Danced with a lead and follow, it is now danced to primarily upper tempo jazz music (usually 200+ beats per minute) while historically it was danced to a variety of tempos but primarily mid-tempos. It is danced in a closed position dance hold (similar to those used in ballroom dances). Three forms of "Collegiate Shag" danced in the early thirties were termed single, double, and triple Shag. The variety names describe the amount of slow (step, hop) steps performed in the execution of a basic. These slow rhythmic steps were always accompanied by a single quick, quick rhythm.
"Collegiate" shag evolved from Shag a dance with no clear historical record, but assumed to be the based on early Foxtrot. The term “Shag” however is known to have been used as a slang term to describe early Vaudeville performers. The name association is presumed to relate to the lively performance nature of the dance. The differences in rhythm most likely were due to lack of standardization of Foxtrot basics at the time and the prevalence of regional styling. It was named "Collegiate" Shag most likely as a marketing ploy as many "Collegiate" dances were being created at the time for marketing towards the young ("college age") dancers. These “Collegiate” dances were leaping/hopping versions of their early ballroom counterparts. The name was derived from the way college youth would liven up the dances of old. These forms are known to pre-date the lindy hop and balboa. Other breeds of Shag were later created such as Carolina shag and St. Louis shag. These other forms only share its name "Shag" not technique or imagery. This is again, most likely, due to its slang association with performance dances.
The dance is still performed today (Primarily "Double" Shag) by swing dance enthusiasts worldwide
The shag originated along the strands between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. It is most often associated with beach music, a genre of rhythm and blues-based songs that lend themselves to this dance form. According to Bo Bryan, a noted shag historian and resident of Beaufort County, the term was coined at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Today, the shag is a recognized dance in national and international dance competitions held across the United States.
In the dance the upper body and hips hardly move as the legs do convoluted kicks and fancy footwork. The man is the center of attention, showing off, and the woman's steps are either mirror steps of the man's or a sort of marking time while he shows off with spins and other gyrations. Siler City, NC resident Eric Hedgepath is considered by many as the "King of Shag." The shag is the state dance of North Carolina and South Carolina, and is still popular amongst residents of both states.
The 1989 film Shag starring Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates, Annabeth Gish, and Page Hannah as four high school friends on their last road trip together before graduation, was filmed in Myrtle Beach and features the Carolina shag.
St. Louis shag is a swing dance that evolved from Charleston. As its name suggests, it is recognized as being started in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a very fast closed position dance that is usually done to stomp, jump, and boogie-woogie music.
The dance may be done in the "side-by-side" Charleston position. The steps are: rock step, kick forward, step down, kick forward (other leg), stag, step, stomp (repeat). The "stag" is bringing the leg up with the knee bent. As a variation, when repeating, one can do two forward kicks (or "switch, switch," referring to switching feet) in place of the rock step.