Dancing to their grandparents' music

It was hard to tell who was having more fun when hundreds of youngsters aged 6 to 20 gathered in two ballrooms to practice line dances they planned to perform Wednesday evening in a Junior Shaggers Association competition.

Boys gathered in one ballroom to rehearse their steps, girls in another. It all was in preparation for a dance contest billed as the Battle of the Sexes.

One thing was certain, though. All loved the driving 4-4 beat of the music as they moved about the floor. And, several young shaggers said, the beat of the songs that their parents and grandparents danced to in their youth is what drew them to the dance floor to become shag dancers - and has kept them there.

But, said Keith Dallas, who just stepped down as president of the Junior Shag Association, a check of their iPods is likely to reveal that "Under The Boardwalk," "Carolina Girl," and "Mustang Sally" are the only songs lurking there.

"You'll probably find everything from beach music to rap and everything in between," Dallas said.

Until Tuesday evening, Dallas headed the association that was founded 19 years ago to help keep South Carolina's state dance alive by passing it along to the young. The association's motto says shag's future lies in the feet of the young.

Cody Edwards, a 17-year-old shagger from Summerville, S.C., who's danced competitively with partner Chase Forrester of Greenwood, S.C., for the past four years, loves the old music that his grandfather, Larry Edwards of Salisbury spins as a shag dance DJ. Larry Edwards' popularity as a DJ landed him a spot in the North Myrtle Beach Hall of Fame.

And Edwards and his wife, Sally, helped spur Cody's interest in shagging, said Cody's mother, Sandy Edwards.

"My in-laws brought my twin sons, Cody and Austin, to their first Junior SOS event five years ago," Sandy Edwards said, "and paid for their first lessons. They said 'we would like you to give this a try, but if you don't like it, you can just enjoy the beach for a week.'"

Cody was hooked on the dance and the music, his mother said. Austin, however, wasn't that big a fan.

"Austin knows the basic step and a few others, but only goes on the floor to dance to impress a pretty young lady," his mother said.

Cody, on the other hand, has won Junior Shag Association dancing competitions and, on Wednesday afternoon, was helping teach other boys the line dance they were to perform later that day.

But don't think that he can't perform unless an old beach favorite is filling the air. He and Chase recently have been dancing to songs by Michael Buble, whose sound is akin to tunes by Harry Connick Jr.

Cody said he loves the beat of old-time beach music and that Sam Cooke is his favorite recording artist. "But I listen to everything from beach music to rap," he added.

The 2010 Junior SOS event, which continues through Sunday, features competitions that the public can attend, in addition to daily dance workshops. Admission to events held in the Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort ballrooms is limited, but a one-day pass, which costs $5, is available at the Junior SOS registration desk. The pass can be used to attend only one event or one day's events.