Little makes you feel more like a true Texan than putting on a good pair of cowboy boots and taking the floor at a dancehall. Though visiting one may be a novelty for you, dancehalls are a melting pot of Texas tradition, rich in more than a century's worth of history and culture.
In their hay day, there were over 1,000 dancehalls spanning the state of Texas. They ranged from tiny spaces in one-stoplight towns to iconic venues like Gruene Hall. But today, many have been lost. Nonprofit organization Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. aims to change that by drawing attention to the heritage of these buildings and raising the funds necessary to keep them alive.
On Aug. 18, a host of Austin's most-loved country performers will take the Highball by storm for a free show benefiting Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.
"Texas is known throughout the world for its music, culture and character. We owe much of this legacy to one singular aspect of our heritage — the Texas dancehall. No other place on the planet has this heritage, produced as it was by the mix of diverse immigrant cultures on the southwestern frontier," Patrick Sparks, TDHP President, says on the organization's website.
"Our dance halls are the most Texas thing there is. We can't lose them," Sparks warns of a very real threat. Just last week, the TDHP Facebook page alerted its fans that San Antonio's "Luxello Hall is being torn down at this moment." With its unstoppable demolition, we lost another glimpse into Texas' long-established multi-cultural heritage.
“There’s enthusiasm and money for preserving the historic courthouses and lighthouses and churches in Texas," TDHP Co-founder Steve Dean told CultureMap in a previous interview. "But these dancehalls were often some of the first buildings ever built in these small towns, and some of the most important institutions in terms of keeping the culture alive in these communities.”
While it's clear that steady patronage is a first step in preserving these mainstays of Texas culture, you don't necessarily have to go two-stepping to do your part. In fact, this Saturday you don't even have to venture past South Lamar to support the Texas dancehall legacy.
On Aug. 18, a host of Austin's most-loved country performers will take the Highball by storm for a free show benefiting Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. The impressive list of singers will be backed by loveable Heybale guitarist, Redd Volkaert. Performers include Susanna Van Tassel, Teri Joyce, Ted Roddy, Dallas Wayne and Rick Broussard (of Two Hoots & A Holler).
With so many legendary musicians in one room, this show promises the makings of an old-fashioned hootenanny and an unforgettable night — all for the good of preserving an unforgettable piece of Texas.
The Texas Dance Hall benefit starts at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. All donations, as well as proceeds from a silent auction, will benefit TDHP.