Follow My Lead: A Learn-to-Shag Dance Weekend in Columbia, South Carolina

Dancers as well as foodies and history buffs all will enjoy a weekend in Columbia, South Carolina

What is shag dancing, we wondered. Ballroom dance lessons in New York had only schooled us in foxtrot, swing, west coast swing, tango, rumba, mambo, cha cha, waltz and salsa.

I asked Karen M., my friend from Charleston, who told me that shag dancing is like swing dancing except slower so you can hold your beer. Brett C. who’s from Columbia and lives in New York City, said that he learned to shag dance in elementary school and took me aside at a business reception to show me the basic step. It reminded me of the night club two-step.

So, this St. Patrick’s Day weekend  (2012) we set off for South Carolina to immerse ourselves in all three. Follow my lead with this step-by-step weekend guide to Columbia to learn to shag dance, enjoy the finest low country restaurants and take in the history of the city.

We chose the weekend of March 17th because that weekend the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival, hosted by the 5 Points Association, featured “Shaggin’ on Santee Ave,” from Noon till 6:00 p.m. with the Capital City Shag Club.  (“Five Points” is where Blossom, Devine, Harden, Santee and other streets come together.)

I emailed Marie Kiesel [] of  the Capital City Shag Club ( and organizer of “Shaggin’ on Santee” who sent me the schedule  ( which showed that shag clubs from all over South Carolina were going to be offering shag and line dance lessons throughout the day.

Her very warm welcoming email  (Hi Lisa, I am so happy that you are coming from New York City and want to take shag lessons!  We welcome you both with open arms) offered another option, the weekend of  March 30 -Sunday, April 1, 2012  when the Capital City Shag Extravaganza III would be taking place.

But the Shaggin’ on Santee weekend offered the opportunity to do it all: learn the SHAG, The South Carolina State Dance, dine out and discover the city.

That Saturday, Marie herself taught us the dance. She asked us first to show her how we dance and our west coast swing became the basis of her lesson. She built on that, showing us the basic shag step and the mirror kick. We spent most of the day at the Five Points festival, also trying the local BBQ from a food truck. Other meal highlights were the typical Southern meat and two sides meal of fried chicken with okra & tomatoes and corn bread at Lizard’s Thicket; Salmon Pontchartrain with Blackened Scallops and Grits Cakes at Blue Marlin; Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop with Corn Spoonbread, Collard Greens, Glazed Turnip, Sweet Potato, Pecan and Fried Green Tomatoes at Terra and a Tex-Mex omelette at Café Strudel.

Carole Cooper, President of the Capital City Shag Club, also sent us dance venue suggestions and we checked out The Woody in the Vista where local personality and radio legend of 50 years Woody “with the goodies” Windham is the DJ, spinning baby boomer music (until the rock club scene starts around 10 pm) with music suitable for shag, line dancing, west coast and east coast swing. She had also mentioned Jillian’s where they shag dance on Thursdays, but the night we went, it had a rock band.

Our interest in history took us to the Mann-Simmons Cottage for a 45 minute tour of the Civil War era home and archeological site once owned by Celia Mann, a former slave and mid-wife. Our self guided walking tour took us down historic Main St. into the Mast General Store, an 1883 old country store listed in the National Register of Historic Places (who knew that Squirrel Nut Zippers is a candy; we only know the swing band by that name) and a stroll into The Equitable Arcade, a 1912 Renaissance Revival style, L-shaped corridor “mall”, Columbia’s first indoor shopping center. That led to sunset drinks at the Roof Top bar at the Sheraton Columbia Downtown and another in The Vault Martini Bar where drinks are served where the safe used to be in this converted bank. A Sunday walk along the West Columbia River Walk and a visit to building called The Big Apple, now an event venue, formerly an African American dance, where the “Big Apple” dance originated.

We had hoped to try the BBQ at Doc’s and more shag dancing at the Corner Pocket and the Jamil Shrine Center but we ran out of meals and hours in the weekend. We had researched everything in advance so we had planned out our entire weekend around neighborhoods. Two happy stumbled-upon additions, an antique mall (for her) and The World of Beer (for him.)

Here is our day by day itinerary and a map of all locations we plotted on a Google map:

Fri Mar 16
Arrive Columbia Metropolitan Airport-CAE 1:54PM US Airways
Check in Hilton Columbia Center, 924 Senate Street (Vista)
Lunch at Lizard’s Thicket
Walking tour along Main Street to Mast General store, Equitable Arcade and the Capitol Building
Drinks at Sheraton Columbia Downtown, 1400 Main Street, Roof Top bar and The Vault
Dinner at Blue Marlin, 1200 Lincoln Street
Dancing at The Woody in the Vista, 808 Lady Street
Drinks at Jillian’s, 800 Gervais

Sat Mar 17
Shaggin’ on Santee with lunch from a BBQ truck
Shopping for Collectibles at City Market Antique Mall, 707 Gervais Street
Drinks at World of Beer, 902 Gervais Street
Dinner at Terra Restaurant 100 State Street, West Columbia

Sun Mar 18
Brunch at Cafe Strudel, State Street, West Columbia
Walk along the River Walk promenade
Pick up $1 tour tickets in the Historic Columbia Foundation Museum Shop, 1616 Blanding St
Visit to the Mann-Simons Cottage, 1403 Richland Street
6:15PM US Airways return flight home

By Lisa Skriloff
Editor, Dance Travel News

(above) Shaggin on Santee organized by the Capital City Shag Club

(above) Shag Dancing festival on Santee Ave at The Five Points St Patrick’s Day Festival, called Shaggin’ on Santee

(above) Shag Dance Demonstration

(above) Shag Dance Demonstration

(above) Shag Dance Demonstration

(above) Capital City Shag Club

(above) Marie Kiesel, President Capital City Shag Club

(above) Shaggin’ on Santee, Shag dancing at the Five Points St. Patrick’s Day festival, later in the day

(above) Green Fountain at Five Points for St. Patrick’s Day

(above) Salmon Pontchartrain w blackened shrimp and grits cakes at Blue Marlin restaurant

(above) Firecracker flounder at Blue Marlin

(above) The Big Apple building and sign

(above) The Big Apple Sign

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s