I keep coming across what I can only call weird little 1950s novelty dances that were supposedly enormously popular among teenagers of the time. In the case of The Dig, I can't quite see it, myself, or even imagine it as a less-jaded teenager...but then I remember that the Bunny Hop was a genuine teenage fad during the same era, so anything is possible. The Dig was at least briefly regionally popular, appearing on Oklahoma Bandstand, the local version of the televised dance program, American Bandstand.
As described in the November 1958 issue of Dance Magazine by columnist Dorothea Duryea Ohl (daughter of the famous Oscar Duryea), The Dig was not a spontanous dance-floor innovation like its contemporary, the hand jive. It was choreographed by Oklahoma City dance instructor Jimmie Crowell:
The owner of a recording company wanted a dance for teen-agers to fit an as-yet-untitled number. He liked Jimmie's brainchild so much that he gave the same title to the record: The Dig, now on Chess label, Ken Kash Kwintet, No. 1699 (Flip side: Vicious Vodka)
Crowell died only a few years ago, after a long career as a dance instructor. Other than that Chess single, I can find no trace of the Ken Kash Kwintet. I suspect that they were an in-house group of Chess musicians pulled together for this recording.
To "dig" is to lift the foot backward from the knee then strike the floor sharply with the ball of the foot without putting weight on it.
To "scoot" is like a chug in tap dance, but ending with the knees straight. Bend the knees, balancing on the balls of the feet, then scoot forward without leaving the ground, straightening up and ending feet flat. There are quite a few videos online that demonstrate the chug; this one shows the movement of the feet clearly, though the dancer does not straighten up at the end as called for in The Dig.
The basic sequence:
1 Left foot, step to the side
2 Right foot, dig, and clap hands
3 Right foot, step to the side
4 Left foot, dig, and clap hands
5 Left foot, step forward
6 Right foot, close with weight
7 Scoot forward
8 Scoot forward
Crowell suggested some possible variations: turning on steps 1 and 3 (presumably back and forth) or making a half-turn on the first two counts and doing the rest of the dance backward, turning forward again on the final scoot. He suggested that each dancer could create his or her own variations; presumably any version that follows the general pattern of the dance (in place for the first four counts; following the leader on 5, 7, and 8), so as not to disrupt the motion of the line, would be fine.
The New Jersey Dig
A follow-up article in the December issue, again by Ohl, described an east-coast variation as told to Ohl by Elsa Heilich, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the November meeting of the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing at which Ohl presented Crowell's original dance. The New Jersey Dig is a partnered version. The dancers are face-to-face and mirror each other's movements:
1 Left foot, step to the side Right foot, step to the side
2 Right foot, dig Left foot, dig
3 Right foot, step to the side Left foot, step to the side
4 Left foot, dig Right foot, dig
5 Left foot, step backward Right foot, step backward
6 Right foot, close with weight Left foot, close with weight
7 Scoot forward Scoot forward
8 Scoot forward Scoot forward
Ohl said that any "good, moderate-tempo R 'n' R" (rock'n'roll) will work for The Dig. The Chess 45 on which the eponymous music was released turns up occasionally on auction sites. To my amazement, the flip-side number, "Vicious Vodka", was included in a CD anthology (Dr. Boogie Presents Heavy Jelly) and is available for purchase online. "Vicious Vodka" actually fits the dance rather well; you can hear a clip from it here.
Tracking down a copy of "The Dig" itself was a bit trickier. London DJ Diddy Wah, who blogs about R&B and early rock'n'roll, was kind enough to digitize his record for me. The music is still under copyright, but here's a short clip in which you can clearly hear how the dance pattern matches the music and get an idea of the intended tempo:
Update 10/3/2013: Diddy Wah has put up the MP3 file of The Dig at his blog!