Shag Club Dancing

The Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club, cutting a rug since 1994

Let’s dance

Story by Barry Kaufman + Photos by Mike Ritterbeck

Barry Cohick and Dina Chester
Barry Cohick and Dina Chester are two of the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club’s most experienced dancers.

Barry Cohick and Dina Chester took very different routes to shag dancing, the wildly rhythmic movement that has served as our state’s official dance for the last 40 years. But for both of them, the beginning of their shag careers started when they joined the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club, which is celebrating its 30th year.

Chester had been a professional dancer in New York City before making the move to Hilton Head Island, having studied modern dance and trod the boards with an Indo-American Dance Company. “I had a varied dance background but had never heard of shag dancing,” she said. “At the end of 2001 I read an article talking about the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club and asked if I could come. We were meeting at the old Crown Plaza, and that’s where I learned to shag. Eventually, I learned enough where I could teach it.”

Cohick, on the other hand, was a bit more of a blank slate.

“I couldn’t dance a step at all,” he said with a laugh. “But I discovered shag is a six-count step with eight steps. I thought to myself, ‘Well, I can count to six,’ so I thought I’d try it.”

The two now partner up as two of the club’s most experienced dancers, which is saying a lot. At 330 members strong, the club has had a strong and vibrant following almost since its inception. Along with their regular Friday dances at Christ Lutheran Church (“the best venue we’ve ever had,” said Chester), the club gets together for three parties a year, including their blockbuster Winter Classic.

“We normally limit it to 350 people. This year we had around 400,” said Cohick. “People come from all over the East Coast, and it’s a lot of fun meeting different people and seeing the different styles of dancing.”

The events are just part of what the Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club does for the community. Cohick and Chester make regular appearances at area nursing homes, schools, hotels and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to guide groups through the steps of shag dancing. When the  Society of Stranders and the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs set a Guinness World Record, coordinating 744 dancers in the largest Carolina shag dance in history, our local club was there to help keep the beat. 

The Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club
The Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club gathers almost every Friday night at the spacious Heinrichs Hall within Christ Lutheran Church. This venue boasts a beautiful wooden dance floor that provides ample space for shag dancing.

They also offer lessons to aspiring shaggers every week before the Friday dance.

“Anybody can learn it. We teach it very slowly so all the students are able to do it before they progress on,” said Chester.

Added Cohick, “We don’t care if they learn it exactly the way we teach it. We want them to have fun.”

And those who do try their hand (or, more accurately, feet) at shag dancing discover, just as these two did, the exhilaration of dancing the night away to the eight-step that made South Carolina famous. 

“We’re having a fun time with this,” said Chester. “This is a great group, and we always welcome new people.”

The Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club teaches beginner shag lessons each Friday. Annual club dues ($40) entitle members to free lessons that can be repeated throughout the year.

Local Shag Clubs 

Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club

The Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club is passionately committed to celebrating and spreading the joy of the Carolina Shag dance, fostering enduring friendships within its vibrant community. Engage in the rhythmic allure of weekly dance gatherings, enhance your skills through lessons led by the club’s expert dance leadership, and revel in the camaraderie of seasonal celebrations throughout the year. 

The Beaufort Shag Club

This club is a community of nearly 200 people who love the dance and lifestyle it represents. They offer lessons for members, including four weeks of basic steps followed by four weeks of advanced steps, and they regularly participate in shag events across the Southeast. The Beaufort Shag Club emphasizes social connections and community involvement, welcoming newcomers to join and learn about this integral part of Lowcountry culture​​.

LowCountry Shaggers

Located at Moose Lodge on 350 Broad River Boulevard in Beaufort, this group meets on Monday evenings from 6-9 p.m. for dancing and lessons. They aim to excite both your feet and hearts, offering a great opportunity to engage with the local dance community and learn shag dancing in a fun and welcoming setting​​.

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