Dancing in the Moonlight Mixers: The Folly of Shagging

To my folks unfamiliar with Charleston or Southern culture in general, this may sound a bit odd. Shagging. Southerners love to shag. When I moved down here from Ohio, I swear every other weekend had a “Shuck and Shag” event. In my midwestern mind, all I could muster in my head as to what the heck these shindigs were was shucking corn and...the only other way I’ve heard shagging.

So, newsflash for all my fellow travelers: shagging in the South is a type of dance.

Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

The best way I can describe shagging is that it’s a type of swing dance that can be as basic as a few steps, spins, etc. to the more complex moves that involve the words “pretzel” and “sugarfoot” that sound more like the snacks you find at Girl Scout camp and not in dance class (if dance class had more snacks, I would be a professional ballerina).  I promise, there are few events that you will attend that will not involve at least one round of “Sweet Caroline” and some good ol’ shagging.

If you’re visiting or new to the area and don’t know where to get your fill of shagging, the Moonlight Mixers are the perfect place to try on your dancing shoes! Sarah Reynolds, the public information coordinator for Charleston County Park & Recreation Commision, shared with us the low-down on the Charleston tradition.

“Moonlight Mixers take place at the very end of the Folly Beach Pier, which is a 25-foot-wide wooden pier that stretches over 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean on Folly Beach, and 23 feet above sea level. The pier is the second longest on the east coast. So it is a very popular venue to begin with, and their pier also offers gorgeous views,” Reynolds said. “The event itself features music from DJ Jim Bowers, a fixture in the local beach music and shag dancing community. He will spin beach music and oldies throughout the evening.”

Not sure if the shag is for you? More of a tango kind of person? (Granted, tangoing to beach music may not be the best combo, but I would love to see this pulled off).  No worries - Reynolds assures that you can still come out to have a great time at the mixer.  

“The most popular dance style at the Moonlight Mixers is shagging. Along with many beaches in the South, people have been shag dancing on Folly Beach for decades.  However, we do see other dance styles at the event, so people who may not be familiar with shagging are still encouraged to come out to have a good time,” Reynolds stated. 

As a South Carolina transplant from Ohio, I can attest to this.  Southerners are more than happy to teach you how to shag dance. Interestingly enough, when I try to teach Southerners how to Ohio River Dance, they seem much less enthusiastic. Perhaps Reynolds will let me crash ruin destory introduce everyone at the mixer to this festive and very clap-and-jump filled jig.

The Moonlight Mixers are open to everyone, regardless of age or skill level. So yes, all you two left-feeters out there, you will not be shunned for stumbling about. I’m talking to you, toddlers. Waddle and crawl your little hearts out. Reynolds notes that children should be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and those who wish to partake in alcohol (oh, yes, did I mention they have alcohol?), you will need to bring a valid ID. Beverages are available for purchase in the event area, and food and snacks are available at the Pier 101 restaurant or the pier’s Gift and Tackle Shop.

“As far as dancing and shagging, people of all levels of experience are encouraged to attend the mixers. These events feature everyone from seasoned shaggers who have been dancing for decades, to newbies who are just beginning to learn the steps or want to try their own moves. If you don’t want to dance, it’s also a great spot to just meet friends and watch some great dancing in action while taking in the breeze and views,” Reynolds stated. 

I couldn’t help but wonder if Reynolds could pick up on my social ineptitude. Friends? Food? Dancing? It sounds like I could have a social life outside of my dog after all!

Mike Bills, a Charleston Wedding Dj says "Music is at at my soul and this is one of the musical highlights of Charleston!"

Make sure to mark it on your calendars - Friday, September 15 will be the final mixer of the season. 

“What better way to end your summer than an evening of dancing on the beach?” Reynolds said.

I could not agree more. Imagine how lit your Insta would be. Um, I mean, the precious memories you could make connecting with people face to face.

For more information on the Moonlight Mixers, you can visit their site at ccprc.com.