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Texas Lakes Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Dance Halls


La Villita Dancehall, San Benito
La Villita Dancehall, San Benito

HONKY TONKIN' TEXAS

Dance halls draw their roots from folk dancing parties and, in Texas, that means the "fandango," a term used during the Spanish colonial period to describe a celebration organized by the Hispanic community complete with music, dancing, eating, gambling, and drinking. Sometimes fandangos were held in the streets and other times in temporary dance halls called "fandango" houses. But just like everything else deemed too much fun by the local stick-in-the-muds, the fandango was outlawed by 1870. A more formal type of organized dance, courtesy of Anglo-European settlers, gained in popularity as an independent Texas increased its population. These dance events included German polka clubs and, of course, the Western square dance. Almost everyone joined in, even if just to listen to the music since partners weren't always guaranteed. Texas, in fact, became known as the Bachelor Republic during its frontier days due to the excess number of single men. But that didn't stop a lot of dance-loving Texans who were often seen scooting the boot on the dance floor, one gentleman in the lead and the other wearing an apron or a bandana tied around his arm to indicate his "lady's role."

Today, you can attend Western swing parties where the bandana is no longer necessary. Texas, in fact, is known for its plentitude of unique dance halls and any freewheeling, fandango-like footwork is encouraged, not outlawed. Barn digs with bare-strung bulbs in the middle of a cow pasture or big city hoopla with all the flashing lights-take your pick because after a century or two around the dance floor Texas-style dance halls are here to stay.

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Read more about dance halls in the Handbook of Texas Online.