Tag Archives: dance

Down in Luckenbach Texas, Ain’t Nobody Feelin’ No Pain

On Friday morning we arrived in Fredericksburg, the popular tourist center of the central Texas Hill Country.  After 2 months of always dry and mostly flat desert, we were finally among trees and rolling hills.  Not the white peaks and green valleys of British Columbia, but a welcome change.  We stopped at the tourist office and asked our usual litany of questions.  The unusually uptight Texas host gave us unimpassioned answers about everything until I asked about Luckenbach and her eyes lit up.  Although the annual Mud Dauber Festival and Chili Cook Off (what?) wasn’t happening until the following day, she said that Friday nights were free at Luckenbach and that she was going herself.  Such a ringing endorsement from an otherwise conservative lady sounded good to us.

A large white roadside sign saying, "Luckenbach,Texas, Where Everybody's Somebody, 1.2 Miles, Straight Ahead on Right"

Luckenbach, Texas — Where Everybody’s Somebody

We arrived in the late afternoon, parking our motorhome in the huge field slash parking lot. We found a cool grassy spot along the trees where we could stay overnight.  Not knowing what to expect, we scouted across the field and around the small cluster of buildings.  Several guitar players were picking unplugged under a tree while chickens roosted precariously among the branches above (who knew that chickens could climb trees?).  People seated at outdoor picnic tables were drinking beer.  A bride that we’d seen in Fredericksburg earlier in the day was having her photos taken in the late afternoon sun.  Among the few buildings we found the empty dance hall which confirmed our decision to stay for the night.

Blue sign with white letters sayindg, "Luckenbach Texas, Est. 1849"

Luckenbach, Texas is a unique place.  Established in 1849 as the centerpiece of the new Gillespie County, by 1904 its population had only grown to 492, and by the 1960’s, it was almost a ghost town.  An ad ran in the newspaper offering, “Town – Population 3 – For Sale”.  In 1970 Hondo Crouch, a rancher and Texas folklorist, bought the whole of Luckenbach for $30,000.  He used the town’s rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit.

The end of an old brown building with a small porch and a large brown tree in front

Luckenbach General Store

In 1975, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson immortalized Luckenbach with the song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”.  I remembered just one lyric from this mellow country song of my childhood, “Down in Luckenbach, Texas, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain”.  Tonight’s musical group was named The Almost Patsy Cline Band, apparently popular among the locals, but unbeknownst to us.  After a quick dinner back in the motorhome, we returned to find the dance hall packed.  The benches lining the long tables were almost full, but we squeezed into the middle of the throng.  We shared a table with several other couples, all keen to dance and have fun.

The music started and the dance floor filled instantly.  There was none of the typical shyness while people wait for others to dance first and the emboldening effects of alcohol to kick in.  Folks were clearly there to dance.  It was intimidating.  Although Diane had a long skirt on, without cowboy boots, we were clearly underdressed.  The dancing couples swarmed around the floor in a counter-clockwise rotation, raising the minimum requirement for dance floor participation above that of a basic, stationary 2-Step.

When I was 19 years old, I found myself alone on a Friday night in a small town bar in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.  The details of how this came about apparently aren’t important enough for me to remember, but aren’t essential to the story.  I was dragged out on to the dance floor by a young woman who was there with her friends.  Little did she know that I was a city slicker from Vancouver, and completely unprepared for what she was about to do to me – the 2-Step.  She told me that she was getting married the following day, and quickly trained me to dance.  It was probably the only time that I’ve done the 2-Step correctly or since then.

In Luckenbach, all the dances were the 2-Step, with the occasional waltz or polka thrown in.  Diane and I crossed our fingers and leapt into the action.  We survived the first dance and soon had the hang of it.  The serious dancers at our table said we were doing well.  For one of these couples this was their 3rd of 4 nights of dancing in a row!  Soon we were into the swing of things, dancing as much as sitting, and sitting more than drinking.

The Almost Patsy Cline Band on stage with strings of white lights abvoe and couples dancing in the dark foreground

Luckenbach dance floor

Later in the evening, a single, older, blond lady joined our group.  She asked me to dance, and pulled me onto the dance floor.  I was suddenly 19 again, back in the bar in Fort Saskatchewan.  I hung on and tried to keep up as we spun around the dance floor.  I think that I did O.K. for a guy wearing Keens, but you’d have to check with her.

Diane and I enjoyed ourselves until the very last song.  Other than the occasional wedding, it’s very rare for us to spend an evening dancing.  We had a great time, ‘down in Luckenbach, Texas’.

Flamenco

Flamenco and bull-fighting are perhaps the two biggest symbols of Spain, the things that come to mind when people think of this country.  We knew that we wanted to experience flamenco, as most tourists do, and saved this event until the city of Seville in the south of Spain, the Andalusian region where flamenco originated.

After purchasing our tickets the night before, we arrived at the small Los Gallos theatre early to get good seats.  The maximum capacity is 120 people but this being a night in early December with the 2011 Davis Cup tennis tournament on television (happening right here in Seville), the audience was small, only about 20 people.  Our waitress told us that if it wasn’t for the tennis, there would be almost no tourists in town at this time of year.

The room was simple.  A small stage, about 5 meters wide by 3 meters deep.  On it, 3 wooden chairs with wicker and an anvil standing in the rear corner for decoration.  On the back wall of the stage was a course painting of a cock fight in red and black.  At the left rear of the stage, a tiny twisting staircase disappeared upwards.

We ordered Sangria, sweet and fruity, the first we’ve had in Spain, which sat on the little table in front of our small and closely packed seats.  They were lightly padded and comfortable enough given that there was nobody on either side of us due to the small crowd.

The lights dimmed.  A guitarist and two male singers dressed all in black took the stage.  It began with just guitar, only rhythm, with the strings muted.  Soon the men started to clap a tightly controlled rhythm, like a syncopated metronome.  Every clap was sharp, clear, and precise.  They emphasized certain beats by tapping or stomping their heels on the wooden floor. The guitar began to ring, alternating between pulsing strums and fast picking, always keeping to the cadence of the hands and the feet.

A beautiful young woman descended the stairs.  She was dressed in a long, green dress, tight down to the hips, then extending in a cascade to a ruffled train of over a meter.  She raised her hands in the air, assumed a striking posture, and began to move.  She was very controlled at first, with the smallest of arm movements and tiny pulses of feet barely visible beneath her dress.

Flamenco dancer in green dress on stage with singers in background

Her hands were posed, her fingers long and painted.  They transitioned meticulously from one beautiful position to the next, moving about her wrists independently.  Occasionally, her fingers would snap in rapid succession, as if she had more fingers and more snap than normal.

As the music grew, she moved across the stage, twisting and turning, always maintaining a strong stance.  Her posture was exaggerated and dramatic yet continously appealing, like an athlete transitioning powerfully from one elaborate model’s pose to the next.  With curved back, extended leg, and raised arms she seemed like lion about to pounce.  Her dress swung about her, not haphazardly, but carefully managed through a series of kicks and spins.  Sometimes the full train wrapped around her feet tightly yet she always extricated herself gracefully.  Her face changed expression to match her movements.  Sometimes so strong as to appear angry and intimidating, the next playful or warm or contented.  Her carriage, poise, and attitude exuded passion.

Flamenco dancer in green dress twirling (blurry image)

The singers grew louder.  Their voices were strong, sometimes surprisingly so, and they pushed the pitch higher, straining each breath to the end in a plaintive wail, an aching cry tinged with longing and desire.

The rhythms were complicated in structure, mesmerizing in effect.  The performance was elegant and controlled yet shocked by periodic explosions in the dance, or the rhythm, or the voice.  It gradually built towards a crescendo.  The result was powerful, exotic, and passionate.

The other guitar players, singers, and dancers were equally impressive and enticing.  We were entranced and would highly recommend this experience.

Flamenco dancer in red dress with two singers and two guitar players in background