Shaggers get together for Belpre dance

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Frank and Susan Shreeve, of Buckhannon, were among those at the Mid-Ohio Valley Shag Dance Club dance in Belpre on Saturday.

BELPRE — Although it is said to have originated in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the shag, or shagging, has caught on across the country with shag clubs set up in a number cities.

In West Virginia the first club was formed in Beckley, followed by Charleston, then Parkersburg in 2004, Clarksburg and then Bluefield said Jan Hutchins, co-founder with Tim Miller of the Mid-Ohio Valley Shag Dance Club.

“There are five shag clubs in West Virginia,” she said. “They are all still active and we have about 60 members.”

Hutchins said interest in the Mid-Ohio Valley club is strong.

“What we have found is a lot of young people are interest in dance, then they get busy raising their families,” she said. “Once they find them selves empty-nesters they are ready to dance again.”

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Tyke and Denise Wilson, of Beckley, are members of the first shag dance club in West Virginia formed in Beckley.

Hutchins said that is where the members of the local club are at this time.

“We still pretend we are teenagers, we go to the beach twice a year for a 10-day dance event called SO, The Society of Strands and all our clubs are members of the Carolina Association of Shag Clubs (ARCCOS),” she said. “People come to SO from all over the country, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and even California and Texas.”

Hutchins said shag is a form of swing dance.

“Some people call it the jitterbug on Prozac,” she said. “It’s a slowed-down jitterbug.”

Pattee Goodwin, a past president of the club, said there are a few basic moves.

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Christine Graor and Jimmy Flynn came from Cleveland to be part of the dance.

“It’s a slot dance, where the jitterbug is all over the place,” she said. “You go back and forth.”

Hutchins said anyone who would want to learn how to shag can show up at 7 p.m. Thursdays at the American Legion Post 15 on Ohio Avenue in the traffic circle. Singles are welcome.

“We’ve had two matches made in our shag club that ended in marriages,” Goodwin said. “People say we are a dance club but we are also a social club. We all like each and care for each other.”

Goodwin and Hutchins said the ages of members in the Mid-Ohio Valley club range from 40-ish to 80s. She said they did have a member in her 90s at one time.

“We’d love to have some younger people,” Goodwin said. “However they have to be 21 or older to get in the American Legion Hall.”

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Joyce and Steve Thurman, from Beckley, are shag instructors.

Hutchins added some of the clubs further south have started junior clubs.

Tim Miller, the co-founder and DJ at many of the dances, said he and his wife were introduced to shag dancing in North Myrtle Beach about 20 years ago.

“We became familiar with the dance clubs in the Ocean Drive area and got interested in the dance and the music,” he said. “Several of us talked about starting a club and decided to try to start one for Parkersburg.”

Miller said the parties like Saturday’s bring in people from across the country.

“At times we’d have two tables of people from Pittsburgh or Columbus,” he said. “One problem facing some of the dance clubs is we are aging out — we’re getting older.”

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton John and Eloise McLaughlin, of Roane County, show one of the shag moves.

Miller said the attraction is hard to describe.

“Shagging is more than a dance, it’s all about the dance, the camaraderie and of course, the music,” he said. “The music is unique to the dance and gives you a feel to go out and want to do things. It works on you and you want it to do a good on you.”

Local club dances attract people from near and far. On Saturday Don and Benita Murphy, of Decatur, Ind., were in town for the evening.

“We started at Fat Harold’s Beach Club,” said Don. “Somebody told us to go watch them dance, but didn’t tell us what they were doing.

“We liked the dance, the music.”

Good friends made at other shag dance events have brought the couple to the area at least 10 times over the years.

“Tim Miller helped us out a bunch with the music,” Don said. “In Indiana they don’t know what a shag dance or music is. Shagging in Indiana means something different — they’ve watched too many movies.”