A Serious Post

In recent weeks, several very upsetting stories of sexual assault by a highly regarded international teacher have hit the swing dance scene. This is the second such incident in the past year, and it is time for us to discuss it here.

The Collegiate Shag family is lovely, and we share a responsibility for keeping it that way and supporting our fellow dancers. Bullying of any sort - whether sexual, physical, or emotional will not be tolerated. 

At Shag Pile we promise:

  • Not to hire teachers with a history of unacceptable behaviour.
     

  • To treat everyone attending our classes with respect.
     

  • To eject anyone acting in an unacceptable manner.
     

  • To listen to everybody’s concerns and to act appropriately.
     

  • To treat all messages seriously and in the strictest confidence.
     

  • To respond to your suggestions.


In return, we would ask people attending our events to please:

  • Consider the impact your behaviour (whether deliberate or accidental) can have on others. Be aware of your fellow dancers’ comfort, and consider what you can do to keep things lovely.
     
  • Speak up if someone makes you uncomfortable, for whatever reason. One testimony can help prevent others from suffering. You can talk to any of our teachers, or you can write to shaglondon@gmail.com
     
  • Listen seriously if someone tells you something, and act appropriately. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone else.
     
  • Pay attention. If you see or hear something that doesn't seem quite right, talk to someone.
     
  • Don’t let someone’s aura of ‘status’ or ‘seniority’ affect your decision-making. 
    If a teacher does something bad, speak up.
     
  • Consider your choice of words and who you are talking to when asking for a dance. Shag lends itself to innuendo which may not be funny to everyone.
     

On refusing a dance:

  • In general, refusing a dance without good reason can be hurtful, so be generous with your dances, especially with beginners. 
     
  • However, if someone makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to dance with them, and you don’t have to give a reason why. 
     
  • A simple 'No thank you' should suffice. 
     
  • If you're in class and you don't want to dance with someone in rotation, this is a sign that the issue should be confronted ASAP. Step out of rotation, and let us know your feelings in a break.
     
  • If someone says ‘no’ to you, respect that decision and consider what you can do to make them feel more at ease. 
     
  • For example, some people prefer not to dance up close and personal – this is an acceptable choice, so find a distance which is comfortable for both of you, or stop dancing.

 

Notes

As you will appreciate, this is an extremely sensitive subject, so this piece took some time to write. If you would like to use any or all of this message for your own purposes, please feel free.

We want Shag Pile to be as supportive an environment as possible, and we regard this statement as a work in progress, to be honed over time, so we appreciate your suggestions. Thank you also to those who have contributed so far.

Keep it lovely,

The Shag Pile team.

Dirty Dancing and Diegesis

Photo: Luke Harcourt for Future Cinema    http://lukeharcourt.com

Photo: Luke Harcourt for Future Cinema    http://lukeharcourt.com

Last week a few of the Shag Pile crew were lucky enough to be asked by Swing Patrol London  to dance at a special screening of Dirty Dancing. Curated by Secret Cinema, the event saw five thousand people gather in a field in East London to be thoroughly immersed in the world of the film, with sets, activities, food, drink and entertainments themed to the movie. We helped kick start the evening by dancing to soul, r'n'b, rock 'n' roll and calypso in the 'staff quarters' before being joined by 'Johnny' and 'Penny', who thoroughly outclassed us with an impromptu performance taken directly from the film.

The event was a huge success; - there's nothing quite like being in a sea of women screaming for Patrick Swayze's oiled torso - and for me it was a long overdue chance to see what the fuss was about - apart from Patrick Swayze's oiled torso. There was just one thing which had me puzzled for the following week.

'Dr. Shag' doing the rounds with the juniors.

'Dr. Shag' doing the rounds with the juniors.

(I've Had) The Time of My Life

Even those of us who had reached adulthood without seeing the film knew the ending, which is pretty much common knowledge, given both the 'wish fulfilment fantasy' genre, and the fact that it was spoiled in the music video before anyone saw it anyway: The couple overcome their problems and defy social norms to come together in heterosexual union and jubilantly dance to '(I've Had) The Time of My Life' - hereafter 'IHTTOML'.

What I hadn't realised before, and what puzzled me hugely, is this: The film is set in 1963. At the beginning of the scene, a record is placed on the turntables, the needle drops, and woomph: 'IHTML’ plays. The couple dance, everyone joins in, fade out, happy end.

IHTTOML? WTF? 

Dirty Dancing was released in 1987, as was the number one smash hit power ballad it features.
Up until the end of their story, the characters have been firmly rooted in their world of 1963, so surely there's no way they can be hearing what we're hearing? But if so, how come they're dancing in time with the beat and joining in with the words? What on earth is going on?
Has someone used a DeLorean to transport a copy of 'IHTTOML' back in time?

I was perplexed. This deliberate anachronism bothered me. Why had they messed up the end of the film like this? Was it deliberate? The questions kept resurfacing for the following days, so I had a read, had a think, and came up with the theory you're about to read.

Setting the Scene

The movie begins with slow motion, black and white footage of people dancing to 'Be My Baby'. The effect is a nostalgic, like looking through an old photo album, or hearing a familiar old song on the radio - which is what it turns out to be, as a radio announcer cues up the next track, and the action cuts to the interior of a car. [Aside: Pulp Fiction pulls a very similar trick - is Tarantino a Dirty Dancing fan?] An opening voiceover sets up the plot: 'Baby' is off with her family to a holiday camp in the Catskills - and for sexual awakening amongst the pines...

Diegesis

This opening sequence sets up an important concept that will come into play down the line: the difference between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Brief definitions:

  • Diegetic sound comes from within the movie world. 
  • Non-Diegetic sound is overlaid on the movie world.

In the opening scene, we hear diegetic sound from the car radio:
We then hear non-diegetic commentary on the story from the unseen narrator.

This sets up the relationship between audience and action that will continue throughout the movie. We're looking into the past through the magic mirror of the cinema screen, and this separation between now and then, here and there is made clear in the use of music.

Diegetic

Characters living within the world of the film hear only era-appropriate diegetic music: for example, when Baby approaches the Staff Quarters from a distance we hear faint music: as she gets closer the music gets louder but remains muffled by double doors, filmed square on to form a 'wall' at the back of the screen. We're hearing what she's hearing. Then - boom; the conveniently-wide-format-doors crash open revealing the room beyond the back wall of the cinema, the music fills our ears, Baby walks through the portal, the camera walks through behind her, and we are both engulfed. Lighting plays its part too - where the lighting outside was chilly and naturalistic, inside the light is hot reds, pinks and oranges. Baby has passed through the proscenium arch into the forbidden, sexual space of the dancers, and we have dropped deeper into the fantasy with her. 

Billy pushes open the doors with his watermelons.

Billy pushes open the doors with his watermelons.

Non-Diegetic

Non-diegetic music plays in the world outside the story of the film during a couple of montage sequences. On these occasions, the action is compressed, and music smooths what might otherwise feel uncomfortably choppy editing. 
Whilst thematically and emotionally appropriate, these non-diegetic pieces are resoundingly magnificent '80s power ballads. Songs like 'Hungry Eyes' work to reinforce our separation from the time and space of the action, and remind us that we are looking back at the past as older, wiser individuals. These ballads are themselves now period pieces, which makes them feel more jarring than perhaps they did when the film was released. The music helps transport a contemporary adult audience back to the time when they first saw the film as part of the target tween-age demographic. 

The Grand Finale

So, with that digested, back to the end of the film. 
Can we use our digression about diegesis to clarify anything? 

Let's briefly rewind to the beginning of the film:
At first, when 'Be My Baby' plays, we are led to believe we are hearing non-diegetic music. In fact, it can't possibly be diegetic, or it would be slowed down to match the stock footage. Then the radio announcer crashes in, revealing that yes, we are hearing diegetic music from the car radio in the next scene. This blending of diegetic-and non-diegetic music is trans-diegetic - we are moved from an external viewpoint looking back at the past to an internal one inhabiting the past.
The technique draws us smoothly out of our time and transitions into the time-frame of the film.

Once again, back to the ending.
Johnny shows up in the hall, takes Baby from the corner, and the stage is cleared for the resolution of their story. The camera ducks offstage and watches as 'Billy' makes such an elaborate show of popping  a record on that he has difficulty helping Jonny with his leather jacket. IHTTOML fades up... and the walls between past and present that have been reinforced throughout the film collapse. 

DJ Billy - spin that tune!

DJ Billy - spin that tune!

The people within the story - the happy couple, fellow dancers, and patrons - hear the same trans-diegetic music as the cinema-going audience, as proven by Mr. Kellerman's incredulous "You have sheet music of this stuff?".
At the opening of the film, the viewer was pulled into the past:
As the film closes, the cast is pulled into the present. 

The result?  Their victory becomes our victory! We share the resolution of the film with them, and enjoy their barrier-shattering unification in an inclusive way.

The breakdown of boundaries is underlined by Johnny jumping off the stage into the audience. (Note that as he jumps, the film shifts into slow motion, but the music continues at normal, non-diegetic speed.) This leap is a literal representation of all the boundaries that have been broken: between performers and patrons, working class and upper-middle class, gentiles and jews, bad boys and good girls, and vitally, breaking the boundary between fiction and our reality.
The leap doesn't just propel him into his audience - he leaps towards the viewer, through the fourth wall and into the space of the cinema going audience, strutting down the aisle, first framed by the audience in the film, then (as he stands up in close-up) by the audience in the cinema auditorium. The frame of the film is further blurred by two layers of arches at the back of the stage:

 

Geronimo! Note the frame-within-a-frame, blurring the borders of the screen, similarly to the previous 'staff quarters' scene.

Geronimo! Note the frame-within-a-frame, blurring the borders of the screen, similarly to the previous 'staff quarters' scene.

 

At the very end of the film, the action freezes (in the past) and we are left with the slowly fading music - their story is over, ours goes on. 

Closing Thoughts

I wasn't expecting much more from Dirty Dancing than an enjoyable bit of fluff - and whilst it succeeds admirably at this, I certainly wasn't expecting it to provoke an essay. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and that you would agree that genre movies can contain plenty of food for thought. A lot of very clever, talented people sweat blood to make films, and think very carefully about every element of the production. An audience may not consciously notice all the choices that the filmmakers have made, but this care is absorbed on a deeper level, and makes for a rewarding film that stands up well to repeat viewing. The audience is left with a smile on its face, a spring in its step, and something more to think about than Patrick Swayze's oiled torso. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

 

Huge thanks once again to Rebecca G for booking us, and Swing Patrol London for having us as part of your gang for the evening.
We had the life of our times.
No, hang on... 

Oh alright - one last clip:
This is what happens when you remove music - diegetic or otherwise.
Genius.



Further reading:
Is Dirty Dancing a Musical?
The Multiple Modes of Dirty Dancing.

 

P.S.
I was trying to think of other examples of trans-diegetic sound with someone who works with Ridley Scott - I suddenly remembered the scene in Blade Runner; The camera floats through an apartment as we're enjoying the soupy score, then pans to reveal the protagonist absent-mindedly playing along with the score on his piano - the trans-diegetic collapse diegetic boundaries here standing in for a woozy dream state, and mirroring the collapse of his identity. Can you offer any other examples?

Shindigs Without Shin-digs

- or - Safety on the Social Dance Floor.

Recently here at Shag Towers, we've overheard dancers saying four delightful words: 'Shag's taking over London!' Since we exist to spread the love of Shag, we're chuffed to bits to hear this, and even more thrilled to see it at nights across town.
With Shag becoming a fixture on social dance floors, we should all be promoting a culture of behaving responsibly towards ourselves, our partners, fellow dancers, and bystanders. This begins with floorcraft!

What is floorcraft? A mixture of instinct, common sense, and learned skills. 
Floorcraft involves spatial awareness, visual awareness, and proprioception - 'the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement'. It's the same trick that enables you to negotiate a crowded bar of bodies without spilling a drop of your cocktail of choice. 

Truly great dancers have great floorcraft, but the ninja nature of the skill means that it is necessarily very hard for others to see when it is being employed. Many dancers who want to raise their level therefore focus on learning the more visible expressions of greatness such as moves and styling; however, if you can improve your floor craft, you'll become a better, more popular, and above all safer dancer. 

In order to promote good floorcraft, we've compiled this list of common sense tips and techniques. The principles of each point apply across many social dance forms, but we'll add in a few shag-centric comments. So - let's begin!

1. Style it small

Performance dancing and social dancing are very different animals.
Many favourite dance videos are culled from contests, where superstar couples are given a wide stage on which to let rip with huge kicks and expansive hand gestures. By comparison, we spend most of our time dancing on the social floor, where space is limited, and big moves can be risky.

Selected dances including Balboa and Shag are more obviously 'small', than others, but the potential for a prang remains. In Shag, for example, 'Arthur Murray' styling is often danced with heels are lifted high behind us. This is obviously dangerous on a crowded floor, so it is sensible to use alternative footwork, such as the 'curtsey', where one foot is tucked behind the other.

A great example of small shag can be seen in one of our favourite social dance clips, from the film 'Marihuana - the Devil's Weed' - check it out below. 
In Lindy Hop, swing outs can be enormous, but they can equally be kept neat and precise. If the floor is crowded, reduce the length of those swing outs or stick to close hold. Think about what your limbs are doing. Backward donkey kicks might feel good on your end, but not on someone else's. Similarly, you might have seen a favourite dancer flourish their arm in a rainbow sweep with oh-so-much grace - try it on the social floor and you're likely to slap someone in the kisser.

Of course, if there is absolutely no space to dance, see if you can find another spot, rearrange the furniture, or consider sitting it out until the next song.

Remember: Good tunes are like trains - there'll be another along in 3 minutes.

2. Restrict the Moves

Lead only those moves that are appropriate to the space available, and treat this as a creative constraint on your dancing. Social dancing isn't about showing off and performing to an audience - it's about having fun with a dance partner. A space constraint can lead to some interesting variations on moves you already know, or help you refine your styling.
As we've said before, stay in close hold if necessary, and if some space opens up on the floor, consider about how you might use it... and how you might have to retreat from it. Learn how to adapt a move half-way through should that space get swallowed up.  

Many people single out Tandem Charleston as a particular problem on the social dance floor, as it encourages leaders to make hefty backwards kicks (see also points 1 & 3). Again - consider your options before leading big moves which require kicks and reduce your line of sight. 

This should go without saying, but Aerials are for performance ONLY!
Nobody should ever perform an aerial on the social floor, even if they are experts dancing with experts - think of the example it sets to less able / foolhardier / drunker souls around you. Those film clips of 'social dancing'? Choreographed. And while we're at it, 'That' lift in Dirty Dancing is directly responsible for a string of cracked ribs, broken pelvises, and realigned noses. 

"Well I've... had... the time of my liiiiaaaaaaa!

"Well I've... had... the time of my liiiiaaaaaaa!

 3. Shinkickers

In dancing we occasionally hit a problem with terminology. 
The second most problematic term (after Shag) is Kick.
The 'kick' most people are used to is the sort designed to hoof a ball down a sports field. 
The dance version of a 'kick' is used to accentuate hits in the music, to propel our own bodies, and to swish through the air. The energy remains within us and sustains us through the dance.

Many teachers refer to 'kicks' as 'pumps', 'swings' or similar for greater clarity and to avoid confusion; thinking this way helps us direct energy down into the floor rather than out into the crowd. Dance-kicking in a contained, 'inward' way means that even if a foot does happen to connect with another dancer, it does so softly and won't cause injury. Again, Flying Charleston is simply not appropriate for a crowded dance floor, so explore the alternatives. 

In Shag, one basic step is the 'step kick' or 'hold kick'. The illusion is that we're hoofing forwards with our free leg, where in actual fact we use our pulse to slip backwards on our standing leg; counterintuitively, the energy is going backwards and not forwards.
We can again add choices to our repertoire; do we want to kick forward, sideways, down, or not at all? 

Gooooooal!

Gooooooal!

4. Awareness

Dance floor clashes can come at you from any direction, so it's a good idea to develop that 'spidey sense' and keep an eye on the surrounding activity.
Where are the other dancers? What sort of moves are they doing? Are there any wonky floorboards or drunken revellers to avoid?
Leads - our partners are often unable to see where they are going, so be sure to look where you're sending them before you lead the move, and be ready to redirect or change plan mid-stream if the space changes.
Follows - you need to trust your partner, but they won't be able to see every hazard, so keep an eye open, as you may have to slam on the brakes at any moment. 

5. Footwear

Pointy heels and metal tipped shoes... well really.

Jesus god no.

Jesus god no.

6. Sorry!

If there's a possibility that a crash was your fault, suck it up and apologise.
Nobody wants to hear excuses - just keep it to a simple 'sorry' and check everyone is okay. Dance is a game we play together, so if your partner has clattered into someone, it could well be because of something you did. Don't let them apologise on your behalf. 

7. Remedy

If you find yourself involved in an incident, seek to understand what has happened and why. Consider what you could have done to avoid it; the answer may well be contained in one of the points above.
If another party is fully to blame, and you feel able to intervene, you might want to point them in the direction of this post. If the situation is serious, you may need to explain what happened to the event organiser. 

Anecdote: The year before last I was at a dance and found myself being kicked in the ankle. Looking around, the culprit was both obvious and oblivious. Since the tune had just started, the simplest remedy was to moved to the other side of the dance floor, and since Shag is so mobile this was easy to do. A few bars later I was being kicked in the ankle again - by the same person! They had been bouncing around every part of the dance floor in pursuit of their good time, at the expense of everyone else's. And this is what it comes down to: good floorcraft shows you care for the welfare of others.

 

8. Floor. Craft.

BONUS EXTRA CONTENT FOR 2017!

The clue is in the name - use the space available on the dance floor.
Take a look before you ask for or accept a dance. If the floor is full, you and your partner might have to be patient, sit the next dance out and wait. Don’t be offended if someone declines for this reason: instead, enjoy the time you have together before some space appears.

Doorways, corridors, thoroughfares, and bar access points are not dance floors. If the space is inherently tiny and you can’t help but dance in a gangway, keep an eye on people as they pass through. Show respect to all patrons, and especially to staff; everyone is equally important to the atmosphere of the venue. Although dancing may make us feel special, it doesn’t raise our status above those who wish to socialise, stand, sit or watch. Show you respect them by staying out of their personal space and letting them pass if they need to, and they will in turn respect you by watching you dance, and waiting for an appropriate moment to pass by.

Another anecdote:
I learnt to dance in class, but learnt floorcraft the hard way in a midninght-til-morning strip joint turned rockabilly bar. Punters were a mix of fledgling dancers like me, rockabillies, strippers, east end geezers, drinkers and hipsters looking to keep the party going til dawn. It got messy. People crashed into us as we danced. The stakes were well defined: whilst alcohol did its job to minimise the impact of any bumps, we still had a serious responsibility not to spill drinks or trip people up. If the squash got too much we stopped dancing, but if a patch of sticky carpet opened up then we'd leap on it. Somehow it all worked beautifully. 
 

Conclusions

This blog post emerged almost fully formed as a reply to a friend's wonderful recent Facebook rant about having the sh*t kicked out of her by experienced dance performers at a social event. Thanks to Harley for the prompt, and thanks to the Shag Pile crew for their input and feedback. Thanks to Alex F for the nudge on point 8.
But what do you think? We'd love to hear any thoughts and comments below!

PS - While you're here, check out our last post on a related topic: sweatiquette.
PPS - Find us on Facebook!

 

 

Sweatiquette: Moisture Management for Dancers

It's time to raise an important, if sensitive subject: 

Sweat.

We all do it - some barely at all, some more than others, some like monsoon season in Calcutta. In the right situation, a bit of sweat can be downright alluring. Just - not on the dance floor. However much we sweat, for the sake of our dance partners, it’s best if we can keep it under control.

Shag can be highly aerobic, and is often danced in an enclosed, poorly cooled environment. This leads to an increase in body temperature and consequent increase in humidity. 
Shag is also danced in close hold meaning the risk of sweat transfer from damp partner to dry partner is high.

Luckily for us and our clothes, the finest minds in science have been studying the field and have developed some handy techniques to keep things in check. Let’s review the options, shall we?

 

1. Use an effective anti-perspirant

A good antiperspirant forms the first line of defence. There are lots to choose from - sprays, roll-ons, crystals… all tried and tested means of minimising sweat. It doesn't have to have a ship on the bottle, and it doesn't need to be scented - its purpose is to stem the flow of mammal-water.

Now, you may prefer to shun the antiperspirant family and let nature take its course, in which case the following points become all the more important...

Thanks to Patrick for modelling.

Thanks to Patrick for modelling.

2. Layer it up

At the Savoy Ballroom back in the ‘30s, all male dancers were required to wear a jacket, keeping sweat on the inside (photo at bottom of page).

Now, we’re not the Savoy, but we can recommend wearing a minimum of two layers of clothing. Whilst it may seem paradoxical, a breathable undershirt actually keeps you cooler than you would be if you were wearing a single layer, by allowing air to circulate. Or something. Ask a physicist. Anyway, an undershirt also absorbs any sweat before it hits an outer layer of clothing - or a partner’s hand - and gives it a chance to evaporate harmlessly.

 

 

 

3. Know where your towel is

Keep control of the droplets with a handy little towel. Rather than lug an enormous beach towel around, you may prefer to have one or two facecloths tucked in strategic pockets, much as you might conceal a handkerchief. A discreet dab and - ping! Fresh as a daisy. Muji make natty little pinstripe facecloths - I like them. 

 

4. Quick Change

Even with antiperspirants, undershirts, and towels in place, It's not always possible to keep the waters at bay all night long. In this case, bring a spare top layer or two. When you start to feel damp, take a break, change shirts, and return to the party refreshed and looking fabulous!

 

5. Scents and sensibility

Most dancers sweat so freely that their pores are clean and free from smell However, it's nicer to dance with someone who smells nice, so why not invest in some scent?
A good scent will last all night, as will your partners.

 

6. Breathe freely

What did you have for lunch? Thai? I thought so.

Either brush your teeth before dancing, or have a quick chew on a piece of gum. We might think our breath smells ok - but that's for our partners to judge. Keep the breath fresh, and keep smiling!

 

7. Keep hydrated

The only way to stop sweating completely is to stop drinking - a technique used by some professional dancers before a performance.

Unless you enjoy total organ failure, or are interested to know what it feels like to have kidney stones, this is a very BAD IDEA!
Make sure to keep yourself topped up with water throughout the night.

Thanks again to Patrick for modelling

Thanks again to Patrick for modelling

A facecloth, yesterday.

A facecloth, yesterday.

A lovely deadstock shirt

A lovely deadstock shirt

An average night out

An average night out

Mopping up
What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips or thoughts you'd like to share?
Leave a comment below!

Shag Pile - Review of 2015

by Peter - 31 January 2015

Hey folks - so 2015 is almost out, I thought It'd be a good moment to write up some personal highlights of the Year In Shag!
This post is based on my leaky memories, so I’ve probably made some significant omissions. 
We’d love to hear your highlights, so please leave a comment!


The year began as usual in January with a trip to Paris Balboa Shag Festival to teach with the multi-talented Fancy Dougherty.
The festival was great fun - very compact, with a superb venue, swingin' bands, and an enthusiastic bunch of shagsters. Plus it was very easy to get there thanks to Eurostar! I was honoured to be on the bill alongside Fancy, Moe, Vincenzo and more.

February was bursting with highlights:
The main event was Rock That Swing festival, where bunch of Shag Pilers performed as part of Steve & Chanzie's 'Euroshag' team. The venue was the enormous Deutches Theater, and the event was hugely popular, coming as it does at the end of the Munich ball season. 

It was more than a little nerve wracking to be performing in front of European shag maestros including festival organisers Markus & Barbl, and legendary old-time shag dancer Ray Hirsch, who danced at the event sadly died in August aged 94. After the performance, a bunch of us including Patrick & Gotcha threw our hats in the ring and took part in the Shag Battle - and Aila and I were surprised and delighted to win!

The trip to Munich was swiftly followed by a first-ever UK visit from St Louis Shag flag-bearers Christian Frommelt & Jenny Shirar. The duo have been doing great things to rekindle interest in this fun dance which resembles 'our' Shag more in name than in style. A decent sized group came along to Kingsley Hall and were given a masterclass in SLS. On the second day, Christian & Jenny led us through their version of Lindy Hop; 'St Louis Jitterbug'. This distinctive styling involves lots of three wall swing outs. We're looking forward to C&J's next UK visit!

What happened in March?
I have no idea.
Seriously.

Moving on, April saw not one, but two masterclasses with London-based shag legend Moe Sakan! We're chuffed to have a shagster of Moe's standing in London and will definitely be getting her back for more in the New Year.

The highlight of May was our residency at On The Gardens, at which we introduced Shag to an unsuspecting public. The event was so popular we were invited back for more in September.

May also gave a few of us the opportunity to strut our stuff in the Fast and Furious division of the London Swing Festival. On top of the fun of competing, we got to meet and dance with US shagsters Katy Alexander and Irina Amzashvili.

In June Shag Pile turned one year old! We celebrated with a party at the Gallery Cafe, joined by Greco-Roman Gypsy Jazz faves 'Gyps'N'Progress'. I made a cake.*

*I bought a cake and cut out some marzipan letters.

One high point of the month was this rooftop shag up above the streets of Soho! Chim Chimmeree!

July is holiday season, and it was lovely to see Shag being supported at Hep Cats' Holiday.... 

...and to see Shag Pilers Florence and Sasha making the news at Swing Crash in Como, Italy!

In August we welcomed another international guest teacher, this time all the way from Athens - the lovely, enthusiastic and talented Mariangela!

Following the fun of our birthday party in June, we started regular shag social Cut a Rug. The event runs every other month, with the first of 2016 on the 12th of February - mark your diaries!

September was sadly notable for the sad loss of Ray Hirsch.
Ray is a big figure in Shag due to the well known clips of him dancing with partner Patty Lacy. Ray always referred to himself as a 'Swing Dancer' - the delineations between different styles didn't matter so much as the energy you put into feeling the music and doing your thing on the floor. I love this attitude, as it's kind of what got me into swing dancing in the first place. There's a longer story to tell there in another post.

On a happier note, we got to see more wonderful shag showcases at Camp Hollywood in LA, including performances from LA Shag and this sweet routine from the Hang Ten Hoppers:

Patrick & Gotcha had their first international gig in October teaching at Barcelona Shag Festival - I heard many reports of what a great time everyone had. The photo certainly shows a happy smiling group of shagsters!

October also saw the debut performance by the Shageroonies, performing a special new routine at the European Swing Dance Championships.
An unofficial Shag Contest took place later that evening, with the result that Shag will be on the menu at 2016's Championships!

11214250_10153037583865736_6556351263364721433_n.jpg

November saw another highlight of the UK Year in Shag with 'Swing Fastival'. Steve & Chanzie and Jeremy & Laura came over and taught a weekend of top class shag.

December saw the launch of Shag Dancers of London Facebook group. Cut A Rug featured guest teacher and Catalan Cat Sara Planas. Finally, we rounded out the year with the Shag Pile Christmas Knees Up, where we filmed a festive mini-routine for our friends in Sweden. Check out all those Shag Fingers!

And that's all for 2015! 
It's been great to see the Shag Pile gang grow and grow, and even better to see the dance taking off all over town. The year ahead's going to be a goodie, so stay tuned for a preview!

Leave comments below - we'd love to hear about your year.
Especially March. What happened in March?

Have a great 2016 - and happy shagging!

Peter