Junior Historians » Junior Historians Czech Polka Dancers

Junior Historians Czech Polka Dancers

The West Junior Historians were organized in 1973 when former Superintendent M.F. Kruse was president of the Heart of Texas American Heritage Association.  Milton “Poone” Morgan volunteered his services as sponsor to form and organize the high school group.  The club was open to only junior and senior students at the time. Each member was required to have a project which could be writing nonfiction articles about local history, refinishing old furniture, restoring old machinery or making etchings of interesting historical gravestones.  The projects were submitted for competition at the Texas Junior Historian Annual Meeting and History Fair.
With the nation's bicentennial in the near future, Mr. Morgan decided that the members needed to learn the Czech national dance, The Moravian Beseda.  The group of sixteen students began to learn the dance in January of 1976 and held their first public performance on March 5th of the same year.  The girls wore the traditional costume of a black vest, red skirt and white ruffled shirt and apron while the boys wore a button down white long sleeve shirt with a bow at the neck and black vest with two rows of rickrack.  This group was awarded a trophy at the 37th annual state meeting for being one of the six outstanding high school clubs in Texas.
In September 1976, the West Junior Historians performed their one dance, the fifteen minute Moravian Beseda, at the first annual WestFest.  The group was invited to perform for the first time on Czech Day at the State Fair of Texas in October of the same year.
By the spring of 1977, the members were being invited to perform at various locations in Waco.  They expanded their program to include the Seven Step Polka, the Schottische, and the Herr Schmidt.  A new addition was made to the girls’ costumes, a beribboned flower wreath for the girl’s hair.  The performers gained more state recognition when they were invited to perform at the sixth annual Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio.
The group learned two new dances by the fall of 1977, Na te louce zelene (In the Green Meadow) a Czech circle waltz and Tancuj! (Dance!), a Slovak polka dance.  By 1978, the group was well on their way to becoming known around the state of Texas by performing throughout the school year at various locations.  The group received at the 1981 Junior Historian Annual Meeting and History Fair the award for outstanding club for the eighth consecutive year.
The group continued to grow through the years.  By the spring of 1983, sophomores were allowed to join and by fall, the total membership was 42.  The girls began to dress more colorfully by 1986.  The traditional costume was replaced with more individually styled skirts and vests.  The boys began to replace their basic black vests with ones that had embroidered designs on the back and the bow at the neck was no longer worn.
During the 1990’s the club underwent more changes.  The focus shifted away from the historical projects to the Czech and Germany folk dances.  Freshmen were allowed to join the club.
New dances and a renewed sense of commitment helped increase membership.   Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, a lively polka, was given new dance steps, and also added was the Chicken Dance.  The Gstaad, a complex, yet beautifully choreographed piece became the closing dance.  The original Moravian Beseda is still performed, but it has been shortened to five minutes so that our complete performance routine of ten dances does not last more than thirty-five minutes.
We are current members of the Junior Historians of Texas, Chapter #317.  We perform annually at WestFest in West, Pflugerville elementary schools, the State Fair of Texas, and numerous other locations across the state when invited.
The group’s membership has continued to grow until its present day total between 130-150 students.  All students are welcomed to become members as long as they are willing to learn and perform the ten dances that make up the routine.  Our members come from diverse ethnic backgrounds – Czech, German, Hispanic, African American, Polish, and so many more.

In June 2010 we made an eight day trip to Berlin, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic with EF Tours, Inc.  While there, we attended the Strážnice International Folklore Festival.  We hope to take this trip every two years so that as many of our members as possible may benefit from this chance to experience the Czech cultures first hand.

Last school here, we made over 20 appearances state-wide which included: Westfest, State Fair of Texas, West Rest Haven's Mini-Westfest, Region 12 ESC's Superintendent's Forum, SPJST Lodge 54 Christmas program, Hallettsville Cultural Experience, SPJST Lodge 6 Easter program, Mission Waco's Cultural Food and Dance at Jubilee Theater, EOAC Waco Charter School, Pflugerville Elementary Schools, Czech Educational Foundation of Texas at Knights of Columbus 2305, Harris County Czech Heritage Society's Springfest, and Texas Travel Industry Association's Texas Travel Fair at Waco Suspension Bridge.
For more information, please contact Donna Sexton, Junior Historians Sponsor, at [email protected]