NVSC History - 1997



The officers were:

  • John Belt, President
  • Valerie Swiger, Vice President
  • Vesta Jones, Secretary
  • Pauline Easby-Smith, Treasurer


  • Betty Abshire
  • Janis Grimes
  • Craig Jennings
  • Joan McKinney
  • David Rodgers

Committee Chairpersons:

  • Capital Shag Classic - Charlie Price
  • Charity - Pauline Easby-Smith
  • Communications - David Rodgers
  • Dance - Janis Grimes
  • Hospitality - Vesta Jones
  • Membership - Valerie Swiger
  • Music - Craig Jennings
  • Newsletter - Janis Grimes
  • Promotions - Sales, John Belt
  • Social - Betty Abshire and Joan McKinney

One of John Belt’s first endeavors as President was to host a Super Bowl Party at the McLean VFW, Sunday, January 26.  National competitors, Larry and Shirley Jones taught a free shag workshop.  Chili was served.  All who attended the party surely remember the fun.

Next he planned a Valentine’s Dance at a place called Kilroy’s.  There was a buffet with roast pork, oysters on the half shell and chicken wings plus dancing to beach music played by Craig Jennings.

SHO’ ENOUGH (Tommy Castro)

It was announced in January 1997, that Brent Key and Shea Carver had won First Place with a flawless performance of Carolina Shag at the 1996 U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships in Anaheim, CA, in the new Carolina Shag Division.  Michael Norris and Jackie McGee won Second Place and Geoff Burdick and Melissa Goebel finished in Third Place.  Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee won First Place in the Classic Swing Division, winning over all the other dancers in a swing category.  The National Shag Championship Team won First Place over all other dance teams.  It was a stunning year for Shag and shaggers at the most prestigious of swing dance competitions in the country and it started right here in Northern Virginia at the VA State Open Competitions!

Shag thanks you, Rick Hendrix for unrelenting persuasion to motivate and bring shaggers together.  For inviting others to come and participate with us, teach us, and enter the competitive categories at the Virginia State Open.  It was you who encouraged Brent Key and Shea Carver to teach at our party, and to show shag in its most beautiful form, which led to their competing at the Virginia State Open.  Little did any of us know their win would make shag history in Virginia, go on to dance at the U.S. Open, and help to place Carolina Shag on the National map! 

BELIEVE IT OR NOT (Billy Griffin)

We would be remiss not to give credit right here to Club member Craig Hutchinson, local guru of West Coast Swing, member of the National Living Legends Hall of Fame, and Feather Award nominee.  According to the book SHAG, published in 1995, he was the first to bring shag out of the Southeast.  Back in the 1980’s, Craig saw Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee dance in Myrtle Beach and invited them to a national swing dance workshop in Oklahoma.  That event opened the door for shag to become known competitively coast-to-coast.  When he included shag as a division at the VA State Open Swing Dance Championships in 1994, he opened the door for shag to become a permanent part of the local swing community.  He opened the door for shag’s expansion to its highest potential.  A BIG “Thank you, Craig!”


On January 24th and 25th, club members, Chris Pax and Bill Hopkins were the first NVSC couple to compete in the preliminaries for the National Shag Dance Championships in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Treasurer’s report in January 1997 was $1,336 in the bank.  Struggle days appeared to be over when members had to donate money to keep the treasury afloat and enthusiastically recruit new members and brainstorm ways to bring notoriety to the dance. The club transferred its emphasis from promotion to teaching, and learning the basic fundamentals, pivots and intermediate steps became the focus. 

On April 26th, Sam and Sarah West were invited to give instructional workshops at Blackie’s Steak House in Springfield.  Cost for each of three workshops was $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers.  Later that evening, thanks to a suggestion made by Mark Rollings, Sam and Sarah performed a stunning dinner show exhibition at Barry Durand’s Eastern Invitational SWING FLING bringing the audience to their feet and setting the stage for Carolina Shag to be included thereafter as a competitive division with instructional workshops offered at Barry Durand’s Annual Swing Fling.

JUST YOU AND ME (Delbert McClinton)

Rumor had it that there was a clique in the NVSC…good dancers vs. not-as-good dancers, and concern about who should or could ask whom to dance. The Shag Rag proved to be the perfect tool for pro and con on the issue.

Cliques Happen

By Patricia Parrott

They are the only two dancers on the floor. Their bodies move in unison to the rhythm of the music, gracefully flowing, turning, and twirling. Both of them stepping together to the beat of the music, moving away, and then back together in precise mirroring. Moment to moment, it’s the perfect dance to the perfect music with the perfect partner! The music ends. OH!! I’m here with the Northern Virginia Shag Club! There are many other dancers on the floor! Reality hits, only now, they are hooked. From this time forward they will persist in private pursuit of the next perfect dance. They will keep coming back. They will keep dancing.

In response to concerns over the size and stability of the shag club, and to persons who look at the club in general or at individuals and see cliques, snobs or good dancers who are unwilling to dance with beginners, it would seem that the addictive nature of the dance is not understood. Or, maybe a closer look is in order since casual observation does not reveal that some club members have a history together since the club’s formation, that some members rarely miss a weekly dance, or that many members have formed close friendships working together behind the scenes to bring about club successes.

The shag club is a dance club for those who want to dance and get the benefit of club association through membership. Everyone is welcome. As a club, the group wants many dancers on the floor. They want many people to come, join, stay, and grow to love Carolina Shag and Beach Music. They want to increase club membership and grow in size. They want everyone to have a good time. But, mostly, they want to dance for pleasure and enjoyment because without that, the club has no reason to exist.

Every person who walks in the door has a personal agenda. Some are hooked on dance. Some want to socialize and dance occasionally. Some want only to socialize and make friends. Some want to enjoy the music and watch others dance.

There is something there for almost everyone. There is room for those who want to take the dance to the highest level. There is room for social dancing, and for other types of dance. It’s a place to meet wonderful people and a place to hear great beach music. It’s a safe, comfortable environment for everyone.

It’s possible there is a gap between the regular members and the newcomers. Each of us knows what we want to get out of the club. As a group we can bridge the gap if we will individually take responsibility for the successful fulfillment of our own personal agenda. The group will flourish if we each set out to enjoy every moment to its fullest, heedless of criticisms, and persist in our own personal pursuit, just like the two perfect dancers, oblivious of any others on the floor.

From among large groups, small groups sometimes form. Though they may appear exclusive, they rarely are. If you are a regular member, occasionally step outside your established boundaries to meet someone new. If you are new, step forward and make yourself known to others. If you are one who wants to socialize and dance occasionally, walk around, mix, talk and make friends. Make requests of the deejay for more frequent slow dances. If you’re a beginner who wants to become a proficient dancer, then keep coming back and ask others to dance. Head for the dance floor with someone at the first beat of the music. Concentrate on the music as you dance. Check out the free instructional videos. Take the lessons. Practice at home. Ask someone to practice with you. Ask a regular member to help you off to the side. They rarely, if ever, say no to anyone who asks them to dance. Dancers love to dance and love to teach.

The club is here for all of us, but the club cannot serve everyone’s agenda unless we each take the lead. The shag club will not suit every person’s need, and not everyone will become a participating member. This role is reserved for those persons who give dance a priority in their lives. But, as in life, in marriages, in relationships, in dance, we need to look inward and take responsibility for ourselves. To look outward to another person or thing to bring happiness or enjoyment is to find only temporary success.

Though reserve is sometimes mistaken for snobbishness, it’s more likely that fear is the enemy, as it is in many of life’s discords. It seems that if each of us will jump in and be accountable for our own level of fun, the club will prosper, grow bigger, and better, and meet the individual agendas of many people because everyone will be having such a good time! So, let’s keep dancing!

Thanks to Vesta Jones, NVSC hit the World Wide Web at http://www.sbolnet.com/shag (No longer current). She encouraged members to make a contribution to it at will.

BOPPIN’ SHOES (The Boogie Man)

The 2nd Annual Capital Shag Classic 1997 – The second Capital Shag Classic was held on June 27-29, 1997, at Howard Johnson Hotel, Alexandria, coordinated by Charlie Price and Valerie Swiger. It was a beautiful, well thought-out, well-planned, well-executed event. Everyone had a good time, Val. Butch Metcalf, Jerry Canada and Craig Jennings were featured deejays. Ellen Taylor presented free shag workshops in intermediate and advanced dance, and Larry & Shirley Jones taught beginner. Donna Harrington and Keith Abernathy taught the “K.D.” mirror step. Cost was still $45 for the weekend and $53 for a room. Another BIG success!

The NVSC monthly newsletter continued to get notice and acclaim. It seemed folks really enjoyed the newsletter and looked forward to reading it. NVSC club members and others from outside the club expressed appreciation for its personal touch and its penchant for humor and informality. “I read it immediately, cover to cover,” one member said. Editor, Janis Grimes, continued to solicit, welcome and print articles from the membership. Many of the NVSC newsletter articles were worthy of being reprinted in the SOS Carefree Times, including the infamous FIRST TIME by the Virgin Trippers (see below).

SOS – The First Time

By the Virgin Trippers

SOS was undoubtedly the biggest and best five-day party ever attended by the virgin trippers – Vesta Jones, Donna Liebowitz, Trelle Shaw, Linda Singleton (Trelle’s NC friend) and Karen Wagley. We expected a good time, but our first SOS far exceeded our dreams. If you’ve never been to SOS you’ve got to begin making plans for your virgin trip NOW – we all agree that we’ll be returning as experienced SOS’ers in September.


In anticipation of all the fun, Trelle suggested renting a car with a huge trunk so we could party together all the way down to Myrtle Beach. It turned out that we had to pay extra for additional drivers, but Trelle knew that when her toes hit the sand she would not want to get back in the van until it was time to go home (she made no bones about it – when the sun was up she would be sleeping on the beach, and when the sun went down she would be shagging – she didn’t even need to stop for meals – just a quick Duck’s burger once a day), so Karen signed on as the additional driver so everyone else could shop. Well, if you want to get a van for the price of a car, take Karen along. Karen is an expert about renting cars. She noticed a sign that said if you bring a car back empty it would be filled up at a charge of 99 cents a gallon. Obviously much cheaper than the gas pumps around here. Not only that, she had the same birthday as the rental clerk so they gave us a van for the price of a car! The trip was a success before we even headed South, except for the fact that no one guessed that after the first night we would never see Karen again until it was time to go home (except over coffee in the morning when everyone woke up).

To take advantage of Karen’s suggestion and calculate exactly where to fill the car up on the way home, Trelle suggested that they not fill the car up until it registered empty. Everyone agreed with the idea until it became apparent around Lumberton, NC, that Trelle’s idea of empty was running out of gas on the highway and using Vesta’s AAA plus card to have the van towed back to Alexandria. Trelle was overruled and the van ended up being turned in with 1/8th of a tank of gas.

Lessons Learned

A week before leaving for Myrtle Beach, experienced SOSer Val Swiger gave Vesta some advice to share with the group: “If a man has gray hair and is tapping his toes, ask him to dance – he’s bound to be a good shagger.” On the trip down, Trelle bragged, “I could never get worn out shaggin’. I can shag all night long. I hope there are plenty of gray-haired men tapping their toes.” Trelle got her wish but ate her words before the place closed down on the second night. She was hobbling by midnight and had already iced her ankle and massaged her feet before everyone else returned.

We were fairly certain that we were well equipped with all our NVSC shag lessons and Val’s expert advice, but Donna wondered if we would know all of the same mirror steps as the gray-haired toe-tappers. Of course with a group of women there is always an answer to everything. We all agreed when a man asked us if we knew a strange step we would say, “No, but do you know the Magnolia?” In case he was a wise man and asked us to show the steps to him, we agreed that we would tell him, “It is very complicated and involves about eight six counts.” Donna was the only one with the guts and the memory to test the plan. While dancing with her seventeenth gray-haired toe-tapper she was finally asked if she knew the Dippety Roll. When she gave him the Magnolia response his eyes sure enough lit up and he said, “Show it to me.” Needless to say, Donna’s response left him gaping, but he didn’t ask her about any more mirror steps.

All the way to Myrtle Beach Vesta worried about getting there in time to buy dancing shoes so she would look like a shagger to go dancing Wednesday night (even brought her cell phone so she could call for directions to the Shoe Center from the car). When we reached Myrtle Beach, she called but was told the store closed in 10 minutes and we would not be able to buy shoes until Thursday morning. Turned out for the best, Trelle’s friend Linda is a real Southern shagger from Emerald Isle, NC. Linda explained to Vesta that it would take more than shoes to make her look like the real Southern shagger – it was gonna take GOLD – gold earrings, gold belt, gold visor and gold dancing shoes, a true GOLDEN GIRL – and sure enough Vesta shagged with many more than her share of shaggers (was it really the gold?).

After the first night, Donna was told so often that she talked funny, she requested Southern as a second language lessons from Linda. Just ask how she asks a guy to shag now – “Do y’all shayag?” She got so good at her Southern drawl, she surprised them when she admitted she was from Washington, D.C. She loved the reactions she got: “I didn’t know people know how to shag that far north”; “Say WHAT????”; “Oh Lawd, you’re really out of your element”; “You mean Washington, NC?”; “But where did you learn to shag?”; “Are you SERIOUS?”; “Do you work for the IRS?”; “You’re a Yankee????”

Top Ten Lessons Learned at SOS

10 When renting a car, get everyone licensed to drive (Karen wasn’t there)

9 Girls need to rent a van and party while they travel – it’s better than a year of therapy

8 Groups are great in the van – but not on the dance floor

7 Crowded SOS dance floors prove Rick Hendrix right – real shaggers take TINY steps

6 Two beach chairs and two beach towels will work for five girls – rotate every hour, chair to towel (Karen wasn’t there)

5 Take at least one real Southerner along in your group to interpret

4 Even if you agree on a favorite beach tape, you don’t have to listen to it all the way home

3 A four-roll pack of toilet paper is not enough for five girls for five days (In spite of the fact that Karen didn’t use her share)

2 Men LOVE to dance with a single woman. (Definition of a single woman: a woman standing alone, ALL BY HERSELF, standing beside Karen (Karen wasn’t there)

1 Not all gray-haired toe-tappers can shag

Questions You Don’t Want Answered:

Why did the van stop by a wooded path traveling back to DC and who decided to take advantage of it?

Where was Karen?

Why do men stand in line outside the Ladies room – to meet women?

Why are the virgins putting a rose in the blender?

How did Bob and Val play a part in why Donna decided she’ll never miss another SOS!

Why doesn’t everybody go to SOS?

Reprinted from previous editions of the Shag Rag and Carefree Times


The NVSC Board decided to supplement the professional instructional videos that had been donated to the club with purchases of additional ones, and to lend them to the members for a small, refundable $10 deposit. The Dance Instruction Committee insisted that members master basic skills and the pivot before moving on to more advanced steps. Yep. The emphasis now was fully on technique, style, attitude and footwork combinations. STAYING ALIVE was no longer the driving force it had been.

On August 16th, National Shag Competitors, Bill and Brenda Barber presented basics, intermediate and advanced workshops followed by an evening dance at the Kenwood Country Club. Bill had high acclaim for the NVSC, saying that we were “one of the best shag clubs in the ACSC, if not the best.” He admired that we put greater investment in preserving the dance with good instruction and practice rather than favor the party aspect of the shag culture (see his letter inOct., 1997 Shag Rag).

Around October, NVSC member Marc Fisher and Hall of Fame deejay Judy Collins released a CD called BLUES ON THE LOOSE. It was a compilation of funky R&B and Beach Music. The cover was shot at Blackie’s of Springfield, home of NVSC, and featured two NVSC members, Janis Grimes and Dan Shames, on the front and back cover. The CD was quickly nominated for a Cammy Award honoring the best in Beach Music. (This CD was followed in 2002 by Blues on the Loose, Vol. II, with Janis and Dan on the cover).

The 1997 Virginia State Open Dance Championships were held on October 10-11 at Tyson’s Westpark Hotel. Craig Hutchinson invited National Shag Champions Sam and Sarah West to judge and to teach beginner and intermediate Carolina Shag to the local dance community. They taught a beautiful step called the breakaway pivot, which is still popular today.

Bill Hopkins and Melody Wayland won first place in the Amateur Carolina Shag Division. Other NVSC members who danced were Dan Shames and Janis Grimes, and Rick Hendrix and Cecile Rocek.

Junior shaggers Michael Norris and Nikki Kontoulis danced a beautiful demo in the Open Carolina Shag Division, making a wonderful impression on the many dancers who were packed into the ballroom.

TAKE IT UPTOWN (Bill Champlin)

The annual Christmas holiday party was on December 13th at the McLean VFW. Betty Abshire coordinated the event. Steve Baker of Myrtle Beach was deejay.

The NVSC charity was voted on by club membership. They selected Hospice of Northern Virginia. (see CHARITIES write-up below)

Beginning in December 1997, Carolina Shag classes were offered through the Fairfax County Recreation Department with Janis Grimes as instructor. A promotional ad filmed at Blackie’s featured interviews with several NVSC members, including Joan McKinney, Bob Lutz, and Janis Grimes. It ran periodically on local cable TV soliciting local residents to sign up for Carolina Shag classes through the County.

With shag instruction well established and working, and with President John Belt’s party spirit, the mood of the shag club began a slow shift from intense and serious dance to the sharing of light, social party-time laughter and fun. And in time, both elements, serious dancing and social exchange, would be equally enjoyed by the club members at the same time without taking anything away from the other. As John Belt asked, “Where else can you find a club that gives you a beautiful dance, parties and a chance to meet and greet along with free dance lessons and a great newsletter for only $15 a year?”

The treasurer’s report in the Shag Rag as of December 1st was a cool $3,250.26.

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