New generation of shaggers emerging

By Devarrick Turner
Times-News correspondent

A group led by Tripp Turner (back left in blue) learns to Shag dance at College Street Taphouse Sept. 25. / Al Drago, Times-News

ELON — If you find yourself on College Avenue in Elon and hear loud music and lots of cheers and laughter, there’s a possibility that it’s not coming from Elon University students. The cheerful noise may be coming from shag lessons being taught at the College Tap House, 131 W. College Ave.
   Tripp Turner teaches the popular dance, which has roots in jitterbug and Lindy Hop Swing, every Tuesday for three hours. Classes begin at 6:30 p.m. and the level of difficulty increases each hour. The first hour is dedicated to beginners where basic steps are taught. Intermediate and advance classes follow and more complicated moves are taught and technique becomes a bigger focal point. A new cycle of classes begin on the first Tuesday of every month. Although lessons are $35 per person for one month, a participant can stay for all three classes regardless of the level of expertise.
   Turner began dancing about 20 years ago because his wife wanted to take lessons.
   “I fell in love with it and been dancing ever since,” he said. He has taught shag previously, but due to the interest of former students, he began teaching again and has found a home at Tap House.
   Shag is the state dance of South Carolina and has often been associated with beach music. Burlington Shag Club boasts a number of members who get together not only to dance, but to raise money for various charities as well.
  Shag can become complicated and developing a strict technique is a necessity to do the dance well. While Turner is always up for the challenge, there are some things he cannot teach.
   “I can teach anybody the basic steps to shag but (I) can’t teach someone to dance or feel music,” he said.
   However, for Turner, it’s not just about the technique.
   “Shag is a lifestyle. It’s more than a dance. You fall in love with the music. You fall in love with the friends that you make doing the dance. It’s just like one big family.”
   The shag lifestyle has taken Turner and his students across the country. They travel to shag competitions and events in Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, and even California.
   Kayla Henley, 16, is one of Turner’s students. She was introduced to shag at the age of 9 through her parents, who were taking lessons from Turner at the time.
   “I (thought) if they can do it, I can do it,” Henley said. Now she is the 2012 National Shag Dance Champion for her age group. Henley is also trained in ballet.
   “You always have to point your toes,” she said when comparing the two dances.
   Though Turner has had success and fun with his classes and students, there is one thing lacking — men.
   “Guys don’t want to come out and do this dance for some reason,” he said. However, Henley said “there’s no need to be nervous” because you begin to have so much fun with the other dancers. Turner has some lighter advice for any men nervous to shag.
   “(There are) always females that want to dance,” he said.
   It’s not just college students having fun in Elon anymore. Instead of bypassing the loud music at Tap House on Tuesdays, join in. You might learn a step or two and have some fun. Who knows, you might even be the next national shag champion? October classes begin Tuesday.

Devarrick Turner is a 2012 Elon University graduate and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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