Destination Dance Hall

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Live music promoter Steve Dean may have solved his location problem.

The veteran impresario’s previous venue, The Oaks, was just far enough northeast of Austin to keep city slickers from making the trip, thus dooming it to closure. Dean’s current venture, Sengelmann Hall, located in Schulenburg at the heart of the Austin-Houston-San Antonio triangle, tries a different approach: pitching authentic roots music in restored digs to not one but three major markets. Sengelmann’s doors, closed for 60 years, reopened last month.

Sengelmann is one of many historic Texas dance halls built by German and Czech settlers for the purpose of showcasing their manifold contributions to Texas culture: beer, food and music in particular. Revived under the ownership of Houston artist Dana Harper, Sengelmann merges old-world charm with new-world sophistication. The original bar and hardwood floors, both made-over, complement additions including a biergarten and a balcony overlooking Main Street. Then there’s the state-of-the-art sound system giving texture to the wide-open performance space. And don’t forget the “pul a pul” cooking, which fuses traditional German and Czech food with modern Texas cuisine.

There are roughly 400 dance halls throughout Texas. That number comes courtesy of the nonprofit Texas Dance Hall Preservation Inc. (Dean is on the board), which raises awareness of these historic hangouts, which Dean will catalog in an upcoming book and video documentary.

Sengelmann will celebrate its revival with summer shows by Hank Williams Sr. ringer James Hand (June 13), Tin Pan Alley revivalists White Ghost Shivers (June 20) and old-school country outlaw Billy Joe Shaver (July 24), among others. Add to that regular Sunday polka sessions and free Thursday shows by honky-tonk pianist Earl Poole Ball, and the vast spectrum of Texas music is pretty well covered—all in one handy hall. See www.sengelmannhall.com for more information.