Many things have changed since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March. Dancehalls were severely impacted and forced to shut down for many months. With mandates letting up, dancehalls have began to open again. Many rules have been implemented, but that is not stopping dancers from flooding back in.
“It’s my favorite thing to do. The mask doesn’t bother me, I’m just happy to be back.” Alex, 21 from Austin, was a frequent attendee of dancehalls pre-Covid. He said he went dancing at least twice a week and missed it very much over summer. Now, Alex goes every weekend as many times as he can. He said, “You never know if they’re going to shut down again, so I’m just trying to soak it in while I can.”
The dancehall experience has changed a bit. The pictures below tell a story of a business in a new world. It depicts a building filled with some people embracing the change, some people refusing to follow the rules, and others continuing on as if nothing is different.
Nick, a bartender at a popular dancehall in Austin said, “We try to keep an eye on people as much as possible, but some just won’t wear a mask. We have become a little less strict with it, but the guys on either side of the dance floor will make you leave if you’re not wearing one. Some people are cool about it and some aren’t.” Some people are tired of the masks and want the world to go back to normal, but that is not a realistic possibility at the moment.
People seem to still be dancing, but the rules are very different from place to place. Some dancehalls require masks while others say it is only an option, and some have refused to open their doors again at all. A violation of a mask mandate in some counties and cites means the removal of a TABC license and immediate shut down, while other towns do not even have a mask mandate in place. The forever changing rules is making it hard for dancers to know what to expect.
Here are some facts about Covid-19 and how it is effecting dancehalls:
If you can handle these new rules, I have provided a map that shows where the dancehalls are in the San Antonio and Austin areas that are open for business.
Another frequenter of dancehalls, Shelbi Bays, spoke about the biggest change she has noticed in dancehalls. Most people know about the masks and social distancing, but Shelbi went deeper to talk about the effects of these new rules.
Texas started a relief fund for dancehalls that were forced to shut down due to Covid-19. The proceeds went to help with the cost of utilities and insurance. The total donations of $262,520 went to many dancehalls across Texas. Many have began to open their doors again, but are still struggling without the added revenue of weddings and concerts, as well as a lower amount of people willing to go dancing.
Dancehalls may have changed during the pandemic, but not completely. You can still grab a drink with your friends, listen to good music, and dance the night away. Covid-19 has made life difficult on all of us, but dancing seems to bring many people joy. Yes, the masks can be annoying, but the experience has not gone away. If it is safe for you, head out to support your local dancehall and forget about life for a while, just don’t forget your mask!