One of the issues I personally think shag has is the fact that it has no easy-to-learn, high-impact traditional dance to showcase the style and please the crowd. Well, as a dedicated shag and lindy dancer who’s worked on a number of team pieces in my life, and with the support of several NYC shaggers, I took on the project of coming up with one. I think we need a California routine like piece, except this isn’t California, and this ain't Lindy either, so enter “The Manhattan.”
The Manhattan Shag Routine project was designed around the following objectives.
1. EASY TO LEARN : It must be easy to learn with the structure of the dance taught in no more 2 hours to an intermediate level shagger. As many who do shag already know, micro connections, pulse variations or rhythm shifts can take months or longer to master. The Manhattan needs to be a piece of choreography for sequencing and outreach, not a tool to advance each individual shagger’s individual technical capability.
2. LEVERAGE WHAT EVERYBODY KNOWS: The Manhattan should sequence a good chunk of what shaggers already know together in a way that makes sense. There should be challenging pieces, but the dance should not be discouraging. I think it goes without saying that many take shag and learn a bunch of moves, but never learn or practice sequencing them together.
2. CHOREO TO FAVOR CHOREOGRAPHERS: The Manhattan must be ‘personalizable’ for choreographers. One of my favorite things about the California routine is any choreographer can take it, put it to music, and modify it fairly easily to match the crowd, the dancers, and the music.
3. RESPECT MANHATTAN ROOTS: Though it's not always used, the California routine has a standard song, Flyin’ Home. As the tribute to Manhattan, the “flyin’ home” song that we chose is Down South Camp Meetin’ by George Gee. George has been a staple of the NYC Shag Scene for quite a while. We tested the choreo with a few different songs including some rockabilly and a couple of other AABB songs, but like Flyin Home, there a few tiny places where the choreo will be more emphasized and crowd pleasing to the music. Still, just like the California routine to different music, it's really easy to modify the variation timing to make the Manhattan work with just about anything.
4. CROWD PLEASING STRUCTURE: The structure of the choreography needs to be crowd pleasing. In my opinion the greatest thing about the California routine is right at the beginning when everybody starts in closed and blasts into open at fast speeds. Or likewise in the Big Apple, everybody does flying charleston in a circle really covering ground. It’s all crowd pleasing, that’s why we often use these pieces of choreography for impromptu performances. We tried several different movements and placements to create the same feeling in the Manhattan.
5. TRADITIONAL BASE SHAG MOVEMENTS AND PATTERNS: The basic choreography should be traditional. Yes, there are visionary shaggers out there who can carry a show just fine, and I would hope they would partner up with strong dancers do to the Manhattan anyway.
6. FREE / TAKE IT: Just like the California routine has become, the Manhattan was designed entirely around the concept giving it away for the benefit of performance. Anybody who watches this should free to take all the movements and patterns, teach it, perform it, whatever works best for the scene. Our goal was only to create something that we and others can use to perform and share shag in an attempt to gain new blood, increase visibility and be inclusive to those who want to be involved with shag.
7. BEGINNERS AND ADVANCED CAN DANCE TOGETHER : Performances give more experienced dancers a surge of energy, and with a fairly fast routine like this, they're probably going to want to get down and funky. The structure of the choreo was designed in almost all areas to allow more advanced dancers to really branch out with style. It can be done entirely without variation, or it can contain some of the variations we have. (Like the heel-toe / bicycle kick can simply be an open basic, the hangman can simply be a jig kick or even a 90 degree basic in closed.) Totally new dancers can just do basics and get on the floor. Advanced dancers can vary and inspire. And of course, there's a jam section, and that's where individual couples can really shine with their own style, or demonstrate their regional style.
8. ASSUME A CHOREOGRAPHER WILL WANT TO CREATEA UNIQUE ENDING: To really seal the show, just like any other group piece, a choreographer will probably make the group come together at the end if nothing else, but for an ending pose. As this was created, we always assumed endings would be just as diverse choreographly creative as we've seen with the California.
9. LOTS OF 'ONE OF THESE' MORE ADVANCED MOVEMENTS: This piece was designed to have as many 'one of these things' as it can. There's a timing change, a level change, a flourish for the crowd, a highly compressed free spin, a single count pulse removal, a QQ lead out, etc. Sure, there could have been a lot more 'one of these' types of things in there, but each of these individual elements is complex enough and time is a constraint.
Special thanks to Jaime Shannon, Taylor Brandon, and Megan from the 212 Shag Masters for constant discussion and concept review.
Special thanks to NYC Shaggers Eryck Kratville, Andrew Fleming, Elizabeth Barabas, and Allyson Kabak for running so many different permutations until we came up with this piece of footage.
Special thanks to George Gee for allowing us to use his song.
Choreography for The Manhattan
2X spinning double shag basics (clockwise) -- movement towards downstage. Leader should start facing stage right, both basics should end with leader facing stage right.
2X counts of flee hop timing -- starting in closed facing stage right and ending in closed facing stage left.
2X spinning double shag basics (counter clockwise)
2X cross kicks (double shag versions) Leader faces downstage.
2x quad rhythm (8 counts) worth of half moon variations. Leader faces downstage.
2X double shag basics modified to be similar to a shag walk around, except ending in open with chests to the audience.
2x Log Rolls in open position
2x Heel / Toe variations on SS, with bycicle kick on the QQ.
1X tranition -- Heel/toe but qq is a forward slide. (this is a common QQ variation best practiced in normal timing. )
2X jig kicks -- second jig kick is a forward to back hangman.
1X slightly rotating outside free turn into jockey
2X wave kicks
(Collegiate Kicks Sequence -- 3X 6 counts)
-- Kick/Double Kick (six counts)
--Double Kick / Double Kick (eight counts)
--Down / Up (hold remove pulse on down, remove pulse on up)
2X outside turns (the ZM turn looks better but is considerably more difficult)
1X Down Up. Note -- our group all thinks it is easier to put the pulse back in on the up -- thus you will see a double hop in the vieo.
(QQ lead out sequence)
-- 1X basic in closed position spinning counter clockwise.
-- S/S following same direction as previous basic. Leader note, these two slows should end with the leader looking upstage right for a straight QQ lead out.
--QQS lead out down stage left. Follower reaches limit of extension on end of S
--SQQ leader brings follower straight back in on second slow and QQ. Leader lets follower pass under left hand and catches follower energy and turns it into a clockwise spin.
1X basic in a clockwise direction.
1X Long double basic (SSQQQQ) rhythm double outside turn. Be sure to finish the SS facing downstage right and lead the double turn in place to make it easier for the follower to execute the turn.
Final Sequence :
First 8 (guys) : Kick ball change, plant. (like four count scissor kick) Plant on four. Slap your right foot into your left bringing your left foot up for a high kick and move downstage left. Land the left foot on seven.
Second 8 (girls) : Kick Ball Change plant (pivot though to prep for the turn.) Change weight to right foot and spin clockwise. Land by on seven.
Third 8 (both) : Guys and girls do the same kick ball change plant as their sections, except they end hand to hand. Girls do the same turn on 4-7. guys do a similar clockwise turn ending on seven with weight on whatever foot is necessary to star the prep for the Fouth 8.
Fourth 8 ( shoulder pop or kinckerbocker entry back flip.)
And now Jam!