Students aim for "A's" in state dance class

L.M. Drucker remembers growing up in the 1950s with her mom taking her to Myrtle Beach, S.C. She recalls people dancing, and she would join in.

"I didn't know it, but that was the early heyday of classic shag," she says. "So I was there for it, I just didn't realize it until much later."

Now, she is keeping the tradition going as a professor of beginner and intermediate shag classes, which she has been teaching for over 20 years. The University of South Carolina is the only university in the state offering classes in the state dance.

"I like seeing young people get over being afraid that they can't dance, or they don't have rhythm, or they're too embarrassed to get up, or no girl's going to want to dance with them or whatever, and just seeing them blossom," Drucker says.

Unlike their professor, many of her students have no dance background and are taking the class because it sounds like fun.

"I thought it would be a cool way to meet people, and I'm from Myrtle Beach, which is a big shag area," says Tommy Vandoros, a student in the basic shag class. "With all of the bars and everything, there's always a shag event going on, but I've never learned."

Pre-pharmacy student Ashland Arey from Seneca, S.C., was looking for a class to help her relieve stress and break up her busy schedule.

"I wanted to take some kind of dance class. I chose shag dance specifically because it's kind of a Southern tradition, so I thought, 'Why not learn it while I can?' " she says. "It's fun to get together and be a fool with other people and laugh at your mistakes."

Arey recommends signing up for an activity class through the Strom Thurmond Health and Wellness Center or the Blatt P.E. Center to help any student relax.

"I think any class at Strom or Blatt really helps you keep a healthy balance and provides a nice outlet but isn't too time-consuming," she said.

Burns Yodice, a senior from Mt. Pleasant, S.C., has worked his way through the basic and intermediate shag classes and now helps Drucker show steps to her introductory courses. Over the past three years, he has taken a wide variety of physical education classes, but shag stands out among the rest.

"It's the only university-taught shag class in the state, so it helps to preserve the dance. It's good that we have people like (Drucker) teaching because she learned from some of the original shaggers. It kind of keeps the tradition around," he says. "It's not as much pressure: You're in a social environment when you're doing it, but everyone is not focusing on you."

Yodice has taken classes in many other dance styles, including rumba, waltz and fox-trot, but he says that shag is by far his favorite.

"It has the most variation, and there's no real right or wrong, as long as you're stepping to the music," Yodice said. "The dance itself originated as an improvisational dance, so people are always making up new steps, new dance mannerisms, so it evolves. It makes it interesting. It's more encompassing than other dances."

For Drucker, the class is more than teaching the steps and variations to one dance.

"I just think it's one of life's treasures to learn to appreciate rhythm and moving to rhythm," she says. "It's an important part of who are, I think, as humans and what makes us unique."

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