Since 1981, married couple Jackie McGee and Charlie Womble have been dancing together competitively. In that time, they have won a huge amount of awards and accolades. This has included going twelve years undefeated in over 300 competitions. They also won America’s prestigious National Shag Dance competition for nine of the first ten competitions. They became so synonymous with the competition that the trophy was redesigned in their likeness.
In 2013, the couple were in their sixties and perhaps past the heyday of the performances from their younger days. However, that didn’t mean that they had lost their brilliant talent and athleticism. On the 13th of July of that year, they gave an exhibition dance for the ShagAtlanta ACSC Summer Workshop. Their introduction brought huge cheers from the crowd who knew that they were guaranteed to see a great show from this legendary dance duo.
To the sound of “Be Myself Again” by Eric Benet, they began the routine. Using all of their experience, McGee and Womble began with some relatively laid-back shuffles and turns. They then steadily increased the speed of their feet tapping and wobbled their legs hypnotically. The crowd responded, whooping and clapping in delight. Then Womble spun around with the agility of a man half his age, bringing further cheers of appreciation.
The couple showed an amazing sense of synchronicity in their steps. Their dancing showed all the innate understanding of each other that you would expect of a couple who had been married for over forty years. They continued to spin and shuffle with astonishing elasticity, and smiles of joy on their faces at doing what they loved most in the world.
As the performance came to an end, the crowd erupted in cheers. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the presenter said, “it don’t get no better than that.” The video of this exhibition has been viewed over 14 million times on YouTube, demonstrating that many viewers testify to this viewpoint.
The Carolina Shag is considered to be the state dance of South Carolina, but it is also established in many American national dance competitions. Mostly, the Carolina Shag is performed to beach music from the 1950s and 1960s. This style of music is characterised by its fast-paced 100-130+ beats per minute, and a 4/4 blues shuffle rhythm. The dance itself is thought to have originated in the 1940s.
McGee and Womble have been ambassadors of the Carolina Shag since 1981 when they started teaching dance as well as entering competitions with great success. In 1995, they started up a scholarship programme to support junior shag dancers in their development. They have also helped numerous charities, including fundraising for cancer research and to help abused women.
They are a truly inspirational couple in how they have lived their lives and helped each other succeed. Long may they continue to be brilliant exponents of the Carolina Shag. If you would like to see more from Jackie McGee and Charlie Womble, you can visit their official website for more information.