Locals master quick steps, swingy, Southern fun
Story and photos by Leigh Lofgren
The Lake Oconee Shag Club, under the guidance of professionals Page and Tony Payne and Tom Lynn, has found a home at the Oconee Brewing Company in Greensboro. Tom Lynn, a retired U.S. Air Force Major General, and his wife, Joy, have been dancing for over 40 years. The Lake Oconee Shag Club came into being after Tom contacted Page and Tony, who had just relocated from Myrtle Beach to Harbor Club. Page and Tony, both dancers, have been doing the Shag for over 25 years and regularly compete. Recently, Tony was inducted into the Charlotte Hall of Fame, which is a major honor.
I had no idea what the Carolina Shag was until Page asked me to join them one evening at the Brewery and, from that moment, I was hooked. I am no dancer, as I seem to fall over myself more often than not; but seeing over a hundred people loving every moment made me want to learn, as I so love to dance! The night was one of the best for all who attended and following the hour-long lesson, a special demonstration was given by Page, Tony, Tom, and Page’s son Bryan Jones.
According to a book by Southern writer Bo Bryan, the Carolina Shag began in the 1940’s with a group of kids listening to Rhythm and Blues music, which was not readily heard on regular radio stations. Learning dance steps, they introduced the music and dance at pavilions from Carolina Beach to Myrtle Beach, as they realized that this music was not available in their hometowns; and thus, creating a demand, the Carolina Shag came into being.
By the 1950’s, the Shaggers’ numbers were growing and dancing to songs from R&B greats such as the Drifters, Clovers, Billy Ward & the Dominos, and Ruth Brown. What began as ‘fast dancing’, has now developed into a slower, smoother rhythm, based on an eight-step basic pattern which encompasses a whole range of music outside of R&B.
The ACSC (Association of Carolina Shag Clubs) now has over 100 clubs across the Southeast. Parties of shaggers can be found most weekends, the largest being the Society of Stranders, or SOS, who gather in North Myrtle Beach several times a year - Spring Safari for 10 days, Mid-winter four days, and Fall Migration 10 days.
Having its ‘home’ at the Oconee Brewing Company, located at 202 North West Street in Greensboro, the Lake Oconee Shag Club allows anyone to learn this great form of dance, meet new people, enjoy great music and just have fun.
Open to young and old, it is a way of life, not just a culture. These dance nights are scheduled for the first Wednesday of every month from 6 p.m. onwards. During the first hour, participants learn the basic shag steps from Page and Tony. Then the music continues under the control of Tom.
The Lake Oconee Shag Club will eventually have a board of directors with elected members, as this is a club of people, not individuals. And you can dance as slow or fast as you wish, and just enjoy dancing well into your 90s or older.
Wine and beer are available on these evenings and the event is free to all.
Page and Tony offer private lessons as well. For further information, please email LakeOconeeShag@gmail.com
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Story and photos by Leigh Lofgren, published in the July-August 2022 edition of Lakelife magazine.
See more pictures from the class below. Also, for more on Shag Dancing, see Hank Segars' article, "Summertime Rendezvous with Shag", on this website.
~LAKELIFE MAGAZINE 2022