Texas Dance Halls Subject of New Book
December 5, 2007
A new book captures the sights, sounds and history of 18 Texas dance halls.
Dance halls have been a part of the Texas landscape for more than a century. While
the music and the dance steps change with the years, the halls remain remarkably the
same, the center of community life in many a small Texas town.
Author Gail Folkins and photographer J. Marcus Weekley capture the sights, sounds
and history of 18 of these establishments in "Texas Dance Halls: A two-Step Circuit"
published by Texas Tech University Press. This book is not just about the music and
the dancers – it also celebrates the men and women, some of them third generation
dance hall operators, who keep the dance hall doors open.
Folkins, a journalist and creative writing teacher, draws on her personal observations
as the wife of one of the boys in the band. Her husband, John, is a bass player.
"I would go along with John on the weekends and I really liked the sense of history
and place I found in the dance halls," said Folkins. "Many dance halls were founded
as places for working men to bring their families and relax and enjoy good music,
specially in German and Czech communities. By that definition, the dance halls are
still used today the same way as places for people to bring their entire families
and have a good time. "
The book began as a single profile on a singer Folkins’ husband worked with. "Once
I wrote that piece I realized that the place was so intertwined with the personality
profile, that it made me think there were more stories to tell of people and of the
To illustrate her book, Folkins turned to photographer J. Marcus Weekley. The two
had known each other during their days working on master’s degrees in Texas Tech’s
creative writing program. For Weekley, who is also a poet and writer, he found that
the assignment changed his view of the Texas dance hall.
"I had never been to a dance hall in my life," he said. "I thought there’s going to
be cowboys and beer and country music. That was way wrong."
From thinking he would just try to take pretty pictures, Weekley found himself looking
at each building in a very different way.
"I looked for what was individual about each hall what made it different. I tried
to capture the spirit of the place," he said.
Whether it’s the fabled Luckenbach Dance Hall west of Austin, to the Czech heritage
of the KJT in Fayette County, south of LaGrange, or mingling with the very modern
tourists on the dance floor of Austin’s Broken Spoke, Folkins and Weekley bring alive
the sound of boots moving across a sawdust-covered floor, the ghosts of dancers past
and the down-home future of a Texas institution.
For more information or a review copy of "Texas Dance Halls: A two-Step Circuit,"
contact Barbara Brannon, marketing manager, Texas Tech University Press, (806) 742-2982