I have this passion for a rare form of swing dancing called Collegiate Shag. I sincerely think I may be one of the few who truly appreciate this dance right down to my core. What's it like to have such a passion? Well, it's wonderful and rough at the same time.
It's wonderful that there are a select few others out there that share my passion. We sort of clump together here in the New York City scene, birds of feather and all that. I've spent many hours in the studio with them just practicing, working on the craft, practicing like there's no tomorrow, sacrificing, and just generally giving it everything I have. It's been the most rewarding journey into swing dancing I think I've ever taken and I'm grateful to have the ability to do it. I am also greatful to have the support of my friends and family on this passion, my wife who understands I have to do it, my partners Shannon and Jen who have tried to pick up my style, and the several students who've repeatedly come to the classes I've taught at Dance Manhattan and around the city.
It's rough because the American swing dance environment itself is changing. To me, shag tends to be easier to do to music that has more of a constant downbeat, like say to jump blues or rock and role style swing music of the late 40's and early 50's, or perhaps the modern versions of similar beats like those from Big Six, even a good old fashioned swing tune with a good base line like many from Basie, Benny Goodman, or Bill Elliot. All around me though, I'm seeing socially danced music infusing more and more into the categories of charleston-like or groovy. At least to me, regardless of speed, to me these two styles of music do not easily lend themselves to the collegiate style. When I hear charleston, I want to do charleston. And when I hear groovy, I want to use channel it with musical lindy hop. Forcing groovy shag to come out, at least to me, just doesn't work.
Where does that leave Shag? Like Balboa and Lindy Hop, maybe shag itself will change to fit the music too. Or, perhaps as people say, it'll all come back around. I hear it's making a huge impact in certain cities that aren't NYC, but we'll see about all that here in NYC. Heck, with all spots I'll be showing the style over the next year, perhaps that alone will create at least exploratory interest within our local community. I guess we'll see what we see.
Either way I've never been able to shake this passion so you can bet Collegiate Shag will be alive and well in the Fraser household.