Lets start this journey by taking a trip back in time,
(1999) Camp Hollywood Collegiate Shag division:
Interesting things to note:
- A lot of choreography, some of it original & some of it from vintage clips.
- Emphasis on tricks/flash to get attention (The Camp Hollywood showmanship judging criteria may explain this).
- Bal-swing being dispersed through some couples turns out in the center (4:15 Tip West & Holly are.
- Even though there is a line up it almost seems like a jam circle format with the competitors being surrounded, something I don’t see that much these days besides some ULHS competitions.
- Tempos were a lot faster, my BPM counter clocked in that last song around 320ish.
- Bonus: Notice at 5:28 a certain drummer from a LA swing band that most of the United States can recognize out there.
(2000) San Francisco Jitterbugs Collegiate Shag Routine On The USS Hornet:
What I liked is they seemed to have a little of everything in this performance. An example of this is at 0:53 they go into a “fanny out” posture popularized by Ray Hirsch in some of his clips, but the interesting thing is while they are in it they don’t go wild and crazy like a lot of people do when they adopt this posture but instead keep it clean and controlled. At 1:52 they briefly go into single rhythm shag (quick, quick, slow) for breaks as well.
(2002) Sailor Mike and Holly Dumaux Social Dance at the Argyle Hotel
In this clip we have Sailor Mike and Holly who were both in the 1999 Camp Hollywood shag division at the beginning of this post. Unlike the other two settings of a competition and a performance we get to see what Shag looked like danced socially in the early 2000s. While for most of the clip they are both pretty clean technique wise, toward the end when the drummer starts having fun, Mike and Holly start to as well. This is unlike the competition or the performance where if people were “crazy/wild” it was a reference to some vintage clip or pre-choreographed.
(2003) Instructors Demo at Boogie and Swing in Toulouse, France
Marcus Koch und Bärbl Kaufer dance in an instructor demo where there is Collegiate Shag mixed in with Balboa & Lindy Hop. What stands out to me is Marcus and Bärbl are very performance oriented and their presentation of their movement seems to be a key factor here.
(2007) Shag Jam Instructors Demo
This clip is the instructor (and special guest) demo from Shag Jam 2007 in San Francisco. Depth is the first word that comes to mind when I see this clip, because compared to a lot of the early 2000 clips it seems like it is less of trying to get from move to move but more building upon previous movements to make more of a statement. A perfect example is at 0:36 where Sailor Mike is doing a double rhythm basic but it slowly builds up larger each time.
(2008) Camp Hollywood Collegiate Shag Division
As annoying as the guy frequently yelling “This is a battle.” is, he has a point. The battle format at Camp Hollywood showed how individuality and style was starting to become more prevalent and the pressure of a battle brought some interesting things out into the open. There are some who were staunch traditionalists and would only stay in double shag rhythm and dance crystal clean basics, there was some who would use tricks and choreography from vintage clips, and there was some that would go in their own directions.
(2008) Shag Jam Jack & Jill Finals:
At this particular year during Shag Jam the finals were conducted by having the finalists dance with the instructors. It was a fun mix of the old school & new school, interestingly enough a lot of the old school material worked just fine with newer dancers. If you watch the first clip at 6:47 and this one at 1:37, you will see Minn Vo show that a trick still works fine 9 years later.
(2009) Happy Feet Monday’s at Joe’s Bar and Grill Amateur Collegiate Shag Finals
This is a smaller competition in Los Angeles, California. It’s interesting to see many of the dancers who would go on to be prevalent in future Camp Hollywood Shag divisions when they were a bit more green, also its rare to see a female lead in a Shag competition as well.
(2009) Camp Hollywood Collegiate Shag Division
This year at Camp Hollywood had competition from all over ranging from Germany to New York City. At 3:14 check out both of the couples battling coincidentally both pull tricks out of the Ray Hirsch book at the same time.
(2010) Shag Showcase at Rock That Swing Festival
At Rock That Swing Jeremy Otth and Laura Keat performed in Munich. I can confidentially say this is the most polished Collegiate Shag performance I have seen in all of my scouring of clips through the internet.
(2010) Camp Hollywood Shag Division All Skate
Oddly enough the reason why this is in here is Sailor Mike’s exit. Unfortunately the entrance where he was brought on the dance floor in a coffin is not on film, but this was probably the hands down craziest competition entrance and exit of all time and earned him and Tip West the coveted Golden Bugie award that year.
(2010) Hot Rhythm Holiday Collegiate Shag Finals
Besides Tony/Jamie & Joe/Tabitha, not too much flash or tricks was thrown in this competition compared to Camp Hollywood. Interestingly enough a lot of the competitors from Camp Hollywood are not present as well.
(2011) Camp Hollywood Shag Finals
Thing to note is the change from a battle format to spotlights for each couple. Something I would like to point out as well is I noticed a lot toward the mid to late 2000s a shift toward better technique/improved musicality/complex movement but it seemed to be missing something. What that thing was I believe is the borderline manic energy some of the competitors had on their faces and in their movements at the 1999 Camp Hollywood finals. I think what Stephen and Fancy had going for them, was the fact that they had that in this particular competition in addition to good technique.
The interesting struggle I notice now in the Collegiate Shag community is how to expand our repertoire of movements without losing the aesthetic of the dance, whether that be borrowing from Balboa/Lindy Hop or other dances. In addition the idea of sticking with double rhythm which is a very traditionalist view or expanding to “multrhythms” (Note: Formerly listed as “poly-rhythms”, see Ryan M’s comment below for clarification).
What I’ve seen in the last 10 years through my little clip scouring adventure is the assimilation and integration of vintage material and adding an individual touch to it. In the mid 2000’s I noticed people not just exactly copying Ray Hirsch’s material but slightly modifying it or creating their own entrances/exits out of it. I’ve also seen a considerable increase among the top level dancers of their ability to remain smooth regardless of tempos are complexity of movements.
Even though I spent a decent amount of time on this, I still feel it is a rushed assessment. Do any of you guys have thoughts on how the Shag community has evolved or is evolving?