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Save the Last Whip for Me
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Written by Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
April 24, 2001

 

I Leave My Castle

Although I am immersed in a life of dance, I have practically no contact with other dance professionals. Mind you, I would enjoy having more interaction, but I am so busy running my own business six nights a week I don't get a lot of opportunities to leave my "Castle" and talk to other professionals. I might add on the 7th night I do not go dancing.

That all changed Easter Weekend in Dallas. 


During the Dallas Classic Weekend I had the opportunity to talk with over twenty different people from the Houston Whip/WCS community about what exactly is taught at the different dance studios around town. 

Guess what I discovered? 

The consensus was that neither of the two major Whip programs in Houston bother to teach Whip hip motion to any great extent. 

Whip hip motion and double resistance is no longer taught at the Southwest Whip Club. 
Whip hip motion and double resistance is no longer taught at the Houston Whip Club. 

Now maybe I am wrong. I am simply going on what my sources are telling me. Here at my studio we spend an average of 20-30 minutes for seven straight weeks teaching Whip hip motion. We spend an hour for three straight weeks teaching double resistance leads to the men. In other words we spend three to four hours in group classes covering this difficult subject. That is how important I think it is. 

One student at SW Whip said her instructor spent 15 minutes discussing double resistance and never mentioned it again. 

One student at Houston Whip said he has never heard of "double resistance" in his life despite 3 months of lessons. 

I am not making this up. I have no desire to anger any instructor at either program. I have only one agenda and that is to preserve what I think is the best part of the Whip, the hip motion styling, from disappearing altogether. If an instructor tells me this is being covered, then I will not only back off, but I will print an apology for being misinformed in the next Newsletter. 

However, at the moment, my instinct tells me my sources are correct - Whip Styling is non-existent in the classes that teach the fundamentals. In other words, as Gary Henson said in no uncertain terms, the Whip clubs do not teach Whip. 

Save the Last Whip For Me

In summary, the emergence of West Coast Swing in Houston has systematically squeezed nearly all the final life out of the Whip. 

At the Dallas Classic, after I had been told SW Whip no longer taught Whip hip motion, I asked a couple of novices trained at SW Whip to dance. I tried the double resistance leads on them and they looked at me like I was from outer space. In addition to feeling like a dinosaur, this was the moment I realized it was true: Only old-timers like me use Whip Styling any more. 

That is when I realized that it is up to the old-timers like me to say something. If the best part of the Whip is to be saved, we better start now before it is too late.  

What is it that I Want to Happen?

I want the memory of the Whip preserved as a special feature of the West Coast Swing known as "Whip Styling" which involves the famous Whip Hip Sway. There are three places where this Hip Motion is best used: The Bump Step, the Two-Hand Basic using Double Resistance leads, and the Hammerlock Position. 

The Whip as I knew it in the 80s and 90s is indeed gone. The Whip/West Coast synthesis we use at my studio is too much fun to ever consider a return of a steady diet of "Hitch and Bump, Hitch and Bump, Hitch and Bump" over and over again. 

I might add I have no business "telling" Southwest Whip Club or the Houston Whip Club how they should structure their program because I am not a member. All I am doing is pointing out an area I think is terribly neglected and making my wishes known as gracefully as possible. 

Whether my suggestions do any good or not is up to the students and the leaders of both organizations. First it is up to them to decide whether they agree with me or not. Then hopefully if they think my arguments have any merit, perhaps they will choose to invest more time teaching the traditional Whip hip motion in their Beg/Int classes. This of course will also involve showing their students how to incorporate it into West Coast Swing using Double Resistance leads as we do at my studio.

And what if no one agrees with me?  Then at least I tried. Hopefully no one will shoot me for my efforts. ;-)

A Review of Three Reasons to Preserve Whip Styling

First of all, as Sarah Vann Drake pointed out, all the professional slotted swing dancers use double-resistance techniques as part of their dancing on a frequent basis. Sarah said she loves to throw in the hip motion any time the situation presents itself. And I got a chance to watch her - she is pretty awesome with that hip motion!! 

As we discussed earlier, according to Sarah, the best dancers around the country like the hip motion and have taken the time to master its techniques. But if the best dancers in the country take the time to learn the Whip Styling, then why is it being ignored in its hometown?

Second, there is no good reason not to teach Whip Styling and West Coast Swing side by side. Here at SSQQ we have taught both dances for over a year without a problem. It is a win-win situation. Why would Houston's Whip clubs stop teaching Whip hip motion?  Is it too difficult to teach?  Or do the leaders believe the hip motion isn't important enough to be worth preserving? 

Third, and most mysterious of all, is Mario Robau's curious statement, "To hell with West Coast Swing; I still love the Whip."  

At the Dallas Classic on Friday, April 13, Mario was presented an award by the Dallas Swing community called "The Heart and Soul of a Dancer". It was a lifetime achievement award and a 'thank you' for all the contributions Mario has made to the world of Swing dancing. 

In a heartfelt acceptance speech that sounded suspiciously like a retirement speech of some sort, Mario concluded with that statement "I still love the Whip". I was going to ask him what his thoughts really were, but he was in a hurry to catch a plane back to Houston. As I said, Mario is a very busy man and I know the feeling.

My guess is the Houston Whip beats as strongly in his bloodstream as it does in mine. So why would he turn around and ignore the dance?  According to the people I talked to, hip motion and double resistance are given a quick 15 minute glance in some beginner class at SW Whip, then forgotten. Mario himself is said to use Whip techniques in his upper level class, but everyone knows this dance is too difficult to be learned in 15 minutes. I do not have a clue why Whip Styling is not incorporated into Southwest Whip's WCS format. It would be so easy to do. 

And for that matter, perhaps the Hip Sway and Double Resistance is taught at SW Whip and my "spies" are wrong. If so, I promise to have their feet tied together. If they are wrong, they don't deserve to dance anyway, right? 

But, on the other hand, if my "spies" are right, then I wish someone would clear up the paradox of why Mario, arguably the best Swing dancer/teacher in the country and the man who did the original videotape on double resistance, wouldn't insist on teaching these techniques at the beginning levels of his own program?  

After all Mario has accomplished, I don't think he owes me any explanations. It is sort of like Salieri asking Mozart to explain a few notes of his latest symphony. However I remain curious why this information is seemingly missing from the Southwest Whip curriculum. 

All I know is that without Mario's leadership, his father is right: The Whip is Dead

So What are We Going To Do About This?

The people who need to say something are the people who are interested in preserving Whip styling as part of the West Coast. I can think of three things you can do. 

Tradition is passed from one generation to the next. If our current generation of Slotted Swing dancers do not receive Whip training, the trademark hip motion of the Whip will slowly but very surely fade away. It is not the job of the current dancers to fight to preserve the hip motion. After all, if they don't know what they are missing, why should they care? 

First of all, if you are a student of West Coast Swing, why not ask your teacher what he or she thinks about my Whip Styling suggestion?  In my experience, Dance teachers are pretty happy to respond to any reasonable requests.  If a dance teacher learns there is something you want them to cover in more detail, they usually are tickled pink to respond to your energy. My guess is any dance teacher would love to teach the hip motion to a motivated student. 

Second, you should forward the URL address of this story to every fellow Whip/WCS dancer in Houston and tell them to read it whether you like what I say or not. The entire Houston Slotted Swing community should at least conduct a forum on this subject. Maybe the verdict will be death to the Houston Whip by boredom, but at least we can say everyone had a chance to VOTE. That is the American Way.

Third, get a forum started by asking other students what they think about this article.  We need to find out what other people think about this problem besides me. I am serious - if you think we should try to preserve Whip Styling as a part of the West Coast Swing, this is the time to say something. We have to make a stand right now.

Do you think the Whip should be preserved? If so, in what form? Or do you think it is much ado about nothing? 

Email me your thoughts and ideas. I will print every interesting responses I get in the next Newsletter, pro or con. 

Finally, if you want to see the Whip "Saved", then figure out a way you personally can contribute to preserving its memory.  In other words, do something about it yourself.  

Please do not expect me to do it by myself. I have stood on the sidelines for twenty years. I never been involved in Whip/WCS competitions or politics before, so why should the leaders listen to me now?  They will simply tell me it is none of my business what they choose to teach at their club (and I will agree that is their perfect right). 

The I can do is to hear what you have to say and share it with the larger dance community. In other words, I will be happy to collect everyone's thoughts and bounce them back out again. So please go on record with your opinions. Let's hear what you have to say. I am an honest person. Even if I lose the "election", at least I gave it the college try. So please don't worry that I will rig the vote. That's not my style. 

On the other, if we find that quite a few people feel the same way I do, then maybe we can work together to get Whip Styling added to the West Coast Swing curriculum at Houston Whip and Southwest Whip in a more prominent way. Then after reviving interest in the legacy of Whip in Houston, maybe we can export our "synthesis" to other WCS communities around the country and help keep the spirit of the original Whip alive on a national level as well. 

Thank you for reading!  Now, send me an email!

Rick Archer
Email your thoughts to: dance@ssqq.com

 

 
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