John White finishes tuning his fiddle, turns and nods to guitarist Kenny Applebee, letting him know he’s ready. White looks up and sees roughly 70 people form two lines, laughing and joking with each other, waiting for the music to start. Applebee then checks with the others in the pick-up band: Richard Shewmaker and Molly White on banjos, Jesse Applebee on second fiddle, Nancy Currey on stand-up bass and Cliff White on hammer dulcimer.
Kenny Applebee strikes the first chord of the “Virginia Reel” and the dancers cheer, then clap to the beat. The couple at the front sashays down the line, then do-si-dos with the other dancers. Reaching the end, the pair form an arch with their hands, and everyone walks underneath the human bridge.
On the second Saturday of each month, John White and his wife, Betty, host the Hallsville Square Dances at the Hallsville Community Building. The festivities begin at 4 p.m. with an instrumental jam session, followed by square dance instruction. After a potluck dinner, kids, teenagers and adults begin to line up for the square dancing.
“We’re passing from one generation to the next the traditions and vignettes and music,” said David Currey, whose 13- and 14-year-old children played traditional music and danced that night. “We’re having a good time as a community.”
The children leave early, but the teenagers and adults stay and dance. They dance so much that they practice dance moves while the musicians rest between numbers.
“I like it,” said Jesse Applebee, Kenny’s granddaughter. “But I hope we don’t do the Texas Star. It’s hard; the guys and girls switch roles.”