Whip Contest 1999
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Over the weekend of Saturday, August 7, the Houston City Whip Championships were held at Melody Lane Ballroom.

I was a little surprised when one of my students asked me why several people made fun of SSQQ after they found out he took lessons here. To quote one criticism told to him, "If SSQQ is so damn good, why aren't any of them in this contest ?"  Hmm.

Well, it is true that SSQQ was nowhere in sight, but as Pocahontas would say, our Spirit was everywhere !

To set the story straight, SSQQ is not about dance competitions. SSQQ is about social dancing for the fun of it.  Therefore whenever you go to a dance competition, do not look for our studio to be waving any flags or beating tomtoms.

Nor will you ever see a couple from SSQQ win a Whip Contest. It isn't possible : since SSQQ does not sponsor competition dancing, in order to compete you would have to join another Whip Club.

Nevertheless, you might be surprised to find out that many of the people who participated in this competition have quite a bit of SSQQ History running through their veins. When comes to producing top-flight Whip and West Coast Swing dancers, SSQQ has been one the leading programs in the city of Houston for a long, long time.

To make my point, first let us review some of the results, then read a letter from Ted Jones, then I will add a few words.



Friday Night Jack and Jill :

SSQQ Staffer Joanne Spuck and a gentlemen named Chip DeStephano finished in 2nd place in Friday night's Jack and Jill contest. Perhaps this mysterious Chip DeStephano is the same as the Chris Stefano below listed in Novice Newcomer.

The results from Saturday are as follows :

Novice Newcomer:

1 - Chris Stefano & Janice Boyd (1960)
2 - Brad & Kim Walker (BAWDC)
3 - Charles Soileau & Suzanne Wilkes (SWWC)

(note #1 : Charles and Suzanne were coached for this competition by SSQQ Staffers Ted Jones and Margie Saibara).

Novice Strictly Swing:

1 - Pedro Sanchez & Roxanne Taylor (SWWC)
2 - Michael Stephens & Beth Bowman (HWC)
3 - Carl & Gayle Hilton (HWC)

4 - Julie Downey and Jeff Moore
5 -
George Alpazar and Rebecca Piper
6 - Rick Russell and Joanne Spuck

(note #2 : Pedro Sanchez has graced SSQQ with his warm smile and nimble feet on more than a couple occasions. Ted and Margie go way back with this talented man).

(note #3 : both former SSQQ instructor Michael Stephens and current SSQQ instructor Beth Bowman received their formative training at SSQQ)

(note #4 : with the exception of Jeff Moore, the other five including George, Rebecca, Rick, Joanne, and Julie all received their formative training at SSQQ)  

Novice Progressive:

1 - Michael Stephens (HWC) & Karen Meador (SWWC)
2 - Edward & Corrina Huang (SWWC)
3 - Eric Montes & Rachel Ellis (SWWC)

(note #5 : Michael Stephens, Karen Meador, and Eric Montes all received their formative training here at SSQQ).

Female ProAm:

1 - Sandy & Mike Ray (HWC)
2 - Debbie Ellis & Eric Montes (SWWC)
3 - Debbie Reynolds & Charles Soileau (SWWC)

(note #6: former SSQQ instructor Debbie Reynolds received her formative training at SSQQ).

Male ProAm:

1 - Richard Ware & Roxanne Taylor (HWC)
2 - Mario Robau Sr & Linda Moore (SWWC)
3 - Gary Henson & Gayle Hilton (HWC)

Open Traditional:

1 - Trent Haynes (1960) & Debbie Ellis (SWWC)
2 - Scott & Jayne Allen (HWC)
3 - Mike Lewis & Betty Todd (SWWC)

(note #7 : former SSQQ instructor Scott Allen received his formative training at SSQQ)


Notes from Ted Jones regarding the Competition

(Ted Jones and Margie Saibara were judges at the weekend competition. They have been teaching our highest level Whip and West Coast class at SSQQ known as "The Twilight Zone" since 1994. Ted and Margie won the Texas State Whip Championship in 1994. Margie won again with another partner in 1997. Both instructors learned their formative Whip right here at SSQQ in the mid-80's).


I don’t have a complete list of people who are SSQQ alumni and exactly where they placed in the contests last Saturday but I think you would be surprised at the totals. I can say that you should be proud of the showing of the folks who had their start at SSQQ. Among the most impressive was Beth Bowman who won second place in the "Street Swing" catagory with Michael Stephens. They "drew" for music in that contest instead of choreographing a routine to music they select themselves.

I think their only choice was in the beat range and maybe the type (traditional R&B or Disco or Pop). That type of contest calls for a lot of "on the spot choreography". and nobody follows better than Beth. Sometimes the couple may never have heard the music before but usually, the piece of music is a familiar tune. (You could say there is a bit of luck involved if you happen to get your favorite song.)

The man still has to select steps which best compliment the music and the lady has to add her styling in a way that matches the feel of the musical phrase. It can’t just be the performance, by memory, of a pre-practiced, prearranged order of steps.

The couples have practiced their steps and patterns before to be sure—but just where to place the patterns and which ones to use and how to run them all together is a trick that isn’t easy to master.

The couple who won first place in the Street Swing contest was Pedro Sanchez and a very talented and experienced dancer named Roxanne Taylor. Pedro, who started at SSQQ and also took several private lessons from Margie and me a few years back, has a great track record so far. I do believe he has won (or placed in the top three) almost every major contest he ever danced in! (I don’t claim any credit there but at least I never dampened his enthusiasm for the dance)

Michael Stephens has been practicing a lot. In addition to his "Street Swing" performance with Beth, he entered and won the novice progressive contest with another partner, Karen Meador, another SSQQ alumni who took a few lessons long ago from Margie and I. Both Michael and Karen have come a long way in the past year or so and have become very accomplished dancers. In that contest, their routine was choreographed to every beat and they nailed their routine.

Charles Soileau, (pronounced "swallow"), and Suzanne Wilkes, whom Margie and I helped with choreography came in 3rd place in Novice Traditional category with a really good performance.

Scott and Jayne Allen, who have been competing on the state and national level for many years, have returned to Houston recently and their dancing skills brought them a second place finish in the open traditional contest, and a first place finish in the open progressive contest. I don’t know if Scott started out at SSQQ but I believe he was an instructor for a while. You would know better than I.

Helen Villasenor’s son Eric Montes, who has helped out at SSQQ, placed well, dancing in two contests..

He placed second in the Female Pro Am contest with Debbie Ellis and came in Third in the Novice Progressive contest with Rachael Ellis. Another award winner this past weekend was Betty Todd. She was a member of The Whip Society years ago and I think she may have taken lessons at SSQQ back in the eighties. She earned Third Place in the Open Traditional Contest with a partner from Dallas, Mike Lewis.

Other dancers who started at SSQQ and danced well at the Houston City Contest were Rebecca Piper and George Alpazar, Rick Russell, and Joanne Spuck, Denise Logan, and Julie Downey.

SSQQ's Place in the Cosmic Scheme of Whip

Although SSQQ has nothing to do with dance competitions, we are indeed competitive, but in a totally different way.

Every day SSQQ competes with other dance programs to be the best place in the city to learn to dance and to be the least expensive at the same time.  Just because we promote dancing for the fun of it does not mean we don't care deeply about the technical side of dancing. On the contrary, we agree that in order to have our students dance well, we must constantly stress fundamentals such as footwork, leads, and technique.

Some of our competitors would have you believe that SSQQ is strictly for Beginners. They say if you want to be any good you have to go somewhere else. This is complete nonsense. What is the political term for it ?  Disinformation.

Now it is true in our Group Classes that we don't teach flowing arms, pointing fingers, crowd-flirting techniques,  and showoff moves. These things do not have much to do with social dancing. We leave that end of the business to instructors who train people in choreography. Typically this is taught in private lessons. (Ted and Margie will be glad to help you with the performing side of Whip / West Coast if you are interested).

And it is true that Group classes can only take you so far. Look at it like this. When it comes to Whip and West Coast, SSQQ can take you through elementary school, high school, and college. However if you want a Phd in Whip, then yes, you will have to go to Ted and Margie for Whip Graduate School or perhaps another big gun in the dance competition business.

The traditional road to the top of the dance pyramid is to take group classes during your formative period. Then after a year or so, if you feel you have a special talent and you are interested in competing, the next step is to take private lessons with a gifted instructor. In the meantime SSQQ can get you 4/5ths of the way up that pyramid in group classes for 1/5th of what you would pay in private lessons.

What we attempt to do at SSQQ is to give you an excellent foundation in dance as inexpensively as possible. If you are wealthy enough to take Private lessons at $40, $50, $60 an hour, then more power to you. However in my experience the vast majority of people would prefer to learn the Whip just for the fun of it. Then if at  four months, eight months, or maybe a year down the road you realize you want to enter a dance contest, you will be pleased to find that your training at SSQQ has prepared you well for the next big step. We are well-respected throughout the city as an excellent Whip program. 

I might add with Ted Jones and Margie Saibara as part of the SSQQ Staff, we are also able to give you the private lesson and group lesson training you will need to enter competitions.  For example, Ted and Margie's difficult competition-level Twilight Zone class has been taken by many of Houston's top dancers. Just for the starters, from the competitors listed in blue above George Alpazar, Rebecca Piper, Rick Russell, Joanne Spuck, Michael Stephens, Karen Meador, Eric Montes, Charles Soileau, and Suzanne Wilkes have all spent time in "The Twilight Zone".

I am not trying to say SSQQ is the only place in Houston to learn Whip and West Coast Swing. Nor am I hinting that other instructors around the city are not equally as talented as the SSQQ Staff. I am simply saying we can hold our own against anyone else when it comes to group lessons. Unfortunately when it comes to the Glory end of our business, our name is not in the marquee.

At SSQQ not only will you receive excellent fundamentals equivalent to any other program, but when it comes to Practice, I would imagine we are the industry Leader. We are well ahead of every other program in the city in this regard. At our studio you know you will find many talented partners to practice with on any of three different nights a week, even four nights when we have a Saturday party.

No one else can make that claim. In fact, some of the same people who knock us behind our back come here to practice and then have the nerve to try to recruit our   students for their own program.

At SSQQ you can enjoy dancing to the best Whip music three nights a week on two of the finest dance floors in the entire city, smoke free and plenty of airconditioning. And, as they say, Practice makes Perfect. If you want to be any good, you have to put your time in on the floor. No one makes it more fun to dance than we do.

When you see 100 people on a crowded Thursday night dancing up a storm, it should come as no surprise that many of these same people will find it easy to achieve success when they decide to enter the next stage.

I would appreciate it if you would stick up for us the next time you hear someone putting down our studio. Thanks !

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
August, 1999

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Response from an SSQQ Student
who was at the Competition and who read this article.

Unfortunately for you, success has the down side of too many people, which increases the percentage of really bad dancers and strains the studio’s resources (teachers and space).  Is there anyway you can buy January’s building and use the extra space for classes? That might kill two birds with one stone. You could always tell the credit card people you were putting in a restaurant (joke). As I see it, most of the people who go on to join clubs are going to be pretty good dancers to begin with, so they will look good on the dance floor. Many of the people that come to SSQQ, and take just a few classes, may be able to dance, but only be mediocre or fair dancers. Since one of the objects of social dancing is to have fun, and get some exercise, that accomplishes the goal. The downside comes when people that aren’t very good, try to dance with people who are good, or know a different style and give the impression that all dancers from SSQQ are of the same caliber.

Think of yourself as bringing the joy of dancing to the masses - kind of the fast food of dancing for beginners. Once they learn the basics, they can move on to TZ and DV (the gourmet courses). When you were a kid, didn’t you prefer McDonald’s to Tony’s? Discriminating taste comes with time, and you should be proud of all the dancers you’ve contributed to the Houston scene. Frankly, most people would be intimidated at the thought of competing, which seems to be the main focus of some studios. Being a social type, I prefer the camaraderie of SSQQ, and the encouragement. I may not be Ginger Rogers, but at least I can dance.

Besides, some of those other places probably put you down as a sop to their vanity. They’re not enjoying your success, so they have to find some justification. "That SSQQ doesn’t really teach correct technique." (spoken with a disdainful sniff) - That’s to justify a one hour class that lasts 45 minutes, with no practice time afterward, and costs more than a 2 hour lesson at SSQQ. Living well is the best revenge. See you tomorrow.

(Reprinted in its entirety).

Note :  If you too have a comment on this story you would like to share, we accept "Letters to the Editor".    As always, dance@ssqq.com

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