You'll be a pro in no time.

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The Carolina Shag is the dance to know, whether it comes to Southern soirees or thrown-together beach parties. It’s a simple, quick, and social dance that makes sure no one is a stranger and everyone is having a great time. Now, it’s important to point out the basics for dancing the Shag and why it’s good to have it in your arsenal; but simple instruction doesn’t always cut it for overachieving Southern dancers. If we’re going to dance, we’re going to do it right.

Keeping in mind that there are endless variations in skill level, natural proclivity, and learning styles, here are some mistakes you don’t want to make if you’re dancing the Shag.

1. Keeping your head down.

It’s hard not to look down when you’re a beginner, but professionals will tell you that bad posture makes for fumbling feet. Keeping your head up and eyes forward will help your body move naturally, even if the steps don’t come easily quite yet.

2. Not knowing the most basic pattern by heart.

Get as creative with this dance as you want, but if you haven’t mastered the most basic steps, it’ll start looking more like a free-for-all than a Carolina Shag. The first thing you should learn for this dance is the “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six” pattern that will be your solid base.

3. Losing your time (and not knowing how to fix it).

Of course, timing is very important when it comes to any structured, or even semi-structured, dance because it keeps partners in sync, it gives the dance a tempo, and it makes for a pretty vision for those watching. If you get off track between your steps and the music, which is very common when learning this quick dance, it’s easiest to use the “rock step”—in this case, the “five-six” part of the basic pattern—to get yourself back in the rhythm and time.

4. Taking oversized steps.

This dance is quick and compact. Beginners often start taking larger steps after getting the hang of the basics (and getting a little excited about it), but that will only make you more prone for losing your timing and looking a little sloppy. While the Shag is fun and social, it’s not meant to look very spread-out or loose. Keep your steps small, and you’ll look like a pro.

5. Not minding those hands.

In the Carolina Shag, you’re only connected by one hand with your partner, at about arms’ length away. First of all, don’t let your free hand just lie limp by your side. It’s neither helpful nor looks very pleasing. Some suggest trying to keep it above the waist at all times. Secondly, there shouldn’t be any pushing or pulling with the hands that are holding the couple together. This is a dance, not tug-of-war. If the man is leading well and his partner has a basic grasp of the steps, the arms should be just a level connection, not a means of performing the dance.

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6. Letting your head get in the way.

Another good tip from experienced dancers? Don’t think too much. We know, easier said than done. But, this advice applies to beginners who should be focusing on just the basic steps, as well as to intermediate dancers who are throwing in other step combinations. Thinking too much about what your feet are doing leads to your head turning down to look at what your feet are doing, which leads to all sorts of other problems. Not to mention, you’ll have much more fun if you’re not thinking too hard about it!

7. Giving up or stopping on the dance floor.

This mistake says more about morale than anything. Don’t be afraid of looking silly or not getting the steps just right—at least you’re getting out there to have some fun and learn something new. It’s natural to have some foot fumbles, but try your best to recover as opposed to downright stopping. You’ll look natural and normal if you just do what feels right.

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