The basic step is counted “One-And-Two, Three-And-Four, Five-Six”. Each word corresponds to a step movement (eight words = eight steps).
You never move the same foot twice in a row. Every time you move, you do so with a different foot. The first time you try to learn the “basic”, it may help you to stand in place and (starting with your left foot) simply raise and lower alternating feet as you say the basic step out loud (“One-And-Two, Three-And-Four, Five-Six”) without actually trying to do the forward or backward movements. When you are comfortable with this, go ahead and begin to learn where to actually put your feet as you move them.
It is extremely important that you learn the proper foot positions for each move within the basic. Some shag dance instructors teach the basic without emphasizing foot position. Although this method is initially easier to learn, your dance movements will look much more fluid, balanced, and in rhythm if you take time to learn proper foot placements. When you are dancing, having your feet in the right spots during the “basic” will also make it easier for you to continue into your next step without having to, first, correct your position.To stay “on beat” with the music, the “Five-Six” portion of the basic should take you about the same “time” to complete as the “One-And-Two” or the “Three-And-Four” parts take.
To help you do the basic shag step more fluidly, think of your body’s forward and backward movement as a swinging pendulum. It never stops, but it isn’t jerky or erratic. There should be no bounce in your steps.
The lower body does most of the moving in the shag step. The upper body should remain generally erect, and without swaying from side to side.
Leather bottomed shoes are a must for men and women. Ladies should use flats or shoes with nearly no heel. The shag is done with your weight favoring the balls of the feet, not the heels. Your feet should nearly shuffle when you move them across the floor, as if your shoes were magnets and the floor was made out of metal.
Never dance diagonally across the floor. The shag is done with each partner facing any one of a rooms four walls. Each turn, pivot or step should leave both parties facing the same, or any other wall.
The man’s left hand holds the woman’s right hand. There should be some slight tension to provide a firm hold and resistance when the male “leads”. But, the grip should never be tight. The forearm of the joined hand should always remain level with the floor, allowing the couple’s motion toward and away from each other to be absorbed by elbow and shoulder joints. During the basic step, it should almost appear as if their joined hands are sitting on top of a fence post. The arms and hands should not sway from side to side, or move up and down.
Each person keeps one arm to self, in a somewhat relaxed but slightly forward position. It should generally appear as if he or she had a drink in that hand that they were about to spill. This leaves the spare hand in great position to reach for the partner in more advanced steps.
Ready to practice? Tie a short piece of rope around a door knob, or loop a belt around it. You should be able to do your basic easily!
For a chart of the steps go to: https://www.goshagging.com/