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Same Sex Dancing at SSQQ
Written by Rick Archer
First Written: March 2002
Last update:  August 2007
 

The Same Sex Dancing Rule:

At SSQQ, Same Sex Dancing is not permitted unless an SSQQ Instructor is involved or permission to do so is expressly granted in writing by SSQQ Administration.   


FORWARD: LETTER TO EDITOR:
Thursday, March 21, 2002 4:40 PM

O.K. maybe this is addressed somewhere in the web site and I did not see it but no matter what I would like to find out ... one of my friends is wanting to take some dance classes and asked me about it since I have taken some classes at your studio ... I know she will not need a partner and I understand the switching partner rule ... but she wants to learn to lead as that is how she will normally dance.  Will or does this cause a problem at SSQQ?

I assume that your female teachers had to learn to lead at one time in order to teach the guys how to lead.

She is interested in Tango and Salsa/Mambo. If she can't find a group class then I guess we will look at private lessons.  Thanks, MG


REPLY:
Friday, March 22, 2002 1:18 PM

Same Sex Dancing is not permitted in group classes or practice night/parties.  Your best bet is private lessons. I have several instructors who will be happy to help her.

Rick Archer


The Reasons Behind the SSQQ Policy on Same Sex Dancing

On Wednesday, March 20, 2002, I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Henry. He asked several questions about country-western dancing. He said he was recently single again. Henry went on to ask if he needed a partner. I explained carefully that he did not and that we rotated partners. Henry became silent. Although I am notoriously impatient on the phone, for some reason I was quiet as I waited for his next question. I guess I sensed a curve ball. Sure enough, it was a zinger.

"Do I have to dance with any men?"

I told him this was unlikely. I explained to Henry that he might have to dance with a male teacher as part of the rotation, but he would definitely not have to dance with the other men in the class. 

Henry said,
"Good. See you next month." 

The story above about Henry is not made up. I offered it to begin the discussion. 

The main reason we don't permit Same Sex Dancing at the studio is that most people object to it. The existing social norm in Houston Texas 2002 is that Boys dance with Girls. The vast majority of the studio's clientele supports this position.  Although many people don't mind Same Sex Dancing, the majority of the people do. 

I know this for a fact. For starters, when I dance with men in my classes, I am the one who sees the frowns. In February 2002, I had a man openly refuse to dance with me in Western Swing. Surprised, I let him pass me by for the remainder of the hour. Then I thought about it. At Break I went up and said he would have to dance with me in the second hour or leave. 

He asked why. I said the other men in the class didn't enjoy dancing with me either, but did it anyway. It wasn't fair to allow him to avoid me. Reluctantly he danced with me in the second hour, then never returned to my class again. 

Even if someone doesn't mind - as many women don't - the ones who do mind often object strenuously. Even if 9 out of 10 people could care less about same sex dancing in class, the tenth person might be someone who definitely does not want to with someone of his or her own sex. After years of grappling with the same sex issue, we decided on this policy:

Same Sex Dancing is not permitted unless an instructor or official volunteer is involved.

The instructor has the authority to authorize an assistant or volunteer to dance same sex if it helps correct the lead to follow ratio of the class. 

In some unusual situations, e.g. Zydeco class, the instructor may even ask some of the students to dance lead.  However, if the instructor asks a student not to dance with someone of the same sex in a Group Class, then we expect the student to honor the request or leave the class.

Women are definitely more open-minded about dancing with other women. Why I am not sure, but it doesn't seem to bother them nearly as much as it does men. Nevertheless I have received complaints from women too. 

In 1999, we received a determined request from a woman who wished to take an Advanced Swing dance class as a 'Lead'. She said she would pay the man's price. She wanted to learn to teach. I know her request was strictly about dancing because I knew her boyfriend.

Nevertheless we turned her down. I did not feel it was fair to make the women in the class dance with this student unless there was a compelling reason. This woman did not take 'no' for an answer. She said the right thing to do was to ask the students themselves the first day of class.

I was reluctant to make the students decide in front of other classmates whether they want to same sex dance or not. Here 'peer pressure' would come into play. What if the least assertive person in the room was also someone who objected, but was too afraid to speak up publicly? 

I just don't think it is fair to put any student on the spot about an issue this sensitive.   

(PS - You are welcome to read the entire story of that controversy.  I have included it at the bottom of the page)

Yes, Same Sex Dancing is definitely a sensitive issue. For that matter, SSQQ is guilty of occasional hypocrisy on this issue. For several years women students have consistently danced with other women students in our Zydeco Classes.  The problem is that for some reason women sign up for Zydeco in a ratio of 3 women to every man. Balancing the class is nearly impossible when you have 10 or 12 more women than men. The instructor has little choice but to ask for women to volunteer to take turns leading. 

For example, in early 2001 Anita Williams had 10 women and 2 men in Zydeco. Several of the women alternated between the boy and the girl’s part. What else was Anita supposed to do ??? 

Now if one Zydeco woman had said no and wanted her money back, we would have given it to her without hesitation. But since the group understood the problem, it was cool.  I have never fielded a complaint about this class. Women just don't seem to care as much as men do. 


ECONOMICS AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION
Written by Rick Archer.
Last update: August 2007

Anyone who is gay is welcome at our studio as long as the men dance with the women and vice versa. I apologize to any gay person if this policy feels offensive to them or seems close-minded.  

I am heterosexual, have been married to three women and have a child.  In other words, I am straight.  Completely.

That said, I am at ease with people who are gay. 
I personally have no moral objections to women dancing with women or men dancing with men. 

I have spent considerable time in the company of gays.  For starters, I would like to say my first dance instructor in 1974 was gay.  In 1974, my best friend was gay.  Furthermore, needing to practice what I learned in class, at my friend's suggestion, I actually learned to dance in a gay bar (read story). 

In addition, the man who taught me how to partner dance was more than likely gay.  I have tremendous respect for this gentleman as well as gratitude.  Today, not only do I have students who I believe are gay, I have instructors and volunteers on my staff who I believe are gay as well.  Nor am I afraid to dance with a man. 
I dance with men in dance class whenever the situation calls for it.  And you know what?  I couldn't care less.  

However, I doubt most of my dance students are as open-minded on this issue as I am.  I have so much on my plate, I do not feel any desire to become a champion of gay rights at this time. 

I just want to stay in business.  So I have worked out a simple compromise:

People who are gay are welcome at SSQQ... on one condition: Men dance with Women and vice versa, but Same Sex Dancing is prohibited.


My decision is completely economic.

When I first made this rule in 2002, I strongly believed 2002 Houston Texas supported a heterosexual lifestyle.  Now in 2007 as I revisit this issue, nothing has happened to make me feel any different.

I am not willing to risk going out of business simply because gay women or gay men wish to dance openly with their same sex in group dance classes at my studio.  When it comes to group dynamics, I prefer to honor the wish of the majority of my customers:  Same Sex Dancing is taboo.  2007 Houston Texas prefers that boys dance with girls.  

My guess if put to a vote SSQQ would vote 90-10 to support things exactly the way they are. 

Since the vast majority of our students are straight, it is a no-brainer to make the boys dance with girls our status quo policy. Therefore we have a very strong “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” policy.

We didn't come to this decision willy-nilly.  Indeed over the years we have had several confrontations regarding this issue.  We have had headaches in the past from students wanting their money back because they didn’t want to dance with someone of their own sex or were uncomfortable watching others do it.  

In 1996 an accomplished Whip dancer requested permission to dance with his lover at Practice Night.  He asked so nicely that I hated turning him down.  But I did.

In 1998
a lady I barely knew decided one the spot to become a “volunteer dancing the boy’s part” in a beginning Twostep class.  Her aggressive correction of two young ladies led them to believe she was “coming on to them”.  A refund was issued at a cost to us of $70.  As it turned out, I soon discovered the two women were correct.  This woman was ex-army and pretty brash about making her sexual preference known.

In 1999 it was a Swing girl who adamantly insisted that she be permitted to dance as a boy in Swing class.

I did not make this stuff up; I don’t need to.  Until I finally decided to write about it in 2002, this issue generally came up once or twice a year, but it was never the same thing and I never knew when to expect it.   However, it only took a few Refunds to help me make up my mind.

Based on the objections of our heterosexual customers, w
e had to set up a ground rule – Boys dance the Boy’s part. Girls dance the Girl’s part. Only Instructors have permission to dance same-sex.

Furthermore I have found every time you bend the rule for someone, then someone else gets angry.  If you break the rule for anyone, then you are forced to permit everyone the same privilege.  

Here is a perfect example.  As you may or may not know, our studio's most controversial policy is that everyone switch partners.

I once had a man in dance who had lost his left hand in an industrial accident.  Now he had a huge metal hook in its place. He and his wife asked to be allowed to dance together in a Swing class and not switch. I danced with him and found out quickly he had no way of leading with that hook.  Furthermore, as I personally danced with him to test the hook, I realized how easily a woman's hand could get badly twisted in that hook by accident.  I decided it was out of the question to expect this gentleman to lead using a HOOK.

There was no way I was going to let this guy switch partners - it wasn't safe!  But there wasn't any reason to send him home either.

I had an idea.  The man had a perfectly good right hand.  Why not trade roles in Swing Dance?  I suggested he learn to 'follow' and let his wife lead.  They were close in height.  Why not?  They smiled and thought it was worth a try.

Adapting as best they could to his handicap
, his wife did the boy’s part (using her left hand) and he did the girl’s part using his good right hand.  It worked like a charm!!   I smiled to myself.  I had made the right decision to let them not switch partners.  Plus my suggestion was uniquely correct.

However, my smile was short-lived.  I had made a mistake.  I did not explain this unusual circumstance to the class.  In fact, as he danced in the corner with his wife, most people didn't even realize he was handicapped.  Watching this couple dance to the side by themselves, ten minutes into the class I had three couples who refused to switch. They said if that couple didn’t have to switch, then why should they??  

Wouldn’t you know it - Damned if you do, Damned if you don't.

At that point I had no choice but to explain the “Hook” problem – embarrassing the poor man, his wife and myself thoroughly in the process.  I said if any of the couples had a reason as compelling as the “Hook” couple to justify not switching, I would listen to it.  

They backed down, but they resented the confrontation. They were embarrassed too.  They had no idea the man was crippled and felt guilty.  One couple left immediately and demanded a refund.  The other couples frowned for the rest of the class.  Their mood affected everyone else.  Attendance the following week was just half of what it was the opening night. 

That is how I learned that even if I win the argument, I lose the war. The smart thing is to draw the line ahead of time. In retrospect what I should have done was explained the exception to the class ahead of time so everyone understood what the story was.  In my defense I didn’t anticipate the reaction of the 3 couples in the first place. There really is something to be said for being in business 20 years. You do learn a thing or two. 

Obviously we wish to be flexible, but where do you draw the line?  Another time we let partially blind men take a class.  I literally had to assign an instructor to dance with them nearly full-time because they could not see well enough to follow the instructor.  They held up the entire class and ultimately didn't learn a thing.  Another time a schizophrenic man signed up for a class.  I cannot begin to tell you how creeped out the women were. 

The social work side of me feels for each and every person, but my experience has taught me that GROUP CLASSES do not lend themselves to EXCEPTIONS.  Every time we make exceptions, we get burned.  

And Same Sex Dancing is just as controversial with some students as dancing with a blind man, a man with a hook, or a schizophrenic.  Sorry, but it's true.



SOMETIMES IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEXUAL PREFERENCE

I totally agree that Same Sex Dancing isn't all that horrible.  In dances like Swing, for example, you aren't dancing that close anyway.  Nor is Swing a particularly 'sexy' dance.  Swing is just pure fun. 

And the tradition of girls dancing with girls goes way back.  I remember in high school, girls would swing dance with each other all the time at our parties.  The girls didn't have any choice.  Girls love to dance.  The Supremes would come on, the girls would look at the boys and the boys would shake their heads 'no way'.  The boys were terrified of learning the hard way and looking foolish.  Not only were they terrified of the girls laughing at them, they were afraid of the other guys making fun of them for being so clumsy.  I know this for a fact.   I secretly wanted to get out there and try so bad it hurt.  I would have loved to danced with those girls, but the fear of looking stupid held me back.  I think I speak for lots of guys on this phenomenon.  Embarrassment during the teen years was near fatal for some of us boys...

So, faced with the reluctance of the boys to participate, girls would dance with each other all the time.  They would laugh and carry on and have a great time while the boys would sulk and feel sorry for themselves.

Naturally once they grow up, some adult women still enjoy dancing with each other.  

For example, a
t the Frankie Manning-style Swing Camps, apparently girls dance with girls all the time. My ex-wife Judy reported that back in 1996 & 1997 she danced “Lead” at these camps all the time.  She danced 'Lead' so she could become a better teacher.  Due to the boy-girl imbalance at the workshops, no one minded a bit.  Furthermore, Judy said the vast majority of women actually look forward to dancing with her because she “led” so well.  Everyone knew it had absolutely nothing to do with 'sexual preference'.

Perhaps it was this environment during the Swing Era of the late Nineties that contributed to a huge misunderstanding at our studio.  Back in 1999, a woman named Joye P insisted on dancing the lead in one of the SSQQ Swing Classes.  Unfortunately she didn't bother clearing it with anyone in advance.  Then she complicated the problem by arguing with us IN FRONT OF THE OTHER STUDENTS to demand we respect her rights.  My guess is Ms. P had been to Swing Camps just like Judy had and was used to seeing girls dance with girls all the time.  In fact, it was so common in those days, she may not have even thought it would be an issue.


I suppose we need to look at each situation as it comes up. In retrospect, maybe we should have let Ms. P do a tryout, then if she passed we could have explained to the women in the class they had the option of dancing or not dancing with her.  That probably would have worked, but her mistake was not asking permission.  Had she bothered to clear it with us ahead of time, perhaps we could have made her a volunteer.

For example, here is the "Right Way" to approach the subject:

-----Original Message-----
From: A R
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 12:34 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: volunteer stuff, etc.

Hello Rick,

I hope you are having a nice day.

I've done some volunteering for Linda in Salsa and I am currently doing it with Maureen in East Coast and Scott in Ghost town. Some day I would like to be good enough to teach a class or classes (since my ability to work full time is limited). I was wondering if that's an option, how one goes about it, can I take a class as a lead, etc?
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, August 17, 2007 12:59 PM
To: A R
Subject: RE: volunteer stuff, etc.

There is no chance you would be allowed to dance lead in a group class that has more men than women. It does not make the customers very happy to see an attractive woman dancing "Lead" when there are not enough "Follows" to begin with.

However, I have no objection to you dancing lead in any class where you are an official volunteer AND the instructor explains to the class who you are and why you are dancing lead.  If you recall, several weeks ago I had ten more women than men in a Beginning Ballroom class.  When you walked by and offered to help, I immediately put you to work dancing Cha Cha as a "Lead".
 

SOMETIMES IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH SEXUAL PREFERENCE

In March 2001 we had two women sign up for a Slow Dance course as a couple. They fully intended to dance close with one another. When we denied them permission to dance together in class, they raised quite a fuss. The instructor even offered to arrange a private lesson for them “on the house”, but that didn't appease them. They said that since it was advertised we didn’t switch partners in that particular class, what difference did it make??? 

This was a perfect example of a "No Win" situation. 

As far as I was concerned, it made no difference to me.  Let's say that I made an exception.  These two women were now allowed to Slow Dance together.

So there they are, two openly gay women in a room with in a room with 19 heterosexual couples.  Now Houston Texas is getting more open-minded all the time, so I suppose some of those couples would not have raised an eyebrow.

But w
hat if one, two, or three couples decided it violated their moral or religious principles?  What if one of those couples had come up to me and said, "We were looking forward to a romantic night spent in each other's arms, but when we looked up and saw those two women holding each other cheek to cheek, we just wanted to leave."

What if they decided this behavior was so offensive they didn't want to continue.  What if they
asked for their money back?  

I would have been forced to give it to them.  Ouch.

I don't agree with that attitude, but I do agree that SOME PEOPLE IN HOUSTON HAVE THAT ATTITUDE

Since the Straight Community put me in business, I prefer to respect the wishes of the Silent Majority.

That said, if these two gay women had brought along two gay men... and the men had spent the night dancing with the women... then I would not have said a word.  Gay people are welcome at my dance studio... as long as they dance men lead and ladies follow.  That's my rule.

It is certainly a complicated world, isn’t it?

But let's face it: we are not talking about a serious moral issue.  This is NOT 1965 Selma Alabama where people were murdered and beaten for standing up for what is right.  This is not Martin Luther King being assassinated for standing up for what is right.

This is 2007 Houston Texas.  No one is being oppressed or discriminated against.  There are plenty of gay bars in this city for people to dance.  Nor are gays asked to avoid my studio.  How many times do I have to say that people who are gay are more than welcome to dance at my studio?   

Yes, some people might feel 'inconvenienced' or disrespected, but nobody is in any real pain on this issue. 


CONCLUSION

I remember laughing my head off at a 2007 movie called Hairspray.  The movie touched on racial intolerance and how the bigotry affected a teen dance show in the Sixties.  The movie made its point so beautifully that I openly wondered if another 'Hairspray' involving Same Sex Dancing might not accomplish the same effect - make people realize how silly the issue is.

I do not prohibit Same Sex Dancing because I think it is morally wrong.  I do it because I do not feel my dance studio is ready to face this issue.  The time has not yet come.  I know for a fact that there are still many men who are disgusted at the thought of having another man dance in their arms or having to watch others do it.  For example, I can see the disgust in their eyes when I force men to dance with me in dance class.  That is how I know this distaste for Same Sex Dancing remains a social reality.   When I see that no men care any more when I make them dance with me and when the social climate on this issue warms up, then I promise to revisit my current decision.

In the meantime, if you want to do something about it, do Society a favor and go write the script for Gay Spray.  If you can make people laugh and teach them not to feel threatened, then you will see those phobic fences melt in a hurry.

As for the present, I am not a bigot and I am not hard-hearted either.  But do you really expect me to risk economic suicide by standing up for an issue that has no victims and no real suffering?

Rick Archer
August 2007
dance@ssqq.com
 


CASE HISTORY ONE: The Lady Who Wanted To Lead - Joye P
February 1999

Back in the heyday of the Swing Resurrection, we had a run-in with one of our students. Joye P was an attractive woman around 28 years old. She was well-educated (you can infer this from her well-written letter further below.)   I believe Ms P either worked at the Texas Medical Center or was a student there.

Ms. P did not exactly look like an angry protester.  They say looks can be deceiving, but she certainly didn't fit the profile. Nevertheless one day at the studio in February 1999 Ms P threw the biggest tantrum we have ever witnessed from a student after we told her she would not be permitted to sign up for a group class as a "Lead"  (in 30 years of business, no student has ever got more upset about our sticking up for a rule than Ms. P did that day.)

We discovered Ms. P's intentions the hard way. The instructor said, "Boys on one side, Girls on the other." Ms. P walked over to the boy's side. This raised some eyebrows. However it isn't unusual for someone to practice the opposite sex footwork like this at all.  We don't particularly care if you practice by yourself; it doesn't hurt anybody.  It is 'touch dancing' where we draw the line.

But when the instructor told everyone to go get a partner, Joye immediately crossed the room, grabbed a woman and put her around the startled lady in Closed Swing Position. The look on the woman's face told the story - she was a complete stranger to Ms. P and was clearly uncomfortable with the situation.

The instructor had to choose between looking the other way or handling this awkward situation head on. Thank goodness the instructor decided to tackle the problem directly. Later the instructor told me it was the look on the woman's face that had guided her decision.

She asked Ms. P what the story was while 20 other people stood still watching the impromptu theater. This was their time that was going down the drain, so they might as well enjoy the show. Ms. P said that she had paid her money and wished to dance as a "lead". Ironically, it turned out she had paid the lower woman's "follow" rate since it was economically expedient to do so, but why split straws?

Now the instructor tried to explain that we did not allow students to dance with students of the same sex in dance class or at Practice Night. She added that we did allow instructors to dance with same sex students, but only as part of their official teaching duties.

Ms. P immediately launched into a speech about how she was being sexually discriminated against. She said we were violating her right to learn the dance role of her choice. The instructor threw up her hands and went to fetch Judy Archer.

Now Judy's class was also disrupted. After a ten-minute argument, Ms. P finally backed down and left the studio.

Did I mention that there were heated words and ugly things said? Ms. P had created quite a scene. While the arguing was going on, two couples in Ms. P's class had asked for a refund and exited. Ms. P's little tantrum had not only depressed everyone in the building, it also cost us cash as well.

And what were Ms. P's motives behind creating such a scene? I do not have a clue. I will say I believe her arguments were more political than they were sexual. One theory was that she was hoping to become a teacher. I doubt this because her stubborn defiance clearly cost her any chance that we would ever trust her.

The only additional piece of information I have is that Ms. P was the roommate of Yvonne Evrard. At that moment in time Ms. Evrard was a key dancer on the "Swinging Skirts and Mugz". Ms. P had been trying unsuccessfully to crack the starting lineup of this dance team. Perhaps her fervor to improve as a dancer fueled her defiance, but that really doesn't explain why Ms. P got so angry.

Ironically Ms. Evrard was the woman who was instrumental in leading a dancer revolt that put an end to Judy Archer's second Lindy Dance Team about four months further down.

I realize the impartial reader will say, "Surely there is more to this story." Guess what? There isn't. I was not directly involved with the argument. My only contribution to this story was a letter I wrote in response to Ms. P's written complaint.

I did not know either woman personally and I never did really understand why an issue that seemed on the surface to be so cosmically unimportant had escalated into such an ugly incident.

Whatever was driving these two women towards their mutual path of SSQQ sabotage I will never know, but there is no doubt their Twin Towers Reign of Terror was an enormously destructive force back in the Spring of 1999.
 


Letter from Joye P to Judy Archer
February 14, 1999

Dear Judy,

I apologize for forcing you to take a "just because…" stance regarding your prohibiting females from taking dance classes as "lead". There are a few more thoughts I want to express.

You said that the studio loses business because women are unhappy when they have to partner with another woman. Because no one pointed specifically to dancing with a woman-lead as their reason for not returning to SSQQ is not a reasonable assumption.

During the course of taking a group lesson, someone may have to be led by a poor dancer, a rough dancer, an old person, or an ugly person, or someone who smells; however this is not sufficient cause to prevent them from leading so why should one's gender be?

I have been a very regular customer at your studio. I have taken Acrobatics, Mambo, Lindy, I have participated in the Swing Extravaganza and many regular parties. I have been a faithful supporter financially and feel that my request should be considered more seriously.

My partner and I go out dancing very frequently. We are almost always asked by people where we learned to dance. In the past we had always referred to SSQQ and said positive things about our experience there. In the future, I will no longer recommend SSQQ to interested parties. In addition, I will share my latest experience and discourage them form attending the studio.

Your prohibiting me from taking the Swing dance class as a "lead" is a form of sexual discrimination. Because you have claimed to have had negative experiences in the past with individuals (i.e. women) you allowed to lead doesn't necessitate your creating this sexist rule prohibiting females from taking the dance of their choice (i.e. the lead role).

I feel that the stance you have taken is both unfair and based on spurious assumptions. This is my current opinion until I hear that the current policy of prohibiting females from taking a dance class as "lead" has changed. Please contact me at that time.

Although I may not be a part of your Lindy Dance Team, I have been a positive asset to your studio both by regular attendance and by increasing awareness of the studio among new dancers and bolstering your reputation with the dance community.

I hope that we can resolve this issue and continue to have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Sincerely,

Joye P


 

Letter from Rick Archer to Joye P
February 15, 1999

Joye,

I am sorry, but you are not going to win this one. Rules are made for a reason. Group classes mix large numbers of people together who all have individual needs. Many couples, for example, would prefer not to switch partners. Many individuals would prefer the room be colder or hotter, less crowded, move faster, move slower.

After twenty years of hearing every concern imaginable, at some point we simply had to say, "If you wish to take a group class at SSQQ, this is the way it is going to be. Take it or leave it."

In your case, you have chosen to cross a clearly drawn line in the sand. We have confronted this issue several times in the past. For every person in a group class who was in favor of same-sex dancing or did not care, we have had other people who opposed it. After several incidents, we decided what would be fairest to the majority sentiment would be to forbid Same Sex Dancing among students in our Group classes.

The fact that there has been so little open dissatisfaction with this stance indicates to me we have accurately judged the prevailing public sentiment of the Houston community. Same Sex dancing at SSQQ completely ceased to be an issue until you threw your tantrum in the middle of a dance class which embarrassed everyone.

Yes, we do bend the rules occasionally in special circumstances. We allow teachers, assistants, and volunteers (who are basically "teachers in training") to dance Same Sex, but we also make a special point to identify the special status of these people ahead of time. Even then, I assure you, there are people of both sexes who may "go along with it", but clearly do not appear to be comfortable with the idea.

Having danced the woman's part once or twice a week in classes over the years, I am in an excellent position to say with certainty that while women for the most part do not mind Same Sex dancing, the majority of our men are very uncomfortable with it. They usually accept it as a necessary evil if the class is terribly short of women. But even then there are also men who refuse to dance with me anyway and I respect their wishes.

Although I grant you that women as a rule are more open-minded about same-sex dancing than men, I can also guarantee you there are some women in class who do not dance with women at all. Have you considered their point of view? When do they get to have a say in your unilateral decision to dance "lead"?

Furthermore, I find your use of the term "sexual discrimination" offensive. I believe you owe us an apology. You have attempted to violate well-established societal norms without regard for the other women in the class. Then you have the nerve to believe you were discriminated against because we stood up for the other members of the class. Nor did you have the respect to ask our position on this controversial issue ahead of time. A simple request for permission would have been a pleasant courtesy.

We have refunded your tuition. We do not want your further patronage.

Rick Archer

 

-----Original Message-----
From: A K
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 9:11 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Customer is Always Right

Dear Rick-

I have been reading your articles on customer relations. I think that you and I embrace a number of similar business philosophies. I have always admired the straight-forward, no-nonsense way in which you have operated your facility.

In particular I applaud your efforts to accommodate the often silent greater good and resist bending to the will of the much more raucous minority. In business as in politics, you must always find ways to appeal to the greatest cross-section of customers.


Often, I feel as though "the customer is always right" is taken too far and consumers take advantage of a weakened economy to bully businesses into accommodating their every whim. When will people learn to keep their grubby, little hands off things they have no concern with? (i.e. the thermostat!) People are often unable to see the bigger picture and why things are done in a certain manner.

As for my own business, I have been in the landscaping/horticulture business since I was in high school. However, it still amazes that people still think that there is a big plant store somewhere that I can just order whatever they want...regardless of how big or small the quantity... and it have it ready for them instantly. I can tell you how many people get irate when I can't have it ready for them in ten minutes and why wasn't I listening when they told me how important it is to them to have this item RIGHT NOW. I'm not sure why I have written this after so much time away from your studio, but I guess because it is never too late to tell someone "thank you" and let them know that they made a difference. Thank you for a fabulous contribution to the community of dance.

Regards-A K
 


CASE HISTORY TWO: 2005 LETTER TO THE EDITOR -
Regarding Your Policy on Same Sex Dancing


-----Original Message-----
From: R S
Sent: Friday, December 09, 2005 11:06 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Your policy on same sex dancing

"We promise we made these rules for a good reason based on our experiences over the years."

Bullshit. That's what people who had slaves, or who did not allow blacks to sit next to them, or countries that do not allow women to vote and other bigots think too. However much your rules work toward your own interest, please spare us and do not justify them.
 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005 5:19 PM
To: R S
Subject: RE: Your policy on same sex dancing

Yes, I do prefer to stay in business.  My policy reflects the prevalent attitude of the community.

Comparing my policy to slavery and bigotry reflects immaturity on your part.  I never said gay people are not welcome at my studio. They are indeed welcome as long as they follow my rules.
 

-----Original Message-----
From: R S
Sent: Thursday, December 15, 2005 10:33 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: Your policy on same sex dancing

The rules you are making today will be part of bigotry 20 years from now.  Please have the vision to NOT change your rules then and we will see where your business stands at that time.
 

 -----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, December 16, 2005 11:37 AM
To: R S
Subject: policy on same sex dancing

Actually you could be right, R. Twenty years from now, perhaps society will be more tolerant of same sex dancing.  If that is the case, don't be surprised if I change my rules.

You might be surprised to know I have a history of doing what is right before it becomes fashionable.  

As a simple example,
I outlawed smoking at my studio in 1987 because it was harmful to everyone.  People begged me for a special smokers-only dance class.  I told them that with air conditioning, that made as much sense as creating a special peeing section in a public swimming pool.  This cost me business long ago, but current attitudes show I did the right thing.  I was twenty years ahead of my time.

As a more complex example, when I established my dance studio I refused to demand that students sign
contracts for dance lessons.  We asked people sign up for one month of classes, a very limited commitment.  I believed if I could make the classes fun, people would continue to take more classes voluntarily.  So I avoided strong-arm salesmanship as well.  My instincts were absolutely correct.  Although this policy went totally against the grain 30 years ago, today it is common practice for many Houston-area dance programs to use my identical philosophy. 

Personally speaking, I don't care if men dance with men or women dance with women.  My first dance teacher was a gay male.  I spent countless hours dancing with this man in my arms.  And you know what?  After a couple moment's of brief discomfort, I never gave it another thought.  And I don't care if the entire city of Houston, Texas, knows about it.  At the time I needed to learn to dance and my instructor was doing his job.  End of story.  Furthermore I dance with men occasionally in my class when I need to help them improve their leadsI have discovered my masculinity always manages to survive

My point in sharing this is to show I am not quite the gay-bashing bigot you make me out to be.


But as a businessman I am also well aware the majority of my male customers don't share your point of view.  I have the experience to know what I am talking about.

For example, since we are occasionally short of women in my classes, sometimes I step in and dance the lady's part. Watching the men frown and bristle, I am well aware that they are definitely not comfortable at being forced to dance with me.  Therefore I keep my dancing with the men only to the bare minimum.

To quote a famous saying,
"Dance with the one who brung you."

As for Same Sex Dancing, I don't think Houston's straight community is ready to openly embrace the gay community.  Nor do I particularly care to put it to a test.  The straight community put me in business and keeps me in business.  

I don't see what good it is going to do my business to alienate these people and suddenly cater to someone like you who insults me by comparing me to a bigot or a slave owner.  Obviously your inability to dance with people of your same sex at my studio must impose a great hardship on you.

 

 -----Original Message-----
From: RS
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 6:39 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: policy on same sex dancing

Yes it does impose a great hardship on me.  Otherwise I would not bother.  Thanks for your time.  Good luck.

 


CASE HISTORY THREE: 2006 LETTER TO THE EDITOR -
Regarding Same Gender Couples

-----Original Message-----
From: H L
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 8:36 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Same Gender Couples

Mr. Archer:

My partner and I read about your tango class in the current Leisure Learning catalog. We were interested in signing up. I went to your dance studio web site and was educated, quite thoroughly I might add, about your policy of changing partners during dance instruction. While we have no problem with this and I agree it does facilitate better learning, would there be a problem of same gender partners dancing together? My partner and I plan to visit Buenos Aires in the next year and we've read about some gay tango halls and we'd like to be able to dance there together and not look totally gooky and American.

I did notice that Leisure Learning has a inclusive non-discrimination policy for enrollment and I hope this carries over to your class.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,  HL


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2006 11:40 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: policy at ssqq on same sex dancing and Same Gender Couples

Mr. L,

SSQQ advertises in Leisure Learning with a simple slogan: "Boy Meets Girl".

Recently SSQQ was cited in the Houston Chronicle as one of the leading places in the city for creating traditional Marriages. Furthermore, boy-girl romance is the cornerstone of our marketing!  In other words, we make it clear this dance studio supports a straight life style.

That said, we are not bigots.  People who are gay are more than welcome here as long as they accept a simple rule: boys dance with girls in group settings.

SSQQ employs people who are gay on our staff. In addition I know of several students who are gay. These students are welcome here at all times because they don't object to dancing with the opposite sex and because I like them.  And in my private life, my personal attitude is whatever makes you happy is fine with me as long as there is no harm to other people.

Personally speaking, two men or two women dancing together does not bother me at all. I couldn't care less. However many of the people who are SSQQ customers do not appear to share my views. I know this for a fact based on the number of men who panic when I suggest they dance with me in order for me to test their leads. In these situations I respect their space. I back off because in the past I have had men literally leave the building when I "insisted".

Therefore as a Houston Texas businessman, I have learned from experience that it is prudent that I align my policies with the prevalent attitudes of the people who continue to help me pay the rent. This is another way of saying, "I dance with the people who brung me."

You ask me to risk economic suicide by changing an accepted rule that has been in place for 30 years dating back to 1977.

I am not in business to make a political statement.  I stay in business by catering to my customers. Therefore same sex dancing is prohibited in group dance classes and at Practice Night unless I specifically see a reason to make an exception.

We do not discriminate at the studio.  Gays are more than welcome.  So are Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Rednecks, and Mensa candidates just as long as they dance with the opposite sex.  

If this seems like discrimination, please forgive. I mean no offense. I respect where you are coming from, but I cannot see any sense in granting your request.

I have three suggestions. You can take the group classes if you are willing to accept the rule. You are always welcome to dance with your partner in private lessons. Or you can form a group dance class at an outside location and I will look for an instructor to assist you.

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
Houston, Texas


-----Original Message-----
From: H L
Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2006 7:03 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: policy at ssqq on same sex dancing and Same Gender Couples

Mr. Archer:

I did not see your "policy" on same sex dancing posted on your web site until after I had sent my e-mail. I regret having bothered you. I will be taking my business elsewhere.
 


CASE HISTORY FOUR:
2006 LETTER TO THE EDITOR -
Regarding Same Gender Couples

FROM THE AUGUST 2006 NEWSLETTER
COMPLAINT OF THE MONTH – YET ANOTHER COMPLAINT ABOUT SAME SEX DANCING AT SSQQ

 (Editor’s Note: At SSQQ, Same Sex Dancing is not permitted unless an SSQQ Instructor is involved or permission to do so is granted by SSQQ Administration.   I originally posted this policy on the SSQQ Web Site on March 27, 2002.  RA)


T
HE INCIDENT

On July 29, 2006, a woman approached Marla at the Registration Desk with a problem regarding a Two Step Crash Course she and her partner had registered for.  This is Marla's account of their conversation:

The woman told Marla, “I would like a refund.”    
 
Marla asked her why. 

Because I want to learn Twostep with my partner.

Marla explained to her that at SSQQ we rotate partners in group classes.

I understand that you do not allow same sex dancing here at this studio.”

Marla replied, “
That is correct. Our policy dictates that men dance with women. I will gladly issue you a refund.”

That is when the lady explained that she was with Leisure Learning.

Marla replied, “
I’m sorry, but in that case you will need to get your refund from Leisure Learning because they have your money.”

Okay, I will tell my partner.”

 At that point, the two women quietly left the building.  That was the end of it.

This is the entire story.  As Marla remembers it, there were no harsh words, no raised voices, no negative energy, and no argument.  Marla said it was all very quiet and very polite.


NEXT THEY COMPLAIN TO LEISURE LEARNING

A couple days after the incident, one of the women in the conversation above called Leisure Learning to complain.  Leisure Learning asked them to put their concerns in writing. Leisure Learning then forwarded their letter to me.  Here is what they said:

To Whom It May Concern,

This email is regarding the conversation I had with you earlier about our complaint.

On July 29, 2006 a female friend and I attempted to participate in the Country Western Two-Stepping Class at SSQ in which we registered for through Leisure Learning. Upon beginning the class, the instructor looked at my female friend and I, and told us that we can either get a refund or wait until a male partner was available in class. We asked the instructor if we could just be each other's partner and switch throughout class, but the instructor said no because their policy is "No same sex couples at any time!" 

The instructor said that has always been their policy and they are a private vendor so they make their own rules. We asked the instructor why and he actually told us that at SSQ, they teach girls to dance the 'girl' steps and boys to dance the 'boy' steps. My friend and I were very embarrassed and very insulted by this situation.

We were unaware of the policy because we registered through Leisure Learning, not SSQ. We are aware that we are getting a refund, however, would like to stress to Leisure Learning that we feel that it is very unfair and do not appreciate being discriminated against because of what they thought was "not right" according to them.

In today's day in age, I find it unbelievable that there are still businesses out there functioning the way SSQ is!  Situations like these are reasons why businesses usually make sure to not make policies like SSQ's because of discrimination and prejudices. I am surprised they haven't been sued yet for this.  I hope Leisure Learning takes this seriously. It would be a shame to lose a lot of business because Leisure Learning chooses to contract with a prejudice and homophobic agency.

Please let us know if Leisure Learning has a contract through any other dance agencies that do not treat their guests with cruel, discriminatory actions. Thank you

RICK ARCHER’S RESPONSE TO THE LETTER ABOVE

SSQQ does not discriminate against anyone regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference.  People who are gay and lesbian are welcome at SSQQ.  We simply ask them to respect our rule that everyone rotate partners during Group Classes and that men dance with women/women dance with men.

The reason these women were told to go see Marla for a refund was that they did not wish to switch partners – they wanted to dance exclusively with each other.  As all of you know, it is a firm rule at SSQQ that everyone  is expected to switch partners in group classes.  B
e they heterosexual or homosexual, we still expect people to rotate.

Discrimination” is defined as singling out people to treat them differently.  As you can see, the switching policy does not discriminate.

The complainant said she was unaware of this policy.  If she had taken the time to read, the current catalogue of Leisure Learning (July 2006, the one with the SSQQ Salsa picture on the front) states on Page 16 that partners are expected to switch. 

I would like to say I resent the accusation that SSQQ is a “prejudiced and homophobic” agency.  How many times do I have to say that gays are welcome at SSQQ?  I do not care what a person’s sexual preference is.  But I do make one simple request: boys are expected to dance with girls and vice versa. 

In this situation, the rights of the group transcend the rights of the individual.   Did it occur to the complainant that several women in her class might feel uncomfortable being forced to dance with another woman? 

If these two women would like to take a private lesson, a situation in which their personal preference would not come into conflict with others, I would be more than happy to teach them myself.  All they have to do is ask.

 
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