News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Boogie down in the ‘Burg
BY CRAIG SCHULIN
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
It’s Thursday night. Why aren’t you shagging?
Each week the members of Battlefield Boogie Club get together to show off their moves and share in the camaraderie that comes with shag dancing Carolina-style.
“There is this good feeling that permeates throughout the group,” said Wes Kirchner, the club’s president.
Kirchner, 61, had never danced until he and his wife decided to check out shag dancing eight years ago.
“We are a very welcoming group of people who are very encouraging of one another and new members,” said Kirchner.
Shag dancing in the Carolinas and what people would eventually call beach music started in the 1940s.
White teenagers who were living in the racially divided Carolinas were listening or wanted to listen to what was then called “race music.” That was more than just frowned upon by their parents and older members of white society.
The music they wanted to hear and boogie to was rhythm and blues.
Along the segregated Carolina coast, this could be found only in African–American clubs and informal hotspots called juke joints.
But it didn’t take long for the music to make its way to the white beaches. The demand was too great.
“These were [white] kids that wanted to be cool,” said John Hook, a Charlotte, N.C., DJ and author who specializes in beach music and its history and culture.
Hook has written extensively on the topic, describing how people like Malcolm “Chicken” Hicks and Jim Hannah brought the music and the dancing to a wider audience.
“Kids would drive hundreds of miles to get it,” said Hicks.
The beach music and shagging craze eventually made its way up the coast to Virginia, where it is still very alive alive today.
There are currently nine shag clubs around the state, all of which belong to the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs.
The ACSC serves as a focal point for the more than 200 shag dance clubs in the Southeast, helping to coordinate activities among groups and sponsoring events in which all its members can participate.
The Battlefield Boogie Club, which has been around since 2004, currently has more than 60 members.
Audrey Borja is one of the founders and past presidents.
She and her husband had been members of the Northern Virginia shag group when the couple, a few friends and DJ Jim Rose got to talking about forming a club in Fredericksburg.
“We went through the hoops: getting a member club to sponsor us, setting up a newsletter, establishing bylaws, and we found a place where could get together and dance,” said Borja.
And dancing is the common element shared them all.
“It really is,” said Jewell Pradier, the club’s line dance instructor and a member since the beginning.
“We have a great group who have bonded because of their love of dancing, and who are so open to sharing it with anyone that wants to be part of it,” said Pradier.
Newcomers are always welcome to the group’s weekly gatherings at Shannon’s Bar and Grille.
Free lessons dance lessons are given at the start of the night and the simplicity of the beginner level makes it easy for the inexperienced to jump right in and dance the night away.
Twice a year, once in the spring and then the fall, members of the Battlefield Boogie Club make a pilgrimage of sorts to North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
Over the years the area became the center for shag dancing culture.
The two big events draw thousands.
“It’s like the best-kept secret on the East Coast. It’s a huge party where everyone is there to just have a good time,” said Kirchner.
And dance, of course.
Battlefield Boogie Club
Where: Shannon’s Bar & Grille, 2801 Plank Road, Fredericksburg
When: Every Thursday, 7–10 p.m., dance lesson 7:30–8:15 p.m. (no partner required)
Craig Schulin: 540/374-5403