Thoughts on swing dancing and Lindy Hop, one word at a time…

Collegiate Shag: Getting “Behind” A Misconception

In my travels across the United States one of the interesting misconceptions I have run into when chatting people about Collegiate Shag is that the proper posture is with ones’ butt or “fanny” out. The baffling thing to myself is I know the majority of people who teach Collegiate Shag in the United States and as far as I know, none of these individuals say this in their lessons.

Flier from a Penn State Scrapbook in the 1920's

Source of “Fanny Out” Opinion

It’s reasonable to see where their opinion may have stemmed from, this stylistic choice is featured in a few vintage clips. The two clips that stick out the most to me is here at the 1:35 mark in the 1943 clip from “The Powers Girl” and here at the 1:02  mark in this clip from the 1940 clip from “Mad Youth”.

In addition Ray Hirsch, a legendary shag dancer even mentions in an interview by CollegiateShag.com [1], “Then Shag came along. It had its own little interpretation. You put your fanny out […]” when talking about the dance. Even Kenny Nelson and Tiffany Wine in the Camp Hollywood 2009 Shag finals had that style choice as part of their double rhythm basic [2].

Why a Misconception?

My main counterpoint is this, there are clips (vintage and modern) that feature dancers who do not have their butt or “fanny” out when they dance Collegiate Shag. Example of one vintage clip without this styling is the Arthur Murry instructional video.

I view sticking ones “fanny” out as a valid style choice within the dance, however not as something that is seen as mandatory when attempting to stay within the aesthetic of it.

However I consider myself far from an authority on this subject. If anyone with more experience would like to chime in, your opinion or any information you have on the matter would be appreciated.

References:

1. CollegiateShag.com interview with Ray Hirsch, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfMXJTu8958
2. Camp Hollywood 2009 Collegiate Shag Finals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPTmqw_92ZE

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4 responses

  1. Hee hee hee….fanny…..!

    July 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm

  2. Mm I haven’t really come across people actually pushing their fannies out, though I have seen that in old animations of Lindy and Shag. I assumed it was a stylized representation of the actual dance and not reflective of the posture one should necessarily assume.

    July 2, 2011 at 8:16 am

  3. Dai

    I’ve always associated the “bum” out (UK parlance) style of shag with Connie Weidell and the West coast, (Hollywood) style Shag. I’m no expert but I understand the more upright style seen in the Artie Shaw, and Arthur Murray clips were both filmed on the East Coast. The Arthur Murray clip is documented as filmed with New York dancers.

    I think the bum out style gives a more comedic look to the dance which made it ideal for the 1930’s romantic comedies in which Ray Hirsch often works the dance into a comedy routine (dropping his partner etc.). There’s no doubt that Hollywood popularised that particular style but I have a strong feeling that streetwise kids kept the dance looking cool as seen in the Arthur Murray clip.

    The Hollywood / Savoy divide springs to mind.

    July 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm

  4. David L

    I am reminded of Bobby White’s artlice on the Savoy vs. Hollywood debate and what is the proper posture for lindyhop, upright or bent over. What is interesting after reading his article is seeing the many ways the original dancers would angle their posture. From the torso, waist, knees, etc. I believe the same differentiation is present in the original shag dancers.

    Dai is correct that the LA style of shag had more of a bent over aesthetic but they did not all bend the same way. Ray used the heavy torso bend, ie butt out, particularly for comedic affect. However, Connie had more of a combination bend of the hips and knees. As a result, you can see in the beach clip that Connie and partner do not lean in as much as Ray.

    In the Arthur Murray Clip you see the NY style of shag that is more upright with a vertical bounce. Alot of the styling in this clip comes from the free leg tapping or “hammering” into the ground. In other words, most of the style come from the knee joint. And I believe the more prominent vertical bounce happens because the pulse is absorbed in the knee. If you look at the NY style of shag just three years later in the Artie Shaw clip, it has been smoothed out considerably. While there is still aot of fancy footwork, the accentuation happen less from the knee joint and more from a drop from the hips. So in technique, this style is closer to Connie’s style. The difference is that Connie usually raises the free leg as opposed to the Artie Shaw dancers who mainly use taps.

    Tha nk you for highlighting this common misconception. I hope it inspires folks who want to shag to play with the angles of their body and use it for musical effect.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm

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