by Betty Casey
University of Texas Press, 1985
Cloth: 978-0-292-71540-0 | Paper: 978-0-292-71551-6 | eISBN: 978-0-292-76853-6
Library of Congress Classification GV1624.T4C37 1985
Dewey Decimal Classification 793.3409764


Generations of Texans have believed that “to dance is to live.” At rustic “play parties” and elegant cotillions, in tiny family dance halls and expansive urban honky-tonks, from historic beginnings to next Saturday night, Texans have waltzed, polkaed, schottisched, and shuffled their way across the state.

In Dance across Texas, internationally known dance instructor and writer Betty Casey takes an informal look at the history of Texas dancing and, in clear diagrams, photos, and detailed instructions, tells “how to” do more than twenty Texas dances.

Previously, little had been recorded about the history of dancing on the frontier. Journal and diary entries, letters, and newspaper clippings preserve enticing, if sketchy, descriptions of the types of dances that were popular. Casey uses a variety of sources, including interviews and previously unpublished historical materials, such as dance cards, invitations, and photographs, to give us a delightful look at the social context of dance. The importance of dance to early Texans is documented through colorful descriptions of clothing worn to the dances, of the various locations where dances were held, ranging from a formal hall to a wagon sheet spread on the ground, and of the hardships endured to get to a dance.

Also included in the historical section of Dance across Texas are notes on the “morality” of dance, the influence of country music on modern dance forms, and the popularity of such Texas dance halls and clubs as Crider’s and Gilley’s.

The instruction section of the book diagrams twenty-two Texas dances, including standard waltzes and two-steps as well as the Cotton-Eyed Joe, Put Your Little Foot, Herr Schmidt, the Western Schottische, and such “whistle’” or mixer dances as Paul Jones, Popcorn, and Snowball. Clear and detailed directions for each dance, along with suggested musical selections, accompany the diagrams and photos. Dance and physical education teachers and students will find this section invaluable, and aspiring urban cowboys can follow the easy-to-read diagrammed footsteps to a satisfying spin around the honky-tonk floor. Anyone interested in dance or in the history of social customs in Texas will find much to enjoy in this refreshing and often amusing look at a Texas “national” pastime.

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