ROCKINGHAM — Howard Cannon has been dancing and teaching dance since 1960 and now offers shagging lessons at The Hive Recreation Center on Mill Road.
Sarah Furguson, “queen bee” of The Hive, said reception has been good since shag was added to the center’s growing list of activities five weeks ago.
“We’re up to about five regular couples now,” Furguson said.
Shag, one of North Carolina’s two official state dances, surged in popularity along the coast of the Carolinas in the 1940s. A descendent of swing dancing, shag is a more relaxed offshoot of the style and is performed to beach music, a distinctive variation of rhythm and blues.
“We’ve got three couples that have really progressed a lot faster than I originally thought they would,” Cannon said. “But the whole purpose of this is just to teach the basic steps to the dance. It’s all about having a good time and enjoying yourself.”
Monica Terry, 24, learned about the class on Facebook. She knew her future father-in-law was interested in learning the dance, so she called him up. Now she and her fiancé, Bryan Hancock, both attend the classes along with Hancock’s parents.
“He (Cannon) is such a great teacher,” Terry said. “He makes this so much fun.”
“I really enjoy the small class size,” Hancock said. “It makes it easier to learn, and you get more direct instruction.”
Leanna and Allen Hancock said they always wanted to learn and even experimented a little on their own, but never really knew how to shag before joining Cannon’s class.
Scott Tucker and his dance partner, Tonya Eto, have also been part of the class since week one. Tucker said he learned about it on Facebook and posted that he was looking for someone to buddy up with for shagging. Eto took the bait.
“I came in here last week after dropping a galvanized pipe on my foot,” Tucker said. “That’s how much fun this is. He (Cannon) is really amazing. This class is a good time, but it’s also great for stress.”
“You live down here where everybody shags and you want to know how to do it,” Eto said. “It’s fun.”
Eto added that she and Tucker were Facebook friends before the class and it was easy for them to team up since they were both interested.
“The most important thing I want to teach them is confidence,” Cannon said. “So many people go down to the beach and hear the music and just stand there and watch. I want people to realize they can do it and not be afraid.”
He said a confident dancer can dance with any partner.
Terry and Hancock took their instruction out into the world early for a test-spin.
“We actually went to the OD (Ocean Drive) Pavillion and danced a little several weeks ago,” Terry said. “We didn’t stay too long, but we danced while we were there. We did it.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673.