South Austin’s beloved dance hall closes, community reflects

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Hien Nguyen, left, dances with Jerrie Jensen at Dance Across Texas’ last night in business on Saturday, Sept. 29. The 27-year-old dance hall is going to be converted into a brewery by its new owners.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

A building with a dance floor, themed bars and a staff and customers who care — this is a place where memories are made, people reconnect and many famous artists such as Toby Keith and Brooks & Dunn have performed. Unfortunately, this all came to an end this past weekend.

After welcoming customers for 27 years, Dance Across Texas — the renowned dance hall located in South Austin off Ben White Boulevard —
officially closed its doors to the public this past weekend. Now, this leaves staff to begin taking apart the club so the brewing company can eventually move in. The building will be vacant for about a year in order for the brewing company to obtain permits.

Owner Rosemary Follis said one reason she decided to close was because of her recent quadruple bypass surgery, along with a heart stent.

“Even though it’s really sad and hard for me to give it up, I know that for health reasons and the club (being) at its very best, I needed to sell (the building),” Follis said. “So now it’s just going to become part of history.”

Before the dance hall existed, 84 Lumber Company owned the building. Once they closed, Follis thought the building would be a perfect location to showcase her passion for dancing. She found investors and had the dance floor built from an old school gymnasium and auditorium and retrieved some plywood from a stage that former U.S. President George W. Bush stood on to hand out UT diplomas.

“All around town, we salvaged a lot of stuff and built Dance Across Texas,” Follis said. “It has a lot of personal memories and a lot of personal work from me and my family to build it. When I walk in there, it’s like home. Everything means something to us.”

The dance hall means something to many college students as well. Accounting junior Michael Walsh said he remembered how it was the one of the first ways he got involved with the community beyond classes and served as an avenue to make friends.

“It provides a chance and an avenue for people going in groups to reconnect,” Walsh said. “If you’re not going in a group, it’s a chance for people to ‘shoot their shot,’ as it were, and try their best.”

People beyond Walsh succeeded in “shooting their shot,” as many attendees have met at the dance hall and later gotten married. Floor manager Frankie Estrada explained how one night, four couples were celebrating their anniversaries the same night they met.

“It just kind of tells you how many people have met and married here,” Estrada said. “The odds of having that many people here on the same night celebrating their anniversary — it’s amazing.”

While DATX is a place to connect with others, it is also a place to decompress. Isabella Fanucci, psychology and speech language pathology junior, described the dance hall as her way of de-stressing after a long week.

“Spending every Thursday night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Dance Across Texas allows my friends and I the opportunity to let loose and dance to our favorite songs,” Fanucci said. “It’s the one place I can purely enjoy myself and relax.”

No matter whether people will remember the dance hall as a place associated with family, friends, love or freedom, Estrada points out that Dance Across Texas will be remembered by many.

“I just want (customers) to remember Dance Across Texas as an icon,” Estrada said. “It’s not ‘legendary,’ but it’s something that a lot of people know about and a lot of people will always remember.”