Two-Stepping Across Texas: The Role of Historic Dance Halls in Having Fun

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The charming sound of a fiddle, the lyrical lull of a steel guitar, and the harmony of singers that can steer you across a dance floor with their song as much as your partner does with their embrace are all part of the enchantment of a Texas dance hall. That wonderful mating dance we tend to call the two-step has often been played out in a venue such as this, and the trance you can fall under as you experience the sights and sounds of western swing mixed with cowboy culture here in the Lone Star State is one you’ll welcome time and again, given the chance.

It’s unfortunate, but true, that the historic dance halls of this great state have fallen to the changing times, and are under threat to disappear altogether if we don’t organize ourselves, recognize what we have, and hang onto it as best we can. As development grows, our cities expand, and our small towns become enveloped, our traditional dance halls are declining. It would be a pity if we let such a valuable piece of our past, our culture, and our foundation just slip through our fingers. Shared on the Texas Tourism YouTube Channel, the video entitled, “Dance Halls: Two Step Across Texas | Things to Do in Texas,” has been viewed more than 4,000 times, but in our opinion, that’s not nearly enough. As Mary Jane Nalley, owner/operator of the historic Gruene Hall, puts it, “It’s really like stepping back in time…We are about community and socialization. We are a people that want to connect with each other. That’s the reason the dance halls were built in the first place – the need for people to socialize and have fun.”

Organized to rally for these fading venues, Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. (TDHP) is a non-profit group working to ensure a current clearinghouse of and for halls exists, including operating status, building condition, and future outlook, which is maintained to assist hall owners and encourage Texans to visit and support their local dance hall. Partnering with statewide groups and corporations, not to mention homegrown dance hall talent such as Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, the TDHP is bringing the plight of these halls to light for locals, and hoping these crucial pieces of state history don’t slip through our fingers in the name of progress. They’re authentic and unpretentious, and they’re about having fun. That’s what we all truly want, isn’t it?