If it sounds like the beach, it must be shag

Beginners catch the rhythm at Chapel Hill night spot's weekly dance lessons

Staff WriterApril 18, 2006 

Five couples, led by June and John Arthurs, practice the moves of Carolina Shag at Shorty's Bar & Grill. Anyone can take lessons; no partners required.


First came the male turn.

"Step, toe-to-toe, tuck-to-heel, tuck again, cross four, rock back five, forward six."

If said at the right cadence, that spells out the six-count rhythm of the Carolina Shag.

Some call it just plain shag, but others concerned about the British slang double-entendre might call it Beach Dance.

Or the Lazy Man's Dance.

The male turn was Lesson No. 3 of the month's weekly beginner shag lessons at Shorty's Bar & Grill on West Franklin Street.

Owner Tony Cash's folks run the Scoreboard in Pittsboro, where Monday night shag lessons are the rule, and he imported the idea as well as the instructors.

"You don't have to have a partner to come," he said.

Back to the class. See, after the male turn came the female turn, which is basically the same as the male turn except for who's getting twirled.

The theme for the following week was to be the safe belly roll -- the less-risque cousin of sexy belly roll.

About 7:30 p.m., two beginner couples shuffled through to just one tune for the entire hour, "Gone Fishin' " by Chairmen of the Board.

"It's the slowest song on the CD," instructor June Arthurs explained to her husband, John, asking him to rewind to track 12 on Beach Classics III and IV again. John was filling in for June's usual dance partner and co-instructor, Larry Patterson.

Mouthing the numbers of the steps, David Boyce concentrated while his wife, Cheri, gripped two of his left fingers.

Their friends and dance partners, John and Julia Brooks, decided to start taking the lessons for the exercise.

"And because we can't dance a lick," Julia Brooks said.

John Brooks sometimes lost count, but his wife was able to just keep kicking and tapping on time.

"Whoo! This works up a sweat," she said.

Neither couple could recall shag dancing in the past couple of decades, though hazy interludes of the electric slide across the street 30 years ago did surface.

David Boyce joked about the moves he brought out at his own wedding: "I broke dance."

The month's lessons begin on the first Tuesday of the month and cost $25 a person a month. For more information, call June Arthurs at 542-4949.

Staff writer Jessica Rocha can be reached at 932-2008 or jessica.rocha@newsobserver.com.

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