The German Dancers
Click on images to enlarge.
Who would ever have imagined that a performing troupe of German dancers— American college students from the Llano Estacado—would have toured the “Vaterland” (three times!) becoming the toast of every community in which they performed and sponsored by Daimler-Benz and American Airlines? Such is the history of the “Texas Tech German Dancers”, raised by Governor Mark White to the status of “The Texas State German Dancers” for their goodwill tour to Germany in 1985, advertising White’s invitation for Germans to come to Texas and participate in the state’s 1986 Sesquicentennial, a marketing strategy which worked. They came!
How did such an unexpected student group start up, thrive and shine internationally? Well, as fate would have it, two years after Dr. McClain took a position at TTU in the fall of 1976, a student from Galveston, Texas, Randy Kirk, arrived and asked about a German Dance organization, like the one he had belonged to as a high school student. There was no such thing, but Professor Alexander supported the idea and in the fall of 1978, a small troupe started a regular and rigorous practice schedule, with Randy providing the music tapes and all the dance steps, plus the very strict discipline and the enriching fun to keep the group knitted together. Amazing!
An astonishing track record of activities during the early years is documented in eight fat, red scrapbooks residing in the TTU Southwest Collection Archive, the sources of the images seen here.
In 1979 Dr. McClain became the sponsor and financial advisor of the dance troupe and helped Randy with the annual performance tours’ organization (plus driving one of the two vans) to the New Braunfels “Wurstfest” in the Texas-German Hill Country and regular visits to St. Joseph’s Parish German festivals in Slaton, not far from Lubbock.
In the very first edition of the “Umlaut: Newsletter of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages” (editor, Dr. Ulrich Goebel), spring of 1984, one article points to the unbelievable success of the dance troupe back from their first “Goodwill Tour of Germany”, as the “Texas State German Dancers”. Very fortunately for us today, Mr. Greg Geis, language lab director, produced an up-beat, three-section video of this huge 1983 tour.
The next report in “Umlaut”, spring 1985, announces the plan for a 2nd Germany tour, May 1985, to advertise the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial.
The third and last Germany tour of the Texas State German Dancers occurred as exchange programs were getting established between TTU and the Technische Fachhochschule Wilhelmshaven in the North German state of Saxony Anhalt.
With Randy Kirk’s graduation from Texas Tech and his departure from Lubbock, the troupe members gathered one last time for a 10-year anniversary celebration honoring him as their genius founder and gifted director. It was the end of a decade of dancing.
“Umlaut: Newsletter of the Southwest Center for German Studies”
In the 12-page Vol. 10 of Umlaut, produced in the summer of 1995 under the outstanding editorship of David Luke, M.A. in German and T.A. plus research assistant, (see page 3), it became the Newsletter of the Southwest Center for German Studies. This 12-page issue and the 16-page, Vol. 11, 1998, are linked in their entirety, and taken together, they document the activities which led to the German honors bestowed upon Dr. McClain by Germans in 2001 and 2002.