Keeping the Beat

Quick, quick, slow, turn. Cowboy boots shuffle across the wood floor as The Emotions play a cover of Hunter Hayes' "Wanted." The boys twirl the girls around next to girlfriends teaching each other new steps as the smell of a hot Texas summer night is blown away by cool air conditioning.

Schroeder Dance Hall in Goliad is a classic dance hall that was first built in 1890. Today, the hall has white lights hanging on the wooden pillars that create a romantic, country setting. Neon beer lights decorate the walls alongside famous dance hall attendees. Gold fringe hangs over the long wooden tables on each side of the long dance floor, where people can rest their feet from dancing. The beer garden is where teens take a break and socialize with the music humming in the background.

Stephen Dean, of Austin, a dance hall expert, wrote the book "Historic Dance Halls of East Central Texas" and is the new manager of Schroeder Hall. During the summer, he has noticed the same group of teens coming out every Thursday to the hall.

"It is still about a boy, a girl and dancing," said Dean, when asked if he has seen a change throughout the years. "All the girls come in dolled up with their short shorts and tops, but they are still wearing their boots."

"You wear cowboy boots to come to dance; you just do," said Dallas Ohrt. Her friend, Roxanne Morris, 17, of Goliad, added, "a boy could step on your toes if you don't."

Getting ready for the dance hall is more than throwing on a pair of western boots. Most girls meet up before driving out to the hall to swap clothes and help each other fix their hair.

"We get ready, and then go to each others' houses. Then, we finish and fix what we want to fix and help each other if they are not ready, said Randi Green and Rebecka Gonzales as they finished each other's sentences.

Once the final touches have been made, teens pile into their trucks and drive toward the sunset arriving at Schroeder just as the sky goes dark, and the only sound in Goliad County is country music and the rumble of vehicles.

"Who doesn't like to dance?" said Colby Berger, a teenager who is picking up the reins to keep alive the traditions of local dance halls within his generation.

"A lot of people say dance halls are dying, and maybe they are, but if we can try to keep them alive, we will. We will see that at least the halls we play at won't die," said Justin Thompson, 37, of Hallettsville, and front man for The Emotions, a band based out of south central Texas.

By playing music old and new and from a variety of genres, The Emotions do their part to bridge the generational gap and make the dance hall fun for all ages.

"The Emotions play the best variety of music; you're not just stuck listening to country all night," said Danielle Taylor, 17.

"We get crazy; we don't just country dance," said Berger, 18, of Victoria.

"If someone asks, 'What are you doing Thursday night?' The answer is always, 'Duh, going to Schroeder,'" Berger said.

It is a no-brainer for Texas teens in the Crossroads: If you want to have a good time during the summer, you go dancing.

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