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Texas Two-Step or Waltz in a Hill Country Dance Hall

The dance hall in Luckenbach is probably one of the most famous in Texas mostly thanks to a Waylon Jennings song. Staff photo by Jared Fields

We can tell what early Texas settlers found important by what they built first. Sure, there were homes, churches, and post offices, but after those necessary structures were in place, the centerpiece of many of these communities were their dance halls.

Two enduring dance halls — Twin Sisters Historic Dance Hall near Blanco, built in 1870, and the legendary Luckenbach hall, built around 1887 — remain popular spots to two-step.

But not all early dance halls have survived. As historic buildings are lost, new halls spring up to fill the void. Cadillac Dance Hall, just north of Marble Falls, is a relative baby as it nears its 10th year hosting monthly dances.

Regardless of a venue’s age, Texans seem to have a love of dancing and a need to get together as a band fills the air with music.

“There’s nothing like a hardwood floor and a country band going that gets people out of their seats and onto the floor,” said Eddie Shell, owner of Cadillac Dance Hall.

Shell grew up going to dance halls across Central Texas every weekend. There was the 281 Club near Round Mountain. In Austin, everyone knows the Broken Spoke. But the old-time dance halls seemed to be dwindling.

“Cadillac Dance Hall was molded after those,” Shell said. “When we put (Cadillac Dance Hall) together, we wanted it to look like what I remember going to as a kid.”

Since 2008, Shell has had monthly dances with local bands and well-known featured artists. There’s a family atmosphere on the last Saturday of the month. You might see kids dancing or even a dog trot across the dance floor.

Albert Dance Hall is located at 5435 RR 1623 South in the Albert-Stonewall area. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

That’s the atmosphere for most dance halls.

“I’ve got a few (regulars) that will go around and grab people standing on the sidelines and pull them on the dance floor and show them how to dance and show them a good time,” said Bobbi McDaniel, manager of operations at Luckenbach.

As one of the oldest continuous dance halls in the state, Luckenbach sees its fair share of visitors who have never stepped foot on a dance floor. They’ve heard of Luckenbach because of its history and, of course, the famous song by Waylon Jennings. (You’re singing it now, aren’t you?)

But no matter a first-timer’s expectations before heading to Luckenbach, McDaniel said they’re always exceeded.

“They look at pictures of old buildings, people playing guitar, but you don’t get the feel of it until you’re actually here,” she said. “Then, you get the whole vibe and atmosphere you can’t get from reading about us or listening to the song or viewing pictures.”

When Dale Watson comes to town, people get up and dance at the historic Globe Theatre in Bertram. Staff photo by Jared Fields

More history remains standing at Twin Sisters, located 6 miles south of Blanco on U.S. 281. Close to 150 years old, the hall has a dance the first Saturday of each month as well as hosts weddings, family functions, and fundraisers.

Just as hidden as Luckenbach, but not yet as famous, is Albert Dance Hall near Stonewall. Built in 1922, the dance hall operated until the 1980s. It was purchased in 2003 and reopened. The Ice House is open Wednesdays through Sundays. The dance hall is used for weddings and dances. The facility’s online calendar lists all activities.

Not as old, but just as entertaining, contemporary dance halls such as the Ramblin’ Rose in Llano and Pardners in Buchanan Dam offer two-stepping for folks looking for a modern honky-tonk.

You also can dance on a concrete surface at a couple of historic theaters: the LanTex Theatre in Llano and the Globe Theatre in Bertram. Both have theater-style seating but offer a clear space in front of the stage for dancing when country acts perform.

Summer or winter. Young or old. Local or tourist. Experienced or novice. You can bet these venues will be a place to meet new people, enjoy live music, and have a good time.

So, in the immortal words of Waylon Jennings, “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas …”

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