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Finding Perspective in a Ramshackle Old Dance

Finding Perspective in a Ramshackle Old Dance

Just a few days after an election that deeply affected me, I set off into the heart of Trump country: rural Texas. Admittedly, I was a bit wary. I recognize and honor the diverse political viewpoints of our country, but this election felt like a personal attack to me. And yet, here I was on a plane to Austin…

The assignment was not political in nature whatsoever. It was a feel-good story about a diverse group of music and dance aficionados who are fighting to stabilize and protect rural Texas’ historic dance halls. These places, they argued, are part of their music-and-food-loving culture and reminders of a past in which communities bonded over shared delight.

I wound up dancing with a cowboy, swilling beers in a haunted old hall, rambling remote back roads, and learning about families’ deep emotional ties with these crumbling walls and century-old live oak trees. (I also had the opportunity to travel with Ben Sklar, a terrific New York City-based photographer.)

Of course, nothing political was solved. But just remembering to connect with people as people—with lives, cultures, backgrounds and quirky missions to save beloved places—instead of reducing them to abstractions was enough to bring me back down to earth again. Read the resulting story, “Dance Hall Days,” in Preservation magazine.