used to be that way on the WCS floors, but those days are long gone. Try to remember those times, if you were there, and be cool. Stay slotted. And smile at the others. Don't act like your dance is better than theirs. It ISN'T. Shaggers are rather tired of the cocky WCS dancers that waltz in and bully their floors. It's a jerk thing to do - and it's made it worse for those of us who really do have manners. 

I mean it - we have an awful reputation now because WCS dancers keep dancing a huge slot. They hog up floor space. DO NOT commit this sin! A huge slot doesn't mean you're a good dancer - it means you're a BAD dancer! - and everyone knows it but you - the one who insists on more than a square or two on the dance floor. 

They love watching WCS danced - but only when we're really dancing - not posing. Be nice, be happy, have fun and be respectful. 

#2. Should we learn Shag? 

YES! The best part about Shag is that people are always willing to teach a hungry soul. There is a strong spirit of "passing the torch" in the Shag community - they love it when others want to learn - so if you ask, be willing to listen and have fun learning!

They will never ever offer or suggest you need lessons. They are very kind and usual tell you they know nothing when they really have fifty championships under their belts. But when you ask? Then they are happy to please.

They really are such joyful people, once they know you aren't a WCS "snob." Sigh. WCS has a really bad reputation down there. They'll be nice to you no matter what, but they hold back their info until they know you want it.

The Nissies of our dance have really hurt our reputation down there, not to mention what The Ten and others have pushed the youth in Shag to partake in off the floors... so just be aware, be yourself, introduce yourself to people you dance with and you'll have a lot of fun, especially when you don't just stick to the WCS crowd. Branching out will give you the absolute BEST payout! I promise! 

#3: How do I dance with a Shagger? 

This is the tip I've always given, and it's seemed to work really well for those who have a strong grasp on pure WCS. If you are an Abstract dancer? Uh oh. You should probably just stick with that. If you hurt a Shag dancer, they typically end the dance - especially the more skillful ones - hurting is a big no-no. But if it's real WCS that you do, then just switch the first "1 - 2" or "walk walk" of every pattern with a rock step away from your partner. 

So as a follower, when I finish anchoring I simply do a rock step in place, then move forward with the triple that comes next. Same thing with the guys - lead her in a rock step while you do your own rock step. 

Also, the men are a lot more active in Shag, so ladies, when the Shag dancer you are dancing with is doing a lot of fun stuff, you can simply play with your footwork in place while you wait. NO hijacking is allowed!!!! But I dare you to find a bad lead in any shagger aged 28 & Up. Same for you men - those are the women you should be falling over for! 

That's not to say there aren't talent young shaggers out there - there are - but it's been killing me to watch Split Weight dancing infiltrate their ranks due to the influence of WCS. And it's killing me that they are moving towards flashier moves and packed patterns instead of "on beat" dancing. 

A teacher forwarded a video of a young couple that did really well and said, "isn't it AMAZING!?" And I just didn't answer, because, 1. They weren't on time, 2. They weren't on time and 3. they weren't on time!!! Oh, and yes, 4. They had that freakin' Nissy look! 

One of biggest reasons the swing hasn't fallen away in Shag is because their dancers are humble. Respectful, accomplished and humble. And cracks are starting to show in their system. The media and zeitgeist culture worship the youth - they give them the benefit of the doubt, and believe that - well, if they are proud and arrogant, that must mean they can dance.

It usually means they can't dance at all. Just as the outside world can watch a video of today's "WCS" and see that it stinks, so can I watch a Carolina Shag kid who's teaching his own classes and say... yup. He can't dance.

That's not to say that he couldn't dance. He could definitely learn Carolina Shag. All of their young dancers can. But the youth bible of today preaches that "barely passing" is "good enough." Well... in Carolina Shag, "barely passing" isn't something to be proud of, and should never be allowed to teach, no matter how young, cute, adorable or charming they are.

And that, precisely that, is what worries me about some of the Shag youth: charm. They exude charm while they dance incredibly flashy and fancy steps, spinning and swirling and doing all sorts of things most of the Shaggers in the room have never done before! Oh! So they ooohhh and aaaah, and the kids have this look on their face of, "that's right, watch us." Ugh.

What no one notices, because no one can even conceive of this, is that these kids do not care about being on time. They don't care about weight changes. Shag is ALL about weight changes. It's what makes the dance so darn hard! And it's the reason no one in the room has ever done those moves before - because no one ever thought to do them "barely passing." These kids are pretending out there and they know it, which is why, deep down, they have so much contempt for us elders. We are so easily fooled. Ugh again!

I can't stand arrogance in youth - it's so uncalled for. Being able to work an Android phone doesn't make you superior to other human beings. It just means you have more time on your hands than actual adults do. They work. They do chores. They have bills to pay. They don't have time to spend four hours a day online staying abrest of the newest tech fad, youtube video or Sephora release. That's a sign of what I call "Net-Head." And Net-Heads tend to think they are superior and make sure others know that they feel this way, but really, they are incredibly handicapped in this game called life. 

For the most part, however, Shag is one of the best communities, if not THE best community, in swing that has kept their rhythms and their rules. It's still swing. It still uses music that swings. (I saw a video where a DJ put on non-swing music for Charlie and Jackie - oh, they did shag to it, yes, because all of us with that kind of training can, but it just looked so bad - so awful. Lyrical music is for lyrical dancing - and legends should never be forced into doing something so far beneath them! I wanted to reach through my screen and strangle the DJ who clearly wanted themselves to be noticed, and not Charlie and Jackie.) 

So while you're there, ask how they have preserved Shag. Anyone will tell you. Plus, it's in the bricks, the sidewalks, the hotels, the clubs... on their walls and on their floors - the history of Shag is everywhere - even on their water tower. They don't just have a Hall of Fame - they have a Keepers of the Dance wall - for the young ones who have taken great steps to preserve Shag for the coming generations. I have a feeling a couple of those pictures are about to be removed... but that's just my gut. Measure for yourselves if that means anything. 

But I wish WCS had a Hall of Fame lobby, where we could walk in and see every single inductee's face and picture posted in frames, along with their stories and awards. Our Hall of Fame's have SO few names compared to Shag - and I think that is unfair - and part of the reason WCS has fallen short. 

And finally, you'll notice all ages at SOS - it's a major drinking party - just be aware - Nick and I like to go on off seasons - but even so, you'll notice that all the generations interact with one another - all in one place. That NEVER happens in WCS anymore. EVER. Because, you guessed it, they don't have a council now, do they? : ) 

So go off have a good time - if you see Poppa C for us, please say hello and - oh yes - I forgot - Charlie Womble is the King. Try to resist bowing down as he golf-carts it on past you! Love you guys, and all my love to my SOS'ers - we wish we could be there with you! 

From Weekly Note #73: SOS Fall Migration... for WCS? (Shagadelic, Baby!). Released September 2013.