Light in the Trees is her meditation on the geography of family and our relationship to wilderness, and her roots in the region provide a unique perspective on what it means to live in this shifting landscape.
Indeed, for all of her far-flung adventures over the years, a piece of Folkins' heart always remained in the Pacific Northwest. She returned regularly to visit family and hike the Cascades. Most of these pieces are from those years when she came back as a tourist to her own hometown — witnessing change, reminiscing and building new memories.
Reviews and Press - Texas Dance Halls: A Two-Step Circuit
Folkins and Weekley highlight several important elements of dance hall culture-gender, race, and ethnicity-which have been largely overlooked in other ethnographies. Women play a significant role in this book by taking the lead in a number of "two-step" stories, including Terrie Chase, owner of Saengerhalle, the mother-daughter team of Marian and Glynis Tietjen who manage the Swiss Alp Dance Hall, such world-class musicians as Cindy Cashdollar, featured in an essay on Gruene Hall, and such dynamic personalities as the sax-playing grandmother, Alice Sulak, who runs Sefcik Hall.
The Round Top Register, Fall 2008, Review by Kurt Wilson
In this part of Texas we see a lot of UT and A&M caps, shirts, stickers and so forth. Tech is another matter. Lubbock is a tad far away. However, it's time to tip our caps, be they maroon or orange, to the Red Raiders because Texas Tech University Press has just published Texas Dance Halls: A Two-Step Circuit by Gail Folkins with photographs by J. Marcus Weekley.
Ms. Folkins recently gave an author talk and did a book signing at the public library in Columbus. It was well attended and a lot of fun because a diverse group of people (with the exception of the very young) were there not only to hear readings from the book but to share their own stories about the dance halls they know so well.
One thing was made very clear: dance halls are not honky-tonks. They appeal to folks who love good music and want to spend a few hours cutting loose on the dance floor. As one woman remembered, "They served beer but if any man had too much to drink several of the other men would escort him outside and explain it was time for him to leave." Many audience members had literally grown up in dance halls. Mothers would place their young children under benches and let them doze while Mom and Dad dosey-do'ed. A few years later those babies would be out on the dance floor, too.
This book is not an attempt to catalog every dance hall in Texas (Folkins profiles eighteen places) nor does it give an exhaustive history of every famous musician ever to play Luckenbach Dance Hall. The aim is more of using people's stories (augmented by Weekley's photographs) to portray the feel of being part of this world whether as an owner, customer or musician. Nor does Folkins stick to just the better known spots such as Austin's Broken Spoke. It's in there, but so are the halls of Dubina, Freyburg and Schulenburg's Wright's Park. For many of the smaller communities the dance halls have served as more than an entertainment venue. They are a focal point where folks gather for celebrations, good food and socializing, too.
Look in the index and, of course, there will be entries for Alvin Crow and Willie Nelson but the Round Top Brass Band is in there, too. In fact, there's a half page photo of them playing at the KJT hall in Ammannsville. That picture, and 131 more, are all reproduced in a soft brown and white duotone that gives the book an easy, earthy feel. Color is provided by the stories.
Texas Dance Halls: A Two Step Circuit is an amazing history and showcase of the cultural legacy of Texas dance floors. Black-and-white photography throughout illustrates the motion and life that fills these gathering places, while the text traces the history, construction, and high events of the halls, as well as what goes into making Texas music and much more. A wonderful addition to American culture and Texas history collections.
Austin360 Arts and Culture, December 2007
From the promoter:
Gail Folkins has captured the essence of the Texas dance hall experience in this brilliant and beautiful book and collection of photographs. Texas Dance Halls brings this whirling and sometimes dreamy to life, capturing the beat, motion and even the scent of sawdust on the floor. The only thing better than this beautifully written and illustrated book is the real thing.
From Austin360.com Feature - Sunday, December 09, 2007:
— Michael Corcoran
The classic Texas dancehalls are treasures, and they're buried right in your back yard. We all know about Luckenbach and Gruene Hall, the most famous dancehalls in Texas. And though it's not technically a dancehall, Floores Country Store in Helotes is a fave way-back venue for the college country crowd. But there are several lesser-known dancehalls in the area which will make you feel like you're stepping into 1956, or even earlier than that if a polka band is playing. Here are 15 classic hardwood havens, all built before World War II (and many before World War I), where you can get in your car and, in less than a 90-minute drive, transport yourself to a simpler, more innocent time.
(Many are open to the public only occasionally, so call first.)
A lively aspect of Texas is captured in Gail Folkins' new book, Texas Dance Halls: A Two-Step Circuit, from Texas Tech University Press. With photos by Marcus Weekly and an introduction by writer, musician, songwriter, and historian Andy Wilkinson, the book "celebrates how these halls still bring people together and foster joy."
The publisher comments, "Folkins etches portraits of proprietors who give space for music and dancing, of musicians who furnish the soundtrack for dramas and comedies that play out across hardwood or concrete floors, and of people who come to dance, listen, or simply share the experience with friends and neighbors. Paired with Marcus Weekley's photographs, some whirling and some dreamy, they capture beat and motion, even the scent of sawdust on the floor. Drawn in, we witness daytime preparations for evenings to come, and the quiet that returns after the dancers go home and the musicians have packed up for the night."
From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and Bryan-College Station Eagle, October 7, 2007:
Book Review by Glen Dromgoole
Gail Folkins, who calls herself a "dance hall wife," has written about Texas Dance Halls (Texas Tech University Press). She toured the dance hall circuit with her husband John, bass guitarist, and with photographer Marcus Weekley, whose duotone pictures certainly enhance the presentation.
But don't overlook Folkins' prose. "From my first visit to Gruene Hall with friends in the early 1990s to the gigs that John has taken me to across Texas," she writes, "I've learned to slide across the dance hall salt and to smell the years buried in the woodsy-dust scent."
In Texas Dance Halls she said she set out to "share the halls not only through my eyes, but also through the individuals I met at each place who keep dance hall culture strong."
In 18 stories and more than 130 photos, Folkins and Weekley paint a vivid picture of community life as it revolves around some great old Texas dance halls. They visited places like Twin Sisters Hall, near Blanco; the Broken Spoke in Austin; Round-Up Hall in La Grange; Roundup Hall in Stamford; and of course, the Luckenbach and Gruene halls, and several outdoor venues as well.