October 2007
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The SSQQ Newsletter
Written and Edited by Rick Archer
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Written by Rick Archer

This is the October 2007 issue of the SSQQ Newsletter.

The October 2007 issue is probably the most interesting SSQQ Newsletter I have ever written.  I realize I am being immodest, but I predict you will be amazed at how fascinating these stories are

Before I get rolling on the Criticism, let me remind you all that we are having a Live Band here at the studio on Saturday, September 22 for our Kool Kat Club Swing and Ballroom Party.  

Bayou City Swing
is one of the finest small "big bands" in the Houston-Galveston area.  The band has performed for many years at a wide variety of engagements including corporate functions, dance clubs, private parties, society events and wedding receptions. The band is composed of eight talented musicians: 2 saxophones, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums and female vocalist. By using top quality "melodic" arrangements, the band is able to achieve a full, brassy, big band sound.  The music repertoire includes big band swing, Latin/Ballroom, as well as rock/pop/Motown and ballads.

The cost is $15 which includes refreshments. I hope you will come out and support to dancing to live music!

We are having a Western Hoedown Party on Saturday, September 29.  This will be a great chance to dance Twostep and Western Swing all night long.  Here are the Crash Courses:

The Salsa Moondance is coming up on October 13.
ZYDECO - Ronnie

And of course the party we have all been waiting for is just a month away.  This year's
Halloween Party will be on October 27.  If you want to get in the mood, be sure to read Tales from the SSQQ Halloween Party.

One of the reasons the October Newsletter is so interesting is because it deals mostly with Letters to the Editor and Complaints.  Historically, Complaints have always been the most popular part of every Newsletter, so this should be a fun Newsletter indeed. 

 -----Original Message-----
From: Patty J
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2007 7:35 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com

Regarding "Bad Things", the man did say you were relentless but that is not necessarily a bad thing unless you are the opposing side.

If I am ever forced to play tug o war...I want you on my team...actually I want you to be the captain, Rick.

I don't know why I find such pleasure in reading the Complaint of the Month, but I do.

If you like complaints as much as Patty J does, then you are in for a phenomenal treat because the entire newsletter is overflowing with criticism!

Our first criticism deals with a man named Keith Johnson who called me a complete
Loser.  He didn't particularly like my cruise writeup about Costa Maya.  For good measure he called me a Moron and told me how sad it was my wife got stuck with me.  I don't know about you guys, but I am not used to being called names.  It is an interesting experience indeed to be this thoroughly insulted by someone who means it. 

While you are reading the insult, I hope you get curious about the Costa Maya story.  It just happens to be the funniest story I have ever written.  In particular, this is 'must reading' for you Conquest Cruise people in particular because you need to know about the mystery of the missing Cayman Islands.  
Colorful Costa Maya.

Our second criticism was posted by a woman calling herself "Katklaw".  She ripped our studio totally to pieces. In particular Katklaw said in four different places how we pressured people to buy more classes.  Not only that, she insulted our students too!

Katklaw called all of you "unusual clientele".  Actually, now that I think of it, that may have been a compliment.  Let me go take another look.  Oops, bad news.  She listed this under the 'CON' section as opposed to 'PRO'.  That means you have been insulted too!   And for good measure she listed our 'surly service'. 

I don't think she likes us.

This criticism irritated me because it was such a patent pack of lies.  Except for the part about the 'unusual clientele', of course.  You know and I know SSQQ prides itself on being pretty low-key when it comes to pressure.  So when the woman was fishing around for terrible things to say about us, she picked about the least vulnerable place imaginable to start.  How smart is that?

Not only did I answer her criticism, I decided to add the story that helped me decide that I never wanted to be accused of pressuring my customers.  I think you will appreciate the way we do business all the more after reading it. 
 Pressure.  By the way, there are two interesting Letters to the Editor that are directly related to the issue of Pressure Sales at dance studios.

Our third story deals with the dance customer from hell.  We had a tough crowding problem at the studio one night in August.  Just as we were trying to cope with the problem, things got much worse thanks to a woman who caused all kinds of nightmares.  Strong stuff to say about a customer?  Well, yes, it is.  So maybe you should read the story and decide for yourself if my assessment is correct. 
The Demon Dance Customer.  

Last month I published the Reputation Trilogy, a series of five chapters that illustrated the need to protect your Reputation.  In particular I told the story of the time I was slapped three times in public only to discover over some pictures hanging on a wall, the time I lost half my Swing Program thanks to a Smear Campaign, and the time I literally erupted at the studio concerning a Refund debate.  Did I look very good in these stories?  No, I looked ridiculous.  Did I learn anything?  You better believe I did. 

And now for the $64,000 Question - were these three incidents indicative of things that could happen to other people? 

AHA!  Good question.  And the answer is YES.  This month we explore four more stories about incidents where people had to struggle to regain their Reputation.  One of our heroes is SSQQ Salsa Instructor Alex, who had to learn the hard way that there are some pretty vicious people out there.  I think you will find our
four new Reputation stories pretty fascinating. 

Our last issue of the Newsletter dealt with the Reputation of SSQQ.  Titled SSQQ Reputation on the Line, this article dealt with some of the many criticisms towards SSQQ that have been floating around the city now for some time.  I received many marvelous letters in response.  Thank you very much for your support. 

Two letters in particular were interesting, so I decided to share them with you. 
Reputation Letter to the Editor One was a reaction to the sudden and rather curious departure of former SSQQ instructor Bryan Spivey. 

Reputation Letter to the Editor Two dealt with how SSQQ literally helped a woman reeling from the death of her husband pull her life back together.  You will get to read the classic line "SSQQ is a great place to meet people and have a social outlet from loneliness.  Oh, and you'll also learn how to dance."   Hmm.  A few more heart-felt testimonials like that and we will be out of business (just kidding).

One nice by-product of my Reputation Article
'Vesuvius' was a chance to visit with my old friend Marty Shea

Marty was marginally involved in a 2000 incident known as "
Vesuvius" where I totally lost my temper one night over a Refund argument.  When I revisited that incident in our previous Newsletter, Marty noticed his name and decided to write to me to say hi.

In addition to writing a very nice letter that he asked me to share with all of you, Marty also contributed an article he wrote on the benefits of social dancing as well as some excellent common sense tips on dance etiquette.  I think you will thoroughly enjoy reading Marty's
Shall We Dance article.  And don't forget to send Marty an email.  I think he misses us (and I miss him!).

In our next article we get back to our favorite subject: MORE COMPLAINTS!  Too much for you, pain in the butt for me.  These complaints deal with the air quality at the studio, our policy of switching partners in group dance classes, and the arcane rule that prohibits switching group class tuition to private lessons.  Sorry, no one insulted me.  But you might enjoy them anyway.

Le Pièce de Résistance... Mario Robau, the famous and brilliant dancer, instructor, and choreographer from Southwest Whip, told an SSQQ instructor that twenty years ago I forbade him from ever setting foot here on hallowed SSQQ flooring again.  The only problem is that I don't remember saying that nor does anyone else I know. 

Curious?  I'll bet.  You won't be disappointed.  It is an interesting story. 
Did Rick Really Say What Mario Says He Did.


Here are the Chapters in this month's Newsletter:




FOUR NEW REPUTATION STORIES!  (Victoria, Alex, Cheryl, and Google)






-----Original Message-----
From: Keith Johnson
Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2007 8:21 PM
Subject: Once A Loser Always A Loser

Hey, buddy, I read you mostly tongue and cheek travelogs of your cruises to Mexico.  You are such a funny guy.  Very clever and insightfull. 

You were right on the money about Costa Maya. Short Stubby trees and boring landscape. You are absolutely right. Now I am thoroughly convinced I should never take a vacation on a cruise ship.  Why.

Because they are crammed with people just like you who match the landscape you just described- short and stubby and boring.

The first real give away about the writers abilities to recognize anything of real value was when you mentioned that you were on your HONEYMOON with your new bride Maria and traveling with her brother Larry and his wife Roz.

What an amazing specimen of a man you must be. What Moron would go on a Cruise for a Honeymoon, let alone with his brother in law and his wife.  Why didn't you invite your mother in law too.  Poor Maria!!!!

You must be another one of those unromantic, unadventurous, unimaginative boozed up, out of shape boring individuals that I see frequently with their cameras and tourist maps in hand, artificially created adventure travel losers that I sometimes see when traveling throughout the world.

Can't afford a real mans vacation. Why not take a cruise where I can eat and drink myself to death and return home with the same stupid trinkets found in every cruise ship town I have ever had the misfortune of visiting. What were you expecting. The real sad thing is you went twice. Whats that say about you! Think about it.

Did you every think that the reason you find boring things whereever you traveled in Mexico was because you were with the most boring man in the world-yourself!

Good luck with your Social Dance club thing.

You are a Complete Loser

RICK'S RESPONSE:  Keith Johnson is a complete stranger to me.  I have no idea who he is or where he came from.   However, by chance, I did get a clue to his possible origins.  Keith Patterson, one of the men on the 2007 September Conquest Dance Cruise sent me this tidbit.

-----Original Message-----
From: Patterson, Keith
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007 11:29 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Costa Maya stuff

Hi Rick,
I ran across this, noticed your name down the page:



Rick's Note:  Please note there are two 'Keiths'.  Keith Johnson called me a loser, Keith Patterson is our friend.  I followed Keith Patterson's link and this is what I found.

A lady named Sheila Lennon who writes Subterranean Homepage News became curious about Costa Maya after Hurricane Dean nearly wiped it off the map.  In her research about Costa Maya, Ms. Lennon ended up at my 2006 writeup of Costa Maya and found herself fascinated by my story.  In fact, she was so tickled she reprinted half of it on her own web site.

Here is what Ms. Lennon wrote:

August 23, 2007
Sheila Lennon

Hurricane narrowly targeted man-made cruise port and its mock Mayan village

Hurricane Dean wrecked buildings in the shopping mall of the Costa Maya port, Majahual, Mexico yesterday.

My friend Doc Searls has been to Costa Maya and Majahual, where Hurricane Dean made landfall at category-5 strength along a narrow path in Mexico's Yucatan after skirting Jamaica's south coast as a 4.

Since he grabbed the hard-news hurricane handoff, I get to be the potentially interested reader, new to the area now that it's gone.  And what a weird area it is!

Costa Maya was a cruise port plopped down in a flat, inaccessible fishing village inhabited mainly by poor Indians. If good vibrations and Jah modified Dean's impact on Jamaica (we're going outside meteorology here), the spirits of the nearby Mayan ruins seem to have frowned and flattened Majahual, with its manmade mockery of a Mayan village.

Into the Jungle is an alt-travel writer's funny and jaundiced take on Costa Maya last year.

Author Rick Archer documents the annual cruises of members of SSQQ Dance Studio in Houston, which boasts "Magic at creating Romances."  

Rick owns the studio and spun off a travel business to do Love Boat-style cruises.

COLORFUL COSTA MAYA is one long Web page, slow to load because of dozens of photos of Costa Maya, but well worth the wait.  

Here is a
sample of Rick Archer's story:

Reprint from Rick Archer's story "Colorful Costa Maya":

As you can see, Costa Maya is a bizarre little Indian village right in the middle of NOWHERE.

The first thing you notice is this must be the flattest piece of earth on the planet. There are no mountains. There are no hills.

There is a forest, but it is not exactly a 'Rain Forest'. There are no caves. There are no rivers with exciting waterfalls and rapids perfect for kayaking. The nearest ruins are 60 miles away. There is no nearby snorkeling that I know of. There is no beach of any particular significance. In fact, there is practically nothing to do at this place except buy tee-shirts, drink beer or get on the bus and go see some ruins. Furthermore the trees were so short a bad guy would have to crawl on his belly not to be seen.

What possible reason could there be for this simple fishing village to suddenly become a destination for a cruise ship carrying several thousand wealthy American tourists??

The whole thing started when some speculators pooled their money and decided to build an expensive state-of-the-art dock. Suddenly a little Mexican fishing village almost completely cut off from the world had a world-class dock worth millions of dollars....more...

Sheila's Note: This is Rick's second trip, back after a honeymoon cruise two years before to the Caymans ended up here instead. As he did some research before returning, he confronted a Glowing Travel Writer and experienced a crisis of confidence:

Whereas my own mediocre writing painted the picture of a muddy little village with stumpy trees stuck in the middle of nowhere, this writer came up with a flowery description of Costa Maya that made me wonder how I missed all that stuff.

In the hands of a Spin Master, Mahahual and the neighboring area began to sound like the most important vacation discovery since James Cook stumbled upon the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

(Note: If you have followed this story closely, Majahual is virtually inaccessible by plane or car. There is an airport that isn't used and a road full of potholes. Only cruise ships can get it to it!
Undiscouraged, investors continue to flock here to cash in on the next Playa del Carmen.

I guess if they can sell swampland in Florida, someone can sell a few acres of runt trees in good old Costa Maya. You might even get hooked up to electricity if you are lucky.

And better yet, there are American expatriates living here! Maybe the next Ernest Hemingway will come from Mahahual!)

You can read all of Rick Archer's astonishment at Costa Maya  -- many of Americans being silly -- from this trip at this link: COLORFUL COSTA MAYA

Rick's Response to Sheila's article: 

After reading what Ms. Lennon wrote about my Costa Maya story, I realized that Keith Johnson, the man who called me a Loser, was probably someone who had stumbled upon Sheila Lennon's story.

In other words, my critic, Mr. Johnson, knew little to nothing about me.  He just wanted to tee off on someone and I was available.

As you might guess, I was more amused than hurt by Mr. Johnson's personal attack on me.  Had he been someone whom I knew, then I am sure his words would have stung, but as it was, I let his words roll off my back.

Incidentally, my story about Colorful Costa Maya that Ms. Lennon praised is easily the best Satire I have ever written.  Not only do I have a great time poking fun at the Tourist Trap in the Middle of Nowhere, I take a few potshots at all the people in the Universe who write absolute travel hokum.  Plus I poke quite a bit of fun at myself along the way.

I will let you in on some of the fun.  Here are two descriptions of Costa Maya:

Description One:

  •  Puerto Costa Maya is bold and beautiful.
  •  the majestic expense of Puerto Costa Maya
  •  a land of mystery and intrigue.
  •  a region of the Caribbean so completely unique, offering a window into new and undeveloped areas of the coast.
  •  Built around the enigmatic culture of the ancient Maya
  •  the rich expanse of the Yucatan Peninsula
  •  travelers enjoy sapphire blue seas
  •  emerald green jungles
  •  Puerto Costa Maya is the entrance to a marvelous and exciting world

Description Two:

  •  this village was in the absolute middle of nowhere and the area possessed little natural beauty
  •  I don't know what these developers were smoking or drinking
  •  The trees were so short a bad guy would have to crawl on his belly not to be seen! 
  •  The secret was that the countryside was so sadly unattractive they had to build a wall so NO ONE COULD SEE OUT. 
  •  get on the bus for a grueling four hour round trip to see some mosquito-infested ruins 60 miles away.
  •  Why would anyone want to travel a thousand miles on an expensive cruise trip to see a place that is devoid of scenery?

So which description of Costa Maya is correct?   And guess which one I wrote?  

I invite to read the story for yourself and see what made Sheila Lennon laugh and cause Keith Johnson to call me a LOSER.

I think you will be greatly amused. 







CRITICISM (Posted on City Search):  SSQQ is the Least Recommended Dance Studio!
Posted by katklaw

"I have taken numerous lessons through the years in Houston to keep my dancing skills up to date and would never send a friend to SSQQ.

The management, as well as the staff that works there regularly, are unusually snippy and sarcastic (unless you agree to buy the big package) and the pressure to buy is their biggest priority.

I would like to go to their studios (they are in close proximity to my house) but since I have yet to have one pleasant experience with them , and since my last dance experience with them was so negative, I am going to keep going to other places in town.

I appreciate that they have been in business for quite a while in Houston, but there are too many other dance studios in the city that have a friendlier and less pressure filled environment.  

Definitely try somewhere else first!"

Pros: Been in business for a while, larger studio

Cons: Surly service, unusual clientele, parking, high pressure sell


Does this Review sound like the SSQQ you know? 

Considering I have spent my entire career trying to make SSQQ the least commercial dance studio possible, those criticisms really got my blood boiling.  Heck, we don't even push tee-shirts much less dance packages!

However, before I respond to the criticisms listed above by Katklaw, I would like to tell you the story of how and why SSQQ developed its low pressure marketing philosophy.

Why SSQQ does NOT Pressure its students to take further lessons
Written by Rick Archer
September 2007


The story I have listed below is from our "Adventures of a Dance Teacher" section of the SSQQ Web Site. This story deals with the origins of the SSQQ approach to doing business - Keep it Fun and People will continue taking lessons automatically.  Sales Pressure is totally unnecessary.

2007 marks the 30th year of business for SSQQ Dance Studio.  I have always believed that if you make dance classes enjoyable and give people an opportunity to make friends, they will fall in love with dancing and continue to take dance classes willingly. 

Get the students to laugh and give them a sense of accomplishment and that is all the encouragement they need to sign up again.  For 30 years, this Philosophy has worked like a charm.  Our customers, or 'students' if you prefer, have voluntarily returned time and time again to sign up for classes one month at a time.  And if they don't sign up again, they frequently send a friend over to take their place.  Something must be working - our advertising budget is practically Zero.

I have always preferred the light touch.  The very thought of using sales tactics goes completely against the grain of the studio's friendly ethic. 

Back in 1975, I had a deeply negative experience that convinced me that if I ever got the chance, I would do things just the opposite.  I hope you enjoy the story.

adventures 4.gif (10921 bytes)


One of the most depressing experiences of my life involved taking dance lessons at a franchised Ballroom Dance studio here in Houston back in 1975.  I was 25 years old.

I was persuaded to try an inexpensive
Introductory Offer for Ballroom lessons at the now-defunct
yyyyyy yyyyyy Houston studio.  It was located at the time on West Gray over in the River Oaks shopping area.  (Incidentally, I do not know how the yyyyyy yyyyyy Studios conduct their business in modern times.   Please keep in mind this event occurred over 30 years ago.)

One afternoon Maggie, a young lady I had met over at Rice University, called me up.  Maggie said she wanted me to take Ballroom dance lessons with her. She told me about an ad that said we could take 4 half-hour Introductory lessons for $5 a person.  

Maggie and I had been dating for a month.  Maggie
knew I had been taking Disco lessons
somewhere else (Learning to Dance).  As she put it, I was the only man she knew who had ever admitted to an interest in dancing.  In fact, we had gone out dancing on our first date.  Maggie was impressed and said I was a great freestyle dancer.  She assumed my Disco skills could be transferred over to Ballroom dancing as well.

I wasn't so sure about that. 
I had only been dancing for a year. All I knew was a bunch of Disco line dances. I had never partner danced in my life.  As I listened to her pitch, I had serious misgivings.

Furthermore Ballroom dancing didn't interest me at all.  I was strictly into Disco music.  But a persuasive beautiful woman is difficult to resist.  And she was right about my interest in dancing. 
It took Maggie twenty minutes to persuade me, but I finally gave in and agreed to go with her.

Ballroom_Dancing.jpg (9319 bytes)

The first half-hour lesson consisted of one move to 3 different dances - Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, and Cha Cha.  (4 dances, but we skipped one dance each week).

We had a male instructor.  From the very start, 
Henry was not even the slightest bit interested in me.  He took one look at me dancing with Maggie and realized I possessed almost no natural ability.  My dancing was so bad I got the feeling he was slightly disdainful.  I was embarrassed.  He and I never developed a rapport

On the other hand, Maggie thought he was wonderful.  They clicked instantly. The rest of the first lesson consisted of Henry telling me to watch how he did it as he took Maggie in his arms and swept her away.  Maggie enjoyed herself thoroughly.   She seemed to glide effortlessly across the floor in his arms while I watched in consternation.  How did Maggie learn those moves so fast?

In 30 minutes - the length of the lesson - we did 10 minutes of Foxtrot, Cha-Cha, and Tango each.  How much do you suppose I learned?  The few times I was actually allowed to try, I struggled mightily.  I didn't understand the rhythm, I had no idea how to lead, and the footwork was a complete mystery.  Maggie's frown didn't help either.

I did give it a try, but I was kind of hopeless.  Nevertheless, I am not a quitter by nature.  I dutifully showed up with Maggie for my second lesson.


I was disappointed to find the second visit was no better than the first.  I had actually nursed a secret hope that I could overcome my jitters and figure this Ballroom stuff out.

This week Henry skipped Cha Cha and added Waltz.  I could not get the hang of this rise and fall business.  Plodding along, I moved with the grace of a three-legged elephant. 

I frowned as my instructor basically gave up on me.  He and I did not click at all.  Instead he spent most of the half hour flirting with Maggie who was having the time of her life.  I stood still and fumed while Maggie danced the night away in Henry's arms.  At this point, I had pretty much had enough.  I left in a very bad mood.  The advertisement had said dancing was fun.  Not in my opinion.


As you might gather, it wasn't easy for Maggie to get me to show up for the third lesson.  I resisted mightily, but I finally succumbed to the Magic Words, "You Promised."

The first 30 minutes of the third week was an instant replay of the first two, except that Henry ignored me even more as if that were even possible.  I didn't care anymore.  Promise or no promise, I wasn't coming back.  I could not wait to get this over with. 

However at the end of the lesson, Henry surprised me with a twist so bizarre I could never have imagined it.  He called Maggie and me over for a meeting.

Before my very eyes, Henry actually got out two Report Cards and proceeded to pencil in a letter grade for each dance we had learned!  

I stared at my Report Card in open-mouthed shock.  I could not believe for a moment that
Henry had the nerve to grade us!  Whose ridiculous idea was this?  What planet had Henry beamed down from? 

Finally I got hold of myself and actually looked at my Report Card.  I frowned. 

To his credit, Henry was at least honest.  While Maggie got straight A's, I got a C in Foxtrot, a C- in Cha-Cha, a C in Waltz, and a D in Tango.

Gee, if I had only known, I would have done more homework or brought him an apple.  As I stared at my C- dance average, I thought darkly to myself that even these miserable grades were inflated.  In my opinion, I deserved a 4-F.

Let's have a little fun with this moment.  Let's say that Henry and Maggie decide to celebrate her Straight A Report Card. They are Waltzing the Night Away.  Meanwhile I stare at my Ballroom Grades.  Pretend I lose my balance and accidentally bump against a magic lamp.

Poof!  A Genie comes out and whispers to me not to despair.  The Genie predicts that from these humble beginnings I would someday rise to create the largest dance studio in Houston Texas and produce the most popular dance studio website in the world. 

Now if you had seen me dancing, you would absolutely gag at this suggestion.  C'mon, a story this improbable only happens in the movies and fairy tales!  I in no mood to be humored.  I would stare at the Genie like he was out of his mind and tell him just how absurd that idea was.  I would tell him to go back in the Lamp and leave me alone.  Dumb Genie.

I wasn't that bad of a dancer.  Maggie had been right - I was actually a pretty fair Disco dancer. I definitely knew my right foot from my left.  But freestyle dancing and partner dancing were completely different ballgames.  At the time I knew absolutely nothing about the inner workings of Frame, the Ballroom technique where you use your shoulders to signal to the woman where to step next.  Nor did I like the music very much.  And I definitely didn't like my instructor.  It was his job to explain how to lead, but he could not have cared less. 

I had been set up for failure from the get-go. 
No one can expect a Beginner male to learn to lead and dance nine patterns (3 per week) to four dances in three 30 minute lessons simply by watching some instructor dance with his girlfriend the entire time.

I was completely lost in a sea of self-criticism. Since I was clueless about the realities of partner dancing, I did not realize I had never had a chance. 

Meanwhile Maggie would not shut up about her straight A Report Card.  Not only was I disgusted with the stupid grading system, I was ready to kill Maggie for rubbing it in how the instructor had said she had danced much better than me.  Even though I agreed it was true, what exactly possessed Maggie to put me down like that?  I guess she thought she was being funny.

I said nothing, but I was upset.  Beneath my cold exterior, I was actually very embarrassed at being exposed as a crummy dancer.  This entire experience was deeply humiliating.  I can't remember more than a couple other incidents in my life where I have ever felt more ashamed of myself. 

It is a good thing I did not realize my pathetic performance was in truth mostly the fault of my instructor or I would have given that jerk a piece of my mind.


As if my Report Card wasn't enough humiliation, Henry had saved another little surprise for us.  Just as Maggie and I were getting ready to leave, some new guy came up to Henry to say something to him.  Henry turned to us and asked us to follow him to the back.  He told us the Dance Director wanted to see us.  The Dance Director?  Although I did not understand what was going on, the tone in Henry's insistence warned me this might not be pleasant.  What did Henry know that I didn't?

As you surely have guessed, we were about to be sold a package of Ballroom Dance lessons.  But I was so young, I really did not know this myself as we walked down the hall.  I sensed a trap, but to be honest I had a morbid curiosity just to see what this was all about.   With Henry leading and the new guy behind us, I got the feeling they weren't taking any chances that we might slip away. 

Maggie and I were shown the way into a cramped room.  We were given two wooden chairs which faced a desk. The door was behind the desk.  In other words, if we wanted to leave, we would have to walk around the desk. 

The Dance Director was already in the room.  He greeted us.  Escape was made even more difficult when the Dance Director invited Henry to join the meeting.  Now we had a desk and two men blocking our exit.  Henry would literally have to move his chair in order for us to leave. 

Then they strapped us both to a chair... well, just kidding.  However we were clearly cornered.  To say I felt intimidated would be an understatement.  What kind of racket were they running here?

The Dance Director began by saying there was an important dance competition coming up.  He said he had been walking by and had noticed just how well we were picking up the material.  I frowned.  He obviously hadn't seen me.

Since we had shown unusual promise, the studio wanted us to represent them in the Big Contest!  Maggie beamed with pride.  I stared at her and I stared at him in total disbelief.  Had Maggie taken some medication?   This guy was so phony it was ridiculous.

Then I turned my gaze to Henry.  After that line about our "unusual promise", Henry was deliberately avoiding eye contact.  He was busy doing goo-goo eyes with Maggie.  I assumed he was also making a mental note not to give anyone a C- in the future just minutes before the big Sales Meeting no matter how bad they were.

Paying no attention to my existence, the Dance Director smiled at Maggie and continued his happy talk.  He announced that his studio was counting on Maggie and me - Mr. C Minus Gift to the World of Ballroom Dancing - to help them win the big dance competition.  "We can't do it without you!" 

'However, in order for you to do well, you would need a little more polish.' 

They were ready, willing and able to give us in-depth

And because they desperately needed our help with the Novice phase of the competition due
to our 'unusual promise', they would give us a Large Discount if we would sign up Right This Minute

He looked straight into Maggie's eyes and said how important it was that people with our kind of potential should fulfill their dance destiny. 

Have you ever heard a more ridiculous line of bullshit in your entire life?  These guys were not smooth at all.  In fact, the Dance Director was the first hard-sell person I had ever met, but I imagined two guys selling me fake watches in an alley couldn't be any clumsier than he was.   

On cue, the Dance Director magically produced a Contract for Dance Lessons.  On the Contract in bright red ink I could see the word DISCOUNT that reduced a $2,000 sales price down to $1,000 ($979 to be exact). 

I was amazed at their audacity.  Does this stuff actually work with anyone?  What person in their right mind would cooperate with an approach this stupid?  


At this point my morbid curiosity was satisfied.  I had guessed some sort of sales pitch was awaiting us but I had wanted to see how it was delivered.  Okay, I got my show.  I was ready to leave now.

Just as I was about to say something, Maggie took control of the interview.  Putting her hand on my arm to calm me, Maggie whispered, "Let me handle this." 

Surprised, I backed off and said nothing.  I didn't really know Maggie that well.  She and I had only been dating for a few weeks.  But her behavior regarding this Ballroom stuff had left me bewildered on more than one occasion.  What was going on between her and Henry?  I thought Henry was gay, but maybe not.  Was she trying to make me jealous?  And why rub it in that my dancing was so mediocre compared to hers?   Had the tables been reversed, I certainly wouldn't have acted that way. 

Now for the second time that evening, my morbid curiosity had gotten the better of me.  I decided to stick around and see what Maggie had up her sleeve. So I sat back and watched. 

Maggie chose a negotiating style best described as "cute them to death". 

Maggie laughed and joked and made one excuse after another why we couldn't sign the contract.  I did not like her style at all.  In my mind Maggie was prolonging the torture. 

  • 'We don't have enough money'
  • 'we are kind of busy'
  • 'we don't know much about dancing'
  • 'not sure if this is right for us, couldn't we think about it?'
  • 'how about if we let you know next week?'

As Maggie yapped away, I stared at her incredulously.  Why don't you just say 'no' and let's get out of here?    I grew sick in my stomach.  This cute stuff was giving me nausea.   I could not understand why Maggie was prolonging this conversation.  What is the point of toying with this guy?    He was practically drooling that Maggie was trying to match wits with him.  Doesn't she realize he had absolutely nothing to lose by dragging this out? 

At first I wasn't all that mad at the Dance Director, just impatient.  In fact, after
I figured out that this was how he made a living, I felt sorry for him.  I could see he was very determined to close this deal.   He did most of the talking, but occasionally let Henry get a word in edgewise so he could catch his breath.  As far as I could tell, he was just waiting till she tired out.  Between them, the two salesmen pressured Maggie for an hour - yes, an hour - to sign the expensive thousand dollar contract for dance lessons.

They literally would not take "no" for an answer.  Subtlety was clearly not their forte.  I did not appreciate being cornered in this small back room by two con men who sat between us and the door.  

Despite their pressure, Maggie appeared totally un-phased.  She showed absolutely no sign of nervousness.  Whatever Dance Director said, Maggie parried it with the same broken record...  '
too broke, too busy, not enough confidence, blah blah blah'.

Maggie kept giving excuses and the salesmen who had nothing else to do hung in there waiting for her to give them an opening. 
I watched the three of them bandy arguments back and forth like a tennis volley. 

I could not figure out Maggie's strategy.  Was she trying to wear them out? 
I suppose erosion works when you are talking eons, but I am not as patient as the Grand Canyon... 

We had been in here for nearly an hour.  Finally I had had enough.  Life is too short for this charade. The shtick was growing old and
I wanted out!  I resented the high pressure techniques of these con artists and I was disgusted with Maggie's evasive negotiating style.  So I got up and said, "I am ready to go.  Would you permit us to leave now?" 

The two men were stunned. They didn't know Mr. C Minus Cha Cha could even speak! 

Staring down at the seated men, I gave them a look that said I meant business.

What I was not prepared for was the look of disappointment that crossed Maggie's face.  On a night when one shock followed another, I was incredulous to realize Maggie had been enjoying herself!

Believe it or not, Maggie tried to calm me.  She wasn't ready to go!  She asked me to sit back down.  I was astonished that Maggie was contradicting me for the second time.  That was my last straw with her.  I snapped at Maggie, "Sit down?  What for?  I have no intention of signing this contract.  I am sick and tired of watching you let these men waste our time!  We have been here for an hour and letting you handle this has gotten us nowhere."

The room fell silent.  My hostility had a chilling effect indeed.  However, thanks to Maggie's intervention, they did not yield.  Seeing that the two men continued to block my exit, Maggie started up again.  I stood there incredulously as they once again began treating me like the Invisible Man.

Through some sort of non-verbal communication, the three of them had resurrected the debate!  Despite
the fact that I was standing up, despite my appalling rudeness to these two men and despite my confrontation with Maggie, they began chattering away again as if I wasn't there.

I was baffled by their determination.  Not once had I given the slightest hint I would cave in and sign their stupid contract, but they hung on anyway.  As far as they were concerned, it wasn't over till it was over.  Incredulous, I just stood there and silently watched them begin to dance again.

How do I explain my behavior?  Call it 'Fascination'.  I could not figure out how three people who were supposed to be on opposite sides of the fence were in such tight collusion with each other.  Maggie kept saying she didn't want to sign the contract, but her smiles and body language were encouraging.  Furthermore, how on earth did she manage to ignore my presence and my stated wishes so effectively?  As far as she was concerned, I didn't exist.  I was mystified.

Round Two lasted ten more minutes.  Finally I couldn't take it any more.  It was time for a show of force.  I may have been the worst dancer in history and I may have only been a 25 year old kid, but I was still 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.  If I was determined to go, a couple of wimp dance instructors would have a serious time stopping me.  Considering my mood, I was ready to walk across the desk if necessary.  "Gentleman, I am leaving now.  Please get out of my way."

They took one look at my face.  That did it.  With obvious resentment, Henry begrudgingly moved to let me pass. 

To my surprise, Maggie followed me wordlessly which I might say was a departure for her.  It was the first time she had followed me in three weeks.  Heck, I was ready to leave her in the room.  I didn't care.

It was very awkward moment for everyone.  From the look on their faces, I realized these two men had actually believed they had a real chance at a kill.  They were so close until that stupid lug got up and ruined it...

Sorry to disappoint you, Guys.  Too bad I wasn't the spineless dork you assumed I was. 


What an ordeal!   As I walked to the car, I tried to understand the motivations that created such a hostile showdown.

I laid the blame right at Maggie's doorstep.  It occurred to me that by leading them on, Maggie had actually gotten their hopes up.  I believe they thought they were on the verge of making a sale. 

Why did Maggie tease them?  What did she get out of it?  I could not fathom what reason Maggie had for leading them on, but I blamed her for the debacle just as much as I blamed the salesmen - I may have only gotten a D, but I understood the meaning of "It takes two to Tango". 

Who knows, maybe she wanted to sign up for those lessons and was hoping I would somehow be persuaded if I listened to her long enough.  But the pressure from the salesmen turned me cold from the start.  No way.

As you might suspect, I did not return for my fourth and final lesson. This also wrapped things up for Maggie and me. 

Watching her tease and banter with these two men when she had no intention of signing a contract disgusted me.  Why give one excuse after another why we couldn't sign the contract when in my mind a simple "No, thank you" would have been sufficient?  Maybe she was raised to be polite. 

Not me, I am too direct by nature to understand her tactics.  Evasion is a pretty lousy way to negotiate.


I didn't do too well at learning the Tango, but I did learn a valuable lesson nonetheless. 

As you might gather, t
his Contract experience was so distasteful that when I did go into the dance business for myself four years later, I made sure that SSQQ would never breathe a word about contracts.  I preferred to let people sign up for ten weeks at a time (later shortened to one month).

At the time, my decision went completely against the accepted way dance studios historically used to obtain customers.  But as far as I was concerned, my decision was a no-brainer. 
This high-pressure sales job still ranks as one of the most distasteful experiences of my entire life.  Who on earth invented this business tactic, the Mob?

The behavior of the Dance Director made no sense to me.  While I watched in mounting anger, I could see the reason these salesmen were so desperate was obvious - they were selling an over-priced service that no one needed.  Everyone needs a car.  Everyone needs a house.  But no one "needs" dance lessons and definitely not at that price! 

People do not like being pushed around.  Did it occur to the Dance Director there might be an easier way to sell lessons?  Dance lessons are basically entertainment.  Why not try making the lessons fun and see if that worked? 

After all, I had been returning to my Disco lessons faithfully every week for nearly a year without the slightest bit of arm-twisting.  Not one person ever lifted a finger to ask I was going to continue.  I wasn't particularly good at it, but somehow during that time, Dancing had gotten under my skin.  Why not give people a chance to fall in love with dancing and see what might happen?

So when it was my turn to become a dance teacher, my attitude from the start was to allow my students to make up their own minds whether to continue or not without manipulation.  I did my job the best I could and hoped that was enough. 


In 2000, one of my dance students remarked that every dance program he had ever been to in Houston operated pretty much the same way that SSQQ did.  He asked why I made such a big deal out of 'no contracts'.   I was beating a dead horse.

His comment took me off guard.  I thought about it for a while and decided he had a point.  As far as Houston was concerned, the old contract system was practically dead. 

Back when I started SSQQ, my decision to avoid using the contract system was considered a risky move.  Since contracts were the accepted way to run a dance studio at the time, SSQQ was clearly going against the grain.  In that sense, I was a pioneer going about things my own way.

Fortunately this new approach was effective.  I have no idea whether my studio's success played any part in making the contract technique go bye-bye, but the non-pressure philosophy definitely became the accepted way that most independent dance instructors in Houston conducted their business.  Although I do not pay much attention, today I would guess only a few franchised Houston dance studios still stick to the contract system. 

SSQQ has proven you can run a successful dance studio without strong-arming students.  Dance lessons are fun. When there is no pressure, people will take more lessons quite willingly.  In fact, they protest when another level isn't offered!   Why other dance studios still use the contract system is one of life's great mysteries.

Our 'no contract
philosophy' may have been ahead of its time, but it seems to have worked since we are going strong after 30 years while many of our high-pressure competitors have quietly exited the scene.


Although I endured a deeply humiliating experience with my first Ballroom lesson, you might be surprised to know I decided to take Ballroom lessons again later that same year (1975).  Sorry to say, this was no tale of redemption. 

At first, I did better in my second attempt.  I completed the entire six-hour program which used a Group Class format similar to the SSQQ system.  A young lady I met in the class gave me a lot of encouragement that I was doing well.  She said I was one of the best guys in the class.  I wanted to ask her out in the worst way, so I decided to make my move at Graduation Night. 

At the end of the six weeks, the instructor invited the entire Ballroom class to join him for a night of Ballroom Dancing.  This evening would prove to be my downfall.  It turned out I had learned only enough to get myself set up again.  my inadequacy at Ballroom Dancing was badly exposed that night.  Sorry to say, I ended up losing the girl again, although this time it hurt much worse than Maggie because I had a huge crush on this girl.  (

The pain was intense, but I recovered.  After licking my wounds, I picked up the pieces and joined another Disco dance class a month later.  I kept plugging away.  Whenever one dance class ended, I took another.  I was determined to improve. 

I am not a natural dancer.  However, I am a determined person.  I got knocked down several times, but I got back up.  I refused to quit.  With a nod to our friend Nietzsche, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

In all, it took me four years to become a very good dancer which is probably twice the time it takes most men to accomplish the same thing. 

Amazingly, my hard work paid off in ways I could never have anticipated.  Beginning in late 1977, I parlayed a remarkable series of lucky breaks into a dance career.  Today SSQQ Dance Studio stands as living proof that I am indeed a lucky man... the harder I work, the luckier I get.

If you want to learn to dance, stay with it.  Don't fold every time something goes wrong.  If I can do it, you can definitely do it too.  Just put your mind to it.



On August 17, 2007, I received the following email.

-----Original Message-----
From: Alex S
Sent: Friday, August 17, 2007 1:34 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: SSQQ reviews on Google Maps

Rick, I did a google map search for SSQQ and I noticed some reviews.  I think this is pretty important since google maps is so popular.

Click on the placemark and you should see the reviews

Apparently the Google Map links is connected to something called 'City Search'.   That is where I ran across this review of SSQQ by someone titled 'Katklaw'.  I have no idea who this person or what their experience was at my studio.

I believe that everybody has a right to state their opinion.  After all, didn't I just get through evaluating a dance studio myself in the "No Contract" story?  

That said, I think I have a right to respond to the critic.

Some of what Katklaw says is correct.  We do have parking problems.  And there are times when we lose our patience with certain customers. 

Although we pride ourselves in being friendly, I will be the first to admit that we do stand our ground at times when we think a customer is unreasonable.  We give service, but we are not servile.  There is a difference.

That said, I think Katklaw is guilty of some deeply inaccurate assertions.   These statements are false:
  1. (unless you agree to buy the big package)
  2. the pressure to buy is their biggest priority
  3. less pressure filled environment
  4. high pressure sell
Anyone who is familiar with SSQQ knows we do not have any "big packages" to sell.  This false statement alone compromises the integrity of the entire complaint.

Furthermore, since you have finished my article on "No Contracts", it should be clear to you by now that SSQQ absolutely refuses to pressure its customers into taking any classes.  

Quite the contrary, we pride ourselves in being the least commercial dance studio that has ever existed.  

Furthermore, I defy Katklaw to identify anyone at SSQQ who is involved in high-pressure sales. 

So on August 30, 2007, I decided to send this response to Katklaw's poison pen review to City Search.

SSQQ Responds 08/30/2007
Posted by richardjarcher

My name is Rick Archer. I am the owner of SSQQ. I would like to point out that several comments posted by Katklaw in one of the SSQQ Reviews on City Search are deeply inaccurate.

The following 3 allegations have no merit whatsoever:

1. (unless you agree to buy the big package)
2. pressure filled environment
3. high pressure sell

Everybody has a right to express their opinion, but they do not have the right to speak incorrectly.

Anyone who is familiar with SSQQ knows we do not have any "big packages" to sell. This false statement alone compromises the integrity of the entire complaint. The truth is that our classes sell for $40 and $50 for a month of group dance lessons.

Furthermore, SSQQ absolutely refuses to pressure its customers into taking any classes. Quite the contrary, we pride ourselves in being the least commercial dance studio that has ever existed.

Furthermore, I defy Katklaw to identify anyone at SSQQ who is involved in high-pressure sales.

In truth, we try to make our classes fun and hope our customers will return of their own free will. There is no arm-twisting at SSQQ Dance Studio, of that I can assure everyone.  30 years of business indicates that our low key philosophy is effective.

As for Katklaw's curious assertion about our "unusual clientele", consider the source. Besides, our students would probably take that as a compliment.

You can also locate this review on City Search




(Rick Archer's Note - the August 2007 Newsletter dealt with attacks on the Reputation of SSQQ Dance Studio.  I received many letters of support.  This next letter was one of them.

I have said repeatedly that SSQQ does not pressure its students.  This is a fact.  If you want to know what dance studio pressure is like, read this letter)

-----Original Message-----
From: T
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 11:56 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: OMG!!!

I just had a few moments and decided to give the newsletter a once through....OMG!!

Now, you must know me well enough to know by now...my big mouth has to give at least a couple cents input, if not an entire dime!! I will go chapter by chapter here since I am just appalled at the lengths some people will go!  I cannot believe people have the nerve to say you pressure people.

First off....let me be the very first to tell you that the very essence of SSQQ is the reason I stayed here!!  I have taken a few classes here and there and I can tell you first hand that the PEOPLE here at SSQQ make all the difference, students and teachers alike!

I first took an introductory class at xxxx xxxxxxx on Memorial years ago. I became so aggravated that I could spit gravel. They made sure to take what little time I could afford to spend in their studio and harass me throughout the entire lesson! It was all about the hard core sell. Bring in your family, your spouse, your friends, your dog, your first born to sign up for our massively expensive lessons!!! The way I felt was I was paying him money to teach me, not to become his sales recruit! I finally lost it on my instructor. He actually pushed me to the point of pure anger and that takes quite a bit of pushing let me tell you!

After consistently hounding me, and I had tried in every possible way with as much politeness as I could muster, I just blew it.  I had explained to him that I only had one co-worker and she hated to dance. My family lives out of town therefore they wouldn't be coming in to dance. I basically had no local friends and had actually hoped to make some friends that shared a common interest when starting class there. He then started in on my husband.

I love my husband dearly, but the very reason we have worked out so well over the past 18 and 1/2 years is because neither of us push the other into our hobbies. He doesn't care to dance or paint and I don't care to fish or hunt. He does his thing and I do mine and then we get together and talk about it. It works out fine for us and I encourage anyone else to do the same. You should not have to sacrifice things you enjoy just to share your lives together. I would never dream of expecting him to quit fishing or hunting, those are things important to him. Just as he would never hope to expect me to quit my art work or to stop dancing. He knows it is something I love to do.

Now once this instructor had started in on my husband and had actually had the audacity to insinuate that should my husband CARE about me, why wouldn't he want to make me happy and learn to dance!!!??? Can you believe this imbecile??!! You know, you can say what you want about me, but make the mistake of attacking my loved ones or friends....you are in for whatever this Italian/Irish temper is about to sling your way!! I take my friendships and my family very seriously. I will be the first to defend them in any way through any given situation with all claws and teeth bared.

I immediately ceased dancing and told him with my icy cold stare shooting daggers into his eyes...."I tell you what.....I can guarantee that I will be able to get my husband up here. As long as you don't mind if he comes in full camouflage gear and sits right there at the top of that staircase and proceeds to use you as an arrow target. Would that be fine with you?"

I don't know if it was my death stare, or the idea of just how painful a broadhead would feel striking his ass, but he immediately backed down. I left and never returned.

After doing some hunting, finding only many places far too expensive for me to attend, I came upon another studio located actually, not far from xxxx xxxxxxx.  It was zzzzz zzzz off of Memorial and Dairy Ashford.  Although I could not afford the regular classes (at $50 a pop it was an impossibility!) I scooped up as many scattered group classes I could afford, practice parties too.

But this place too pushed the very expensive private lessons. The owner begged me to join her tango team stating I had good latin hips!! Said I had natural dance talent...she needed me. (Of course, I thought she was going to spit up her coke when I told her no....my ass is fat. It is kind of hard NOT to swing your hips when you have a fat ass LOL!!) Thing was....I simply could not afford it. Plain and simple. Eventually I had to quit all together as I hit a hard financial bump in my life and could not even afford the scattered classes I had managed to round up at that time.

When I moved to The Heights (having previously lived in Katy), I thought well, maybe I can find a place where I can scoop up some group classes when I have the money, or maybe a weekend party or something. I was hopeful. Thing was...there just aren't that many places willing to accommodate someone that doesn't have a shitload of money to plunk down for private lessons. Their parties are usually reserved for those money bearing people. I did find one place I visited for a Friday night party and it was the most dull, most boring place I had ever stepped foot into. All the dancers were couples. And they danced only with their partners. I sat there the ENTIRE evening sipping on a soda and danced ONE dance the entire night and that was with the owner at the end of the night. Nuff said.

Then one night I stumbled over SSQQ. I originally thought it was too far away, why bother/I have had no such luck so far, am I even sure I want to do this anymore..... It just happened to be the Sock Hop party I attended. Everyone was SO friendly here!  People talked to you. People danced with you. I made 3 new friends that very night and went to eat at IHop till 3 in the morning and I still see two of them regularly at the studio!! I thought this too good to be true when I decided to look further into SSQQ. I found out that no one sporting rubber mallets were ready and waiting to whack me over the head demanding I bring in recruits to line their pockets! And the classes were very much affordable as a whole. I could take one group class all month for less than the cost of a private lesson! And the best thing was that even as I could not afford to personally take advantage of the low prices....I was perfectly welcomed ALWAYS to attend as many parties as I wanted or could afford to go to!!!

I have stayed ever since and sing SSQQ's praises to all with a willing ear. I can not say enough good about the place that is for sure.

Now for the next subject.....ex-SSQQ members.

The question should be how come there are STILL so many current members???? Your numbers should speak for themselves. There are people out there just waiting to dip the tip of their poison arrows into your gut. They are jealous and wish to steal business by slinging crap everywhere. As I mentioned before....I will stand up to anyone against my friends and I consider SSQQ just that. A family of friends is what I have found here. Just try me! How many ex-members still come to visit or attend a party even though they no longer take classes? How many partnerships and friendships have started within the walls of SSQQ? The fact that this studio is full of warm, caring people ensures its success no matter what.

Poor Instructors?? WHERE??? Yes, good instructors will be people with natural talent and skills....but as instructors here pretty much hand picked, aren't they? I can not imagine Rick hiring anyone to teach a dance class that he has not seen for himself how they dance. Don't you think someone running a dance studio for over 30 years would be able to spot someone with talent?? DUH!!

Every single instructor I have met at SSQQ are brilliant! They are happy, kind, helpful and don't ever mind taking an extra minute to explain or demonstrate something for you! Not only do they have talent, they are good, decent human beings that are there to share their love of dance with others.

Well, this ended up a long winding email...LOL...but like I warned...this must be more a quarters worth than a dime LOL!!!

Have a great day!

Ms. T




(Rick Archer's Note - the August 2007 Newsletter dealt with attacks on the Reputation of SSQQ Dance Studio.  I received many letters of support.  This next letter was one of them.

I have said repeatedly that SSQQ does not pressure its students.  This is a fact.  By an odd coincidence, this gentleman actually visited the same dance studio in my story above and had virtually the identical experience as me.)


-----Original Message-----
From: Joe C
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 9:54 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: August 2007 SSQQ Newsletter

The thought of you retiring, Mr. Archer, made me want to register asap for your classes.  It will be a sad day when you do. After 30 years which is hard to imagine, how fast time flies. I recall taking classes in the mid-eighties, and again in 2004 and both times for 4-6 month stretches, were good times for the wife and I.  Heck, we been married 30 years this year!  Anyways, we plan to come back and take several classes. Thanks for your dedication.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 11:40 AM
To: Joe C
Subject: RE: August 2007 SSQQ Newsletter

Thank you very much, Joe. Those are kind words indeed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Joe C
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 12:59 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: August 2007 SSQQ Newsletter

Don't retire Mr. Archer!  Semi perhaps.

You're a legend.  If it were not for your classes, the wife and I may have thrown in the towel.  When we were at the stretch, we signed for dancing to spice our relationship and believe me, it has.  You even say it in your website.  Women love to dance.  And when we go to different revues, over the last 20 years, I have seen more guys on the sidelines because of not knowing how to dance.  Too many females just dying to be asked.  They always seem to have that sparkle in their eye of a man who knows how to dance.

This past year, the man I have trained under since '84, retired after 39 years teaching martial arts. I bet you know who I am referring to - Grandmaster Kim Soo of Kim Soo Karate, started off in downtown, now home to the Toyota Center. It was a set back when it was announced two years before. Just the idea that we wouldn't have him teach on a fulltime basis. However we are fortunate to have him teaching on a semi-retired format.

Anyways, I hope you stick around for a long time to come - either fulltime or semi -retired.  I cannot imagine the thousands of marriages you saved from your dance instruction.  Take care.

Sincerely, Joe

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 2:06 PM
To: Joe C
Subject: Kim Soo

I don't think I told you this, but I actually took karate lessons from Kim Soo myself.

Back in the early Seventies, a movie called Billy Jack did the same thing for karate classes that Saturday Night Fever did for Disco classes.

Seeing an outnumbered Indian half-breed kick the hell out of some redneck bigots on behalf of underdog Indians and Hippies was one of the most joyful experiences of my life!  Justice Prevails!

So in 1974 I signed up for karate lessons at the downtown Kim Soo location you mentioned.  I took class for about six months until one day I came to the realization that the circles I traveled in were unlikely to require street fighting skills. It was about this point I concentrated more on my dance classes.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my karate classes. Kim Soo taught several of my classes himself. He was a real leader; very poised and impressive.

This movie played a big part in his eventual expansion. I have often compared his good fortune to my good fortune in that we both parlayed a surprise hit movie into a career. It never dawned on me that he really is not that much older than I am.

-----Original Message-----
From:  Joe C
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 6:36 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Kim Soo

Mr Archer,

Billy Jack during the '74 release was one of my favorites besides the Bruce Lee movies. Tom McLaughlin did an earlier movie titled Born Losers in '67 so I was a big fan.  It's coincidental that several years ago, GM Kim Soo had mentioned wanting to learn to dance. I think he felt both arts shared the same energies - passion, discipline, and grace. That's why I say you as well as GM Kim Soo are what I would refer to as "Living Legends" of Houston.

You both started something in Houston when there was very little to offer in dancing and martial arts.

I recall taking the 5 lessons for $5 dollars from yyyyyy yyyyyy studio on West Gray. This was in '73 or '74. After the last class, I was escorted into this large office surrounded by the pretty instructor and three big gorillas that resembled bodyguards in the Godfather. I was pressured into signing a one year contract for $1700.

That was like a million bucks for me. After repeated failed pressure tactics, I was allowed to go.

Everyone knows SSQQ and Kim Soo Karate. I hope you never retire.  Stay in excellent health and take care.  Until our next dance lesson....


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 4:10 PM
To: Joe C
Subject: Kim Soo and yyyyyy yyyyyy

Are you sure we are not leading parallel lives? I had a near-identical experience at that exact same yyyyyy yyyyyy studio!!!

In fact, it was just as stressful as your experience. You should read the story.  I am sure it will make you laugh.

No Contracts

Do you mind if I publish your letters?  I would print them under Joe C...  your letters are the perfect conclusion to my own story about this same shakedown experience.  I would be very grateful.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Joe C
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 8:17 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Kim Soo and yyyyyy yyyyyy

That's funny, Mr. Archer.  I read your experience. It's a great story!

The ad I answered to was in the "Zest" magazine, advertisement back section, of Sunday's Chronicle. Mine were 5 lessons for 5 bucks. There was another dance school offering the same. yyyyyy yyyyyy's happen to be closer for me to travel from.

If I recall the room I was corralled into, seemed 15x15 size dimensions and had a large nice executive desk. The salesman and the three gorillas were nicely dressed, pin striped Mafia attire.

My torture was around 45 minutes of every known sales tactic to get me to sign the contract without breaking every bone in my body. I resisted the intimidation but for a good portion of the time spent in that chamber, I thought I would never be found if I said no. Finally after I mentioned I would have to talk to my Father who I said was a police officer (I lied to desperate measures), they abruptly released me without further containment.

I never looked back and my unfair judgment was that I figured all dance schools were the same and did not pursue any further avenues to enhance my personal values.

It would be 15 years before I tried the approach again and lord and behold did I strike out again.  Up on 45 south at Monroe was a C&W dance school so I gave it a try. The wife was with me and we wanted to learn together. It was a Saturday afternoon and just as soon as we arrived well before the 5:00 pm closing, one of the dance instructors was locking up.  However she agreed to extend the dance instruction at "her house" a few blocks away.

She had converted her living room into a min-dance floor with 360 wall mirrors.  After the cordially introduction, we agreed to the private lessons of $20 per session. That's when the Dance Instructor from hell arrived.  I couldn't get the steps down - two left feet with their own minds, so after trial after trial, the physical and verbal abuse went into high gear.  She pulled, jerked, pushed if I was not in the right pattern, then she said perhaps I was too dumb to learn how to pick up the simple dance steps.  We endured this for another sessions and finally I decided not to return. I think I still have war wounds from that fiasco.

Our next adventure was with Gilbert Huron. He was good but sometimes some of the classes did not meet the number of minimum headcounts and besides, the instruction was fast.  If you got left behind, you were doomed. We took several months of instruction but felt our needs were not being fulfilled.  But we did buy a good number of his tapes.

Then I heard about SSQQ.  The recorded message - the 861 or something number I dialed seemed genuine.  Excited, the wife and I gave it a try. Our first class was 2-step and it was packed to the gill.  It was easy and fun!  We had a great time, met a lot of good people and couldn't get enough.  We wanted to learn all SSQQ had to offer. That's the feeling I think everyone who passes through your doors get. I want more and I want it from here.  So please Mr. Archer, you cannot retire.

The company I work for - Air Liquide - has a portion of summer intern package for French interns to learn as much about Texas during their 3 month stay.  SSQQ is part of the package and every year, they all are registered to take several of their favorites - Salsa, C&W, and Zydeco. No one can ever fulfill the big shoes you leave when you retire.  You said it yourself, dancing keeps you young and vibrant!

I have no problem using my letters.  It would be an honor. Take care sir.

Sincerely, Joe


Who would have thought I would run across someone who had the identical experience I had over at the same former yyyyyy yyyyyy dance studio on West Gray?

As I stated earlier, if you make the classes fun and treat people with respect, they will continue to take dance lessons automatically. 

And if they graduate, then they will either come back again sometime further down the road or they will send their friends.

Now you see why I resent Katklaw who claims to the world that SSQQ uses pressure tactics... nothing on earth could be further from the truth. 

You do not have to strong-arm people in order to get them to sign up for dance lessons.  Just make the classes fun.  The dancing will do the rest.








Rick Archer's Note: We will begin this important story with a letter from 2006.


Salsa continues to be an amazing success story here at SSQQ.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am that our studio continues to be the most popular Salsa studio in Houston.  However, as with all success, there are accompanying headaches that cannot always be foreseen ahead of time.  Here's one.

-----Original Message-----
From: Phil P
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 11:57 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: 2006 February Newsletter

My name is Phillip. I am currently a student at SSQQ for Intermediate Salsa 2.  Given the enormous attendance of students for salsa, I felt compelled to write you this letter of mild annoyance. I'll quote a statement that you made from the February 2006 Newsletter: Salsa is ridiculous. I have never seen so many students in all my life.

That's the understatement of the year. To put it simply, there are too many students enrolled in the Salsa Intermediate classes. The individual classrooms are filled to capacity and the exceedingly loud noise level from the next door classrooms (also full of people) is making hearing the instructor and our music extremely difficult.

I had hoped that going to all three classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday would help, but those classes are just as full and noisy. But, not all of us have the luxury of being able to attend multiple classes throughout the week as our schedules may conflict. I understand from a business standpoint that it's great having so many students as they are your source of revenue, but having that many people crowded together in small spaces where there the noise is amplified exponentially is distracting.

Sadly, it's keeping the learning process from being the fun and enjoyable process it should be. I sincerely hope that you folks at SSQQ take this into consideration. Registration and class enrollment should be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once your studio reaches capacity, you should not continue letting people come in. Isn't that also a fire hazard?

Again, I hope that something can be done about this in the very near future. I'm assure you that I'm not an angry jerk who wants to complain about every little thing. But I am a student who, like many others, is paying you all for a service, one of which is to provide us with an environment conducive to learning.

I thank you for your time.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 1:03 PM
To: Phil
Subject: policy salsa overcrowding

I wondered when I would get a letter like this.

I will not apologize for the overflow this month. It took all of us completely by surprise.

Please do not expect to action to be taken BEFORE I am aware there is a problem. I am not psychic.

That said, I totally agree with you we have a problem this month.

I have decided to cancel the Tuesday Merengue class for March.  That will allow us to combine rooms and create more space.

However if this doesn't work, you may not like the next solution. 

The NEXT solution is to limit the size of classes AND to prohibit switching from one night to another.

For now let's see if canceling the extra Tuesday class does the trick.  





Rick Archer's Note: Here at SSQQ, I do not believe the customer is always right.  I believe that "MOST customers are right MOST of the time."

In the story above concerning the Salsa Overcrowding complaint, you have witnessed how a student handled the problem correctly.  By emailing me and addressing his concern in a factual, business-like manner, I was able to think about the problem and take action that corrected the problem. 

Students are not always quite as patient as this gentleman.  Contrast his email with this one:

July 2000

It has been made to our attention that all complaints regarding SSQQ rules and regulations be directed to you.

During the month of March, every Tuesday, my friends and I have duly reported to our Salsa dance class that was unbearable crowded. At one point we counted eighty people. Eighty. In a small room. Imagine trying to learn a new dance by lining up in three rows, snaking around the room. And with one teacher. Oh, I forgot, you don't have two.

When the class collectively aired our complaints, we were told that we could go to the Saturday class at 4:30 P.M. I think that suggestion is quite insensitive to the needs of your customers. We have chosen Tuesday nights to fit into our schedule, as I'm sure the other eighty people have done the same, so to tell us to move ourselves to Saturday is bad customer service at its best. And of course no other remedies was offered throughout the course.

What should have been done? There needs to be a limit to these classes. You can not enroll as many people as you can to make the most profit and let your customers “figure it out” for themselves. Please join the rest of the civilized business world and set aside some rules to SERVE your customers, and then maybe you'll make some money at it. And while you're at, what about “feed back” forms at the dance studio for those customers who are not electronically adapt yet? Because I know a hell of a lot of angry customers who do not have access to a computer to send you an e-mail.

So what about the four of us? We will continue to take dance classes, but not at SSQQ. Enjoy your profit Rick, while it lasts.

Irately yours,
Ms. Thuy Tran and friends

As you can see, Ms. Tran expected me to solve the problem 'yesterday'.  Since I was not at the studio on Tuesdays, I was unaware of this problem until her nasty email brought it to my attention.  If I interpret her correctly, among other things she indirectly accused me of being greedy and directly suggested I was uncivilized.  Interesting choice of words.

This particular 2000 letter led to the creation of the Hall Monitor position.   I also paid $20,000 to a programmer to create the SSQQ Online Registration system.   So please note I took serious actions to solve the problem even though this particular student was very ugly in her approach.

As of 2007, seven years have passed and we have not yet been forced to enforce course limits.  We have Rosters and we have Hall Monitors to watch the doors.  To this point, the rosters have only been used to catch people sneaking into Advanced Salsa after signing up for Beginner Salsa at half-price, but we have the power to limit class sizes should the time arise when we have more students than room space. 

My point is simply this - I hope my actions show that a student does not have to be rude to get their point across at SSQQ.  I do pay attention to my customer's needs.

I am very much aware that without my customers, SSQQ would not be in business.  Our customers get to 'vote' on a monthly basis whether SSQQ deserves to keep their support or not.  So far, SSQQ has clearly been winning the election.  And you know what?  I would really like to keep it that way.  I am grateful to my customers and wish to keep MOST of you around for a long time.

You certainly have picked up on the operative word here: MOST.

I am going to continue to use this same word. 

First I would like to share an article from the Houston Chronicle.  This article comments on Sprint's 2007 decision to jettison what they determined were their "worst customers".

Why hanging up on 1,110 callers serves greater good/ Sprint's decision grounded in key management objective

July 17, 2007, 7:18PM

Anybody who knows anything about business, whether a Fortune 500 CEO or a kid with a corner lemonade stand, can recite the mantra: The customer is always right.

So what was Sprint Nextel Corp. thinking when it told 1,100 or so wireless subscribers that it was dumping them for chronically complaining to the company's customer-service department?

The news hasn't exactly helped Sprint's image.  ABC's Good Morning America ran the story under a banner that proclaimed: "You Must Be Kidding!" One consumer watchdog called the company's action "absolutely outrageous."

But, in fact, Sprint's move was not only reasonable, it may even prove laudable if it helps the company focus on offering better service to its remaining 53 million subscribers.

Sprint is no corporate angel. The latest survey from J.D. Power & Associates found that the company ranks dead last in the wireless industry when it comes to "customer care."

Yet that doesn't mean the company was wrong to drop the 1,100.

We've all been there: forced to sort out an egregious billing error that requires multiple, maddening, Muzak-soaked phone calls. But when a relative handful of customers are calling in as often as 300 times a month - as some of these Sprint users apparently have been - it's clear that they should be looking for another cell phone carrier.

From a management standpoint, a line gets crossed: There is no sense in trying to appease the unappeasable.

Interestingly, support for this idea comes from the late Peter F. Drucker, the "father of modern management," who had a key role in spreading the notion that the customer is king. In studies of Henry Luce's Time-Life, Alfred Sloan's General Motors and other companies, Drucker attributed their success to a keen understanding of the customer.

"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer," Drucker wrote in his 1954 classic, The Practice of Management.

Yet Drucker taught something else as well: It's crucial for every business to decide who its customers are not.

In her new book, The Definitive Drucker, Elizabeth Haas Edersheim recalls how Drucker explained the concept to her: "Make sure you know the bounds you are assuming and that they are the bounds you want ... "

In this case, Sprint concluded that its fractious fraction of consumers - 1,100 people who flooded its call centers 40,000 times in just six months - falls outside the company's bounds.

As a business, "you can't please everybody - and you really don't want to," says management professor Joseph Maciariello, who worked with Drucker.  Some have cast Sprint's move in purely economic terms. These so-called Demon customers, it is said, simply became too expensive to retain, costing the company more in time and resources than their contracts were worth.

Undoubtedly there is truth to that.  But this issue transcends dollars and cents.  Coping with the never-satisfied demon customers diverts attention from a key management objective: providing high-quality service to the 99.99 percent of Sprint users who the company says call with inquiries, on average, only once every two months.

One of the hardest things in business is concentrating resources effectively.  By unclogging its customer service lines, Sprint now has a chance to make some meaningful gains.

Arguably, Sprint "is serving a greater good," says Peter Sealey, a former top marketing executive for Coca-Cola. "You can't have these people impinge on the service level of everybody else."

It is quite possible, as suggested by the Web site consumerist.com, that some of the 1,100 were "scamming Sprint," calling again and again just so they could pile up credits toward their bills. If so, that alone is a valid reason for a divorce. It also wouldn't surprise me if a few of the 1,100 shouldn't have been disconnected; their tales of woe are sure to make headlines and bounce around the Internet, further sullying Sprint's reputation.

But those folks aren't the ones consumer advocates should be worrying about - at least not in large measure. The more important matter going forward is this: When we look at Sprint six months or a year from now, will it have seized this opportunity to improve service for the 50 million-plus who remain?

That's where Sprint shouldn't be let off the hook.

Note: Mr. Wartzman is the director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Written by Rick Archer
September 2007

As I drove to the studio on Thursday, August 9, I was full of anxiety. I had no idea why I was anxious, but I literally feared going to the studio.  I do not believe I have any psychic ability, yet I was convinced something was going to go wrong tonight.

As I parked and got out of my car, the first thing I noticed was a man standing in the parking lot of Dr. Joseph Hutchins' dentist office waving people away.  This parking lot is set directly across the street from SSQQ. Many of our students use this small lot.   I frowned.  This was not a good omen at all.

Fifteen minutes into dance class, someone entered the room screaming they were towing cars across the street.  Alarmed, I asked my assistant to take over the class and walked out of the building.  I crossed the street and found the same man who had been waving cars away standing in the parking lot at 4820 Bissonnet. 

There were no tow trucks to be seen, but as we spoke, SSQQ students were rushing frantically to their vehicles to move them.

I immediately recognized this gentleman.  He and I had spoken once before about problems that SSQQ students had caused for him in this parking lot.  I  went up to speak to the man.  He was not at all mean to me at all.  In a calm voice, this gentleman said he was the bookkeeper for Dr. Hutchins.  He said that no tow trucks had been summoned, but hastened to add that SSQQ cars were a plague.  He said he could not even use his own parking lot when he came to work during off-hours like Sunday afternoons.  I told him to come see me and I would gladly give up my own parking spot if this was ever a problem.

He continued by saying the presenting problem tonight was that he had a man on the way with several computers to install. He needed to keep several spots open to assist with the unloading of the equipment. There were several cars already in the parking lot when he arrived to meet the computer man.  So he began to wave off everyone else to keep at least some spots open (which is the same way I would act if put in a similar situation.)

One woman - an unidentified student from ssqq - tried to park in spite of his warning.  That's right.  He told me she ignored his gestures and parked anyway.  He went to her car and asked her to move. In return she gave him attitude.  He then said he would tow her car if she did not respect his wishes.  This time she got the message, but decided to offer a mouthful of expletives deleted in return.  She was very ugly towards this gentleman.

In addition, when this same woman came into the studio, she immediately began to spread the rumor that cars were being towed from 4820 Bissonnet.  This is what started the unfounded car towing panic that I had responded to.

As we spoke in the parking lot, this gentleman proceeded to relate past horror stories dealing with ssqq students including beer cans left in the parking lot, hostile confrontations in the past with ssqq students, and a suspicious broken window in the dentist's office considered to be retaliation from a previous ssqq incident.  This particular story broke my heart.

I apologized as best I could.  I think the man calmed down a little once he realized the name 'SSQQ' was not completely synonymous with the word 'monster' (in addition, the next day I put a formal note of apology in Dr. Hutchins' mail slot.)

As I crossed the street to return to the dance studio, Marla met me in the parking lot.  There was a woman in Room 4 who had come to her to complain bitterly.  This woman had come to the Registration Desk where she spoke directly to Marla (comparing notes, we later determined this was the same woman that was spreading the towing rumors). 

As Marla told the story, this lady was very hostile.  She angrily said her Salsa class was much too big.  She was positive we had exceeded the room capacity and threatened to call the Fire Department.  What were we going to do about the problem?  Why didn't we simply cancel the class next door (an advanced ballroom class in Room 3 with 6 paying students).  Marla told the woman this was not Marla's decision to make, but that she would talk with me.  Momentarily appeased, the woman returned to class.

Marla then went into Room 4 to observe the situation.  People were definitely jammed packed.  And the heat was very bad. Everyone looked miserable.  That is when she came looking for me to tell me the story.

I walked into Room 4.  I too was dismayed by how crowded it was.  (For the record, the Bellaire Fire Dept once measured each room for capacity.  The attendance did not exceed capacity, but nevertheless I completely agreed it was much too crowded for any real learning to take place.) 

I asked the students what they wanted to do. I asked them if they wanted me to cancel the Ballroom class next door.  No one said a word so we left it that.  It was a very tense scene.

I then asked the woman was who had complained to step forward.  No one came forward.  No one said a word to identify her nor could Marla identify her in the crowd.

However, as I left, a woman followed me out of the room. Marla identified her as the complainer.  I walked her to the front desk and asked Marla to issue her a refund on the spot.  I was preparing to do a Sprint: Fire a Customer. 

Unbeknownst to me, this woman threw us a curve.  She refused to accept a Refund!  She simply said she was signed up for Tuesday and would come back again on Saturday to get her extra free lesson.  This news angered me.  I didn't intend for this woman to have a choice in the matter.  I didn't ever want to see her at the studio again after her fire department threat.  Had I known at the time she was also responsible for the confrontation across the street, I would have personally escorted her from the building and told her never to come back.

There is a right way and a wrong way to handle problems.  Threatening us is the wrong way.  We are responsible people and do not need to be shoved around in order to get our attention.  She was correct that we had a problem, but no one likes to be threatened.  That crosses the line.

She got lucky; I still don't know her name nor do I have a clue who she is.  Maybe some of her fellow classmates know who she is.

At Break, several people who were visiting from the Tuesday class went home and the tension in Room 4 eased up a little.  How Maureen Brunetti kept that class together is beyond me.  Maureen is to be commended for her role in keeping the peace that night.

Now you know why I decided not to teach my own Ballroom class on Thursdays in September.  This has freed up an extra room for the September Salsa classes.  I decided the Salsa program needed the space more than my Ballroom class. 

It is my understanding that in September the space problem is no longer an issue.

Let me take this moment to thank every person who was in Room 4 that night for their incredible cooperation.  Your courtesy to me under pressure is deeply appreciated.  Thanks to your patience, you gave us time to solve the problem. 


I want all of you to understand that in my opinion 95% of all SSQQ customers are marvelous human beings.  I thoroughly enjoy the people who come to my studio. 

But you know as well as I do that not everybody who comes here is an ideal citizen.  This incident was a perfect example of the adage 'one bad apple spoils the barrel'.

There is a 5% element that badgers Hall Monitors, is rude to Registrars, complains about the parking, argues about the policies, and bitches about crowded Salsa classes that they attend three times a week for the price of one.

And when people don't bend over backwards for them, maybe they threaten to call the Fire Marshall or maybe they trash someone's place of business.

People like the Demon Dance Student give our studio a terrible image.  

Perhaps you newcomers are unaware of this, but previous SSQQ students have made the parking situation much more difficult for all of us.

One year ago, a nearby parking lot that held at least 20 SSQQ cars was suddenly closed to all of us.  Read for yourself.

-----Original Message-----
From: GCagnaP@aol.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 8:52 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Cc: MikePackPC@cs.com
Subject: Parking

To Rick Archer,

I am writing to let you know that someone punched a window in our building at 4900 Bissonnet. Our parking lot is getting torn up and littered. Please tell your students that not to park in our parking lot. This is private property and towing signs will be up soon.

I am sure that you understand we have been very patient and accommodating for a long time, with no compensation.  Now it is costing us money.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.

Mike Pack

Gina Cagna-Pack
713 667-2857

We also have an enemy who lives on First Street.  Somewhere along the line someone parked a little too close to his garage, there was an argument about moving the car, and suddenly the studio acquired yet another enemy for life. 

At this time, Mr. First Street makes a habit of calling the Bellaire Police Department any time he sees a car parked illegally.  It is no sweat off his back to call the police.  He probably has them on speed dial - one click. He wants to make sure every person whose car is parked out of position will suffer. 

Now you know why we constantly try to warn all of you to read those signs very carefully.  This guy is just drooling at the chance to snipe at another unsuspecting SSQQ student.

Recently we nearly had an SSQQ car towed from in front of Radio Shack.  Even if those tow signs were not there, we should never park in front of Radio Shack while they are open.  We should be a good neighbor to help their customers have a place to park. Radio Shack was wrong to call the tow truck, but I can understand why they did it.  

And now somewhere in our midst we have a Demon customer whose rude behavior threatens the loss of yet another valuable place to park across the street at Dr. Hutchins' office. 

With incidents like these, now you begin to understand why we have a parking problem.

If there is one more negative incident regarding Dr. Hutchins, we might lose his valuable gift as well.  To this point, Dr. Hutchins and his staff have been remarkably patient over the years.  I don't know how much longer we can count on this gentleman's good will if someone else loses their temper and abuses this privilege.  (If someone knows Dr. Joe Hutchins personally and can think of a way for us to thank him for his kindness, please let me know.)

For the present, I hope you see just how simple it is for a single jerk among us to sabotage the entire studio's Reputation.  We are all at the mercy of some anti-social fool who shows up on our doorstep like the Black Plague.

On the other hand, the majority of you are marvelous representatives of SSQQ.  For example, I heard of a student who took the Security Guard over at the hospital some popcorn and a coke the other day to thank him for watching our cars and being there to keep First Street safe.  Apparently the guard really appreciated this thoughtful gesture.  Gee whiz, big hug for whoever did that.  Good for you. Take these men all the popcorn you want. 

The entire parking situation feels like Good Karma - Bad Karma in action.  Every time we anger somebody, they retaliate.  How we will manage to get back in their good graces is much more difficult.


I keep a pretty close eye on my Staff.  As far as I can tell, our Staff is polite and conscientious. 

Considering how a few of our customers treat them, I think they do Remarkably Well.   The Hall Monitors and Registrars (and instructors) do a good job of biting their tongue on a daily basis, believe me. 

In fact, there is no question in my mind that they do a better job than I would under similar circumstances.  Sometimes I can't believe what they have to put up with.

You need to understand that I am very protective of my Staff.  I will not tolerate rudeness.  These people are not always appreciated because they are forced to uphold Rules by saying "No" to our customers at various times. 

No, we don't allow guests to enter unless they have email permission slips from Rick.
No, we don't allow children.
No, we don't allow you to go inside and ask Rick to make an exception for you on the spot.
No, we don't allow people to stand and watch our classes.
No, we don't allow people to take classes for half-price unless their student record shows it is a repeat.
No, we don't allow people to refuse to switch partners.
No, we don't allow Refunds after the First Hour of class.

Naturally, people don't like the word 'No'.  So they try a second time.  And a third time.  The problem is, the Hall Monitors and Registrars have to sit there and listen to it all.  And some of the things the students say are pretty ugly. 

How would you like to be the person who gets to deal with the student who won't take 'No' for an answer?  I imagine you would soon agree this particular song and dance gets pretty old pretty fast.

Personally, I think the adage "The Customer is Always Right" is invalid.  I completely agree with this point from the Sprint article:

"From a management standpoint, a line gets crossed: There is no sense in trying to appease the unappeasable."

So when a Demon Dance Student shoots out of Room 4 to scream at the Registrar about the crowding problem and tells us to can a Ballroom class or else, I think we can all agree a line has been crossed. 

SSQQ has the right to deny service to any customer who behaves inappropriately.  In other words, for people like this woman, we will Sprint her butt right out of the building if something like this occurs again.  And I doubt seriously any of you would blame us.

You will be pleased to note that in the past year only one student has been asked to leave SSQQ.  This student was asked to leave after we discovered they were guilty of telling bald-faced lies to another student.  So it is not like we are on a witch hunt here. 

I just want people to understand that Customer Relations require the Customer to show Respect to the Staff just like the Staff Member is expected to show Respect to the Customer.

Let me be clear that this "Respect" door swings both ways.

If you feel that a Staff Member has been rude to you, send me an email.  Document the situation.  I always forward negative comments to the Staff member with the name of the student who sent the email deleted.  Your voice counts.

I want this studio to be a happy place where people are kind to one another. 

I can only do this if people keep me informed.

One last thing: please be nice to everyone in the SSQQ Neighborhood.  Otherwise some day we won't have any place to park.



05. THE OCTOBER DANCE SEMESTER – CLASSES BEGIN the week of Sunday, September 30.

Remember – if you miss the first week of class, you can always start in the second week. The Second Week Review will catch you up.  SSQQ SCHEDULE

For even more detail on many of the classes listed below, please visit the EXTRA



Our Hawaii Cruise back in May 2007 was the most incredible cruise experience in SSQQ history. 80 people on the trip had the best time of their lives! They are so pumped for the next trip that Marla is pretty sure she wants to take us to the Greek Isles in August next year. Better brush up on your Greek Mythology and start saving your Eurodollars - we are going to Rome too! Maybe I will take a side trip to see my friend Vesuvius.

Speaking of cruises, I intend to get to work on the Hawaii Cruise story in August, uh, make that October. You have my firm promise on that, a promise just as firm as the one I made back in July. I feel a story starting to erupt! That is, unless I erupt at the studio first. Ha ha.

For the moment, I thank you (AGAIN) for sending me all those wonderful pictures.

September 2007 update... the bad news is we are now four months past our wonderful Hawaii Cruise and no story/no pictures.  But the good news is I have no more stories on my plate ahead of the Hawaii Cruise.  So I should begin working on it at the start of October.





A Lesson you fail to learn the first time becomes a Lesson you are doomed to Repeat.


On June 27, I happened to read a column in the Houston Chronicle written by Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who writes currently for the New York Times. Mr. Friedman's article absolutely fascinated me.  His main point was that never before in history has the potential for damaging our Reputation been greater.

By chance, the very same day as I first read this article, Alex, a young friend of mine here at the studio, was being publicly ridiculed for a salsa crash course he taught at the studio back in early June. Someone had videotaped his class and posted the video on YouTube.  For several days, dozens of people viewed the clip and offered various smart-ass remarks. I really felt sorry for the predicament Alex had gotten himself into.  His first mistake was allowing people to videotape his class even though my entire staff knows (and so did Alex) that videotaping is not permitted at SSQQ in any group class (private lessons are permitted).

Fortunately YouTube took down the video clip and the problem faded into obscurity (I will share the whole story with you next month). But my fascination with Thomas Friedman's article had been ignited. I began to think through my own past and realized just how correct Mr. Friedman was about everything he said.

In a flash, I realized three stories from my past would serve as the perfect vehicle to share Mr. Friedman's wisdom with the rest of you.


This is the story of how my first wife brutally slapped me three times in public. This dark 1986 event was very embarrassing.  24 of my best friends in the world were there to witness the event.

And who gets slapped three times? Most people only get one slap. What made me so lucky? Although no one is ever blameless, in my opinion I had done next to nothing to deserve this. Nevertheless through "Spin" - a careful manipulation of the facts - plus a glaring absence of communication on my part, this incident backfired on me to become my fault.  I fell into a dark depression.

I had just learned one the hardest lessons of my entire life.

So naturally your next question is, "What did you do to deserve getting slapped three times in a row?"


This story took place in 1998.  You will read how my second wife and I allowed a rival dance studio steal our once-dominant position as the best Swing Dance Studio in Houston right out from under our noses.  Our failure to properly respond to a Smear Campaign led directly to our downfall.

The story covers events surrounding a scheduled dance performance over at Rice by the SSQQ Swing Team.  Word leaked out that my second wife and I had deliberately snubbed the leader of the Houston Swing Dance Society.  Did our snub have something to do with the color of his skin? You will be amazed at how much damage these unchecked rumors caused SSQQ.

Small rumors soon became vicious rumors when I chose not to refute these ridiculous allegations.   But why not?  Why did I choose NOT to refute these allegations if they weren't true?  Good question!

You will have to read the story for that answer.


This is the story of how I threw a horrible temper tantrum at the dance studio.  This incident took place in 2000.

screamed at two students demanding a Refund and threw hundreds of dollar bills on the floor.  I was completely out of line. The next morning I awoke to find the students had sent a poison pen version of the story flying across the Internet.  They were going to take down my entire Western program for revenge.

Yet despite my terrible behavior, miraculously I managed to rescue myself from this potential disaster to emerge without a scratch.  I was completely forgiven and the studio didn't suffer a cent of damage.  

What was different?  Well, this time I stood up for myself and my Reputation. I had learned my lesson from the previous two adventures.  I paid attention to the lessons learned from my previous two adventures and used my experience to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.

There is a valuable message at the conclusion of each story - if you don't stand up for yourself, you are doomed in the Court of Public Opinion.

There are some powerful lessons to be learned here. Thanks to the inspiration of Alex and Mr. Friedman, I have shared these lessons with you.

The Reputation Trilogy


With my Houdini-like escape from the deadly email, I had begun my Metamorphosis into a person who not only understands the need to stand up for his Reputation, but one who does it skillfully.

In the summer of 2007 I visited an active volcano site in Hawaii.  I could not understand why the guides forced us to walk single file and insisted on walking beside us to make sure we cooperated.  When we got to the active lava flow, I had my answer - the new hot lava is almost identical in appearance to the hardened lava.  We all know about the Red Lava from Dante's Peak and other volcano movies, but this kind of lava was a deadly, highly camoflouged assassin I knew nothing about.

Without our guides, any of us could easily have lost a foot before we ever knew what happened.  The guides protected us.

Now I am offering to be your guide in the Court of Public Opinion. I have a valuable contribution to share with the rest of you...

A chance for you to avoid risking your own Reputation by learning from SOMEONE ELSE'S MISTAKES.

You might just save your Reputation from going through a lava field some day. 


After writing my stories about Reputation, I devoted a Chapter to answering several direct questions about the studio.


Read SSQQ Reputation on the Line




08. FOUR NEW REPUTATION STORIES!  Victoria, Alex, Cheryl, and Google

In August 2007 I published my Reputation Trilogy, a three story saga that explained how I learned the hard way how important it is to protect your reputation.

Now in September 2007, I have four new stories for you to read.

  •  Victoria Osteen is the polished, intelligent beautiful leader of the famous Lakewood Church here in Houston.  One day in 2005 around Christmas time, Ms. Osteen is said to have lost her temper while boarding an airplane on a vacation flight to Colorado.  The Curious Christmas Calamity of Victoria Osteen
  •  Alex Schamenek was just trying to help.  He had an idea for a new Salsa Crash Course here at SSQQ.  In the middle of his class, someone began to videotape.  Alex let him continue.  Big Mistake 
    No Good Deed goes Unpunished

  •  Cheryl was new in town and wanted to teach a Samba class.  The problem was that she was incredibly busy and had a little trouble adapting the the SSQQ class format.  So she started teaching classes whenever she had some free time.  That wasn't a very good idea.  The Strange Saga of the Mysterious Samba Lady
  •  Lots of people have been reading my stories about Reputation and Google.  So now they email me right and left to get their names removed from the SSQQ website before it is too late and everyone finds out the truth.
    Zephyr the Belly Dancer, Joye the Same Sex Dancer, and Ted the Girl Chaser











(Rick Archer's Note - the August 2007 Newsletter dealt with attacks on the Reputation of SSQQ Dance Studio.  I received many letters of support.  This letter was one of them.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim B
Sent: Sunday, August 26, 2007 4:18 AM
To: Rick Archer (SSQQ)
Subject: I've Got to be Crazy or You Do

It's 3:56 AM and I feel compelled to comment on your journalism. As you know, Sharon and I have been coming around and bothering you at the studio for a few years now. In fact, I'm about to celebrate my 13th year. But that's not why I'm writing this.
I had sat down at the computer two hours ago, and was just going to check the SSQQ schedule for Sept to see when the Martian Technique class was going to be taught. We had missed August because our grandchildren were returning to Connecticut, and we had planned several events that prevented us from taking classes. However, I wanted to thank you again, Paige and Gage enjoyed their lessons in two step. They put those lessons to good use at Shroeder Hall (the second oldest dance hall in Texas) over by Victoria. Anyway, while checking the schedule, I noticed the link on John Jones and read that. I, too, had seen him dance. I remember seeing him with the competition shirts he used to wear. The articles and tributes were well written. Obviously, he was loved and will be warmly remembered.
Then I saw the article(s) on Reputation and Bryan Spivey. We were there at the studio when this was going on, so I just had to read the gossip. Damn. Now, here I am, adding my two cents at 4:08 in the morning. Rick, I know you have wondered why anyone would drive 75 miles one way to SSQQ like we do. Remember, I've been doing for 13 years. Sharon only since 2000. There's another guy who drives from Bay City, Doug Gephart, who I got started at SSQQ. We love the place. Rick, SSQQ is a great place. It's a great place because of the people who go there and teach there. I'm sure that the manner in which you have run/managed SSQQ has contributed to this atmosphere.
Sharon and I have many friends across Houston who we maintain contact with either at the studio or outside the studio, but we met them because of the studio. You know I wouldn't be #2 to SSQQ in computers bought at TFW if it wasn't because of SSQQ. I never would have met Gary and his lovely bride Betty. Of course, you never would have met two of my three daughters at that softball game - one with a baby. And now the baby is 14 taking lessons at your studio.

Rick, people will be people. I can't speak for Bryan, or for what or why he did what he did. I do know that you passionately defend SSQQ and your family against attack, so Bryan best be careful.  I wish him the best whatever he's doing, but it's too bad he couldn't find a little time in his life for SSQQ. Rick, don't stop being you.  We've always liked you and SSQQ.  Keep up the good work.
P.S. Couldn't make the SSQQ party tonight because we had John Anderson at the Bay City Civic Center tonight. hehaw.  JB






(Rick Archer's Note - the August 2007 Newsletter dealt with attacks on the Reputation of SSQQ Dance Studio.  I received many letters of support.  This letter was one of them.

-----Original Message-----
From: Karen
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:02 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: about ssqq

Rick, I'll be the first to admit that SSQQ doesn't always fulfill my all of my present selfish interests or needs.

However, at the time of my greatest need, SSQQ was there for me.

My first husband and I moved to Houston in Aug. of 1999. My husband died in Aug of 2002 after a short nine month battle with cancer. Between setting up a new home and dealing with my husband's illness I had had no time to develop any friendships.  My husband's job had moved us numerous times so I had no place to call "home" other than Houston.  My husband's death left me "very" alone, but it was going to get worse.

A year after my husband's death and having been laid off from my first job in twenty six years (I'd been a Stay-at-Home Mom), I panicked when I suddenly found myself home alone all day.

Fear, in particular the fear of being alone, took over my life. SSQQ helped me on my road to recovery from that fear. SSQQ became my home and my refuge - a place to go where I wasn't alone.  Dance lessons filled almost every evening.  The evenings when I didn't have classes and I had to be alone became bearable because of the expectation of the next class.

After a few months I calmed down and actually started to look forward again to nights when I could sit home and be alone.

It is 5 years since my first husband's death from cancer. When he died I knew almost no one in Houston.  Today I can hardly go any where in Houston without running into someone that I met in a dance class at SSQQ.  While I'm not "friends" with all of those people, it is still so comforting to simply run into friendly faces.  SSQQ made Houston a home for me.  Of course you know that that SSQQ became a big part my courtship.   Today my new husband and I continue to make SSQQ part of our married life. 

My new husband is an "Energizer Bunny" who can never sit still.  SSQQ gives him a place to release some of his energy, and I'm more than happy to hand him off to a single lady without a dance partner when my feet simply can't keep up. :>).

I don't think that I am alone in finding SSQQ to be a home.  Whether because of death, divorce, or boredom with the bar scene, I think many people have found SSQQ to be a respite from loneliness and not just a dance studio. Yes, there are some people that do come to SSQQ just for dance lessons - many of them young people. I love that SSQQ gives me an opportunity to have fun with these young people. (I'll add that nothing boosts my ego more than a young person asking an "old lady" like myself to dance.)

SSQQ will never be the answer to every person's personal needs. I hate the change of class times, the loss of a favorite instructor, etc. just as much as the next person. But at the end of the day I am so thankful that SSQQ existed for me.  With my new married life I no longer need SSQQ to keep me from feeling alone. But it is a great comfort to me to know that as long as SSQQ exists I I'll always have a place where I can return where there is no loneliness.

Lest this letter become as long as one of your newsletters :>}  I'll end this e-mail.  I need to finish out my day so I can get ready for my next SSQQ lesson.

But from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you Rick. I'm sorry I never took the time to thank-you before this. The man that told me about SSQQ stated it in this way. "SSQQ is a great place to meet people and have a social outlet from loneliness. Oh, and you'll also learn how to dance."

I know that dance lessons are your bottom line, Rick. But, take heart in the fact that to many, you give much more than dance lessons.





RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: Marty Shea was a favorite Western instructor here at the studio in the late Nineties.

In 2000, Marty moved from Houston to the DC area to pursue medical research opportunities.  His departure was a sad day for the studio and for me personally because I really liked Marty. He was such a positive part of SSQQ.  

Marty was marginally involved in a 2000 incident known as "
Vesuvius" where I totally lost my temper one night over a Refund argument.  When I revisited that incident in our previous August Newsletter, Marty noticed his name and decided to write to me to say hi.

-----Original Message-----
From: Martin Shea [
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:59 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: newsletter info.

Hi Rick,
Saw my name in lights in your latest newsletter, so I thought I'd touch base with you and my friends from years ago. These days, my work in cancer research still keeps me busy.
Our company (Avalon Pharmaceuticals) has one potential cancer therapeutic in phase trials with ongoing work in multiple cancer related pathways.  Risky, but rewarding work; especially if our discoveries succeed and save lives.

For fun I go dancing in the D.C. area, mixing in hiking and exploring museums and monuments down at the mall. The D.C. area, as you might imagine, has a wealth of sites to see, and new exhibits coming through constantly. And one good thing Maryland and Virginia does well is the upkeep of parks. Lots of trails and hikes one can go on. Sadly, nothing like SSQQ exists in the area, but I try to make due. Here in the Northeast, line dancing rears its' ugly head a bit more than partner dancing when it comes to two step and other styles, but I've discovered places that minimize it. And the ladies love the new/different moves they've never seen, that I brought up from Houston.

I still think back to the great times I had back at the studio. The many friends I made (several of whom I still stay in touch with) and the many fond memories. A few experiences that still come to mind are:

1) The 1998 cruise to the Caribbean (proudly being half of the "wonderful wino" duo, and meeting all those mermaids)

2) Playing the construction worker in the Village People skit to YMCA (do you have that recorded anywhere? Or did Ben destroy all copies?)

3) Volleyball outings in you backyard (remember the awesome 6 inch jumps I executed for those crucial blocks?)

4) Being a member of the Heartbeat dance team (truly a special group of people coached by Susie, the best!)

5) Helping your daughter Sam learn two-step.

6) The many zany Halloween parties (my favorite being the one I showed up as the dance teacher from hell, complete with jar of thumbs and whip)

7) Off-site gatherings of SSQQ teachers and students at the Wild West and Longhorn Saloon.

Good times! Anyway, I hope to see you and past friends when I come to visit in the near future. And please give my best to all that remember me. And if anyone wants to contact me, please feel free to give them my e-mail address.

I've attached a dance article I wrote for our company's paper a few years back. Hope you enjoy it.

Warmest regards,  Marty





Shall we dance?


As some of you already know, one of my true enjoyments in life is dancing. Though I have enjoyed dancing throughout my life, it was in Houston that I followed it more seriously. In Houston, I spent days working as a biologist, but at night I studied dance, and eventually competed (on dance teams) and taught at a well-known studio called SSQQ. (I thought it ironic that a native New Yorker was teaching Texans how to two-step.). Though I currently don't teach or compete, I try to "trip the light fantastic" as often as I can.

Why dance?

Dancing is a great way to enjoy a shared activity between oneself and a significant other. A great way to exercise, in an enjoyable way, to music you love. For singles, dancing is one of the best ways to introduce oneself to new friends. Lastly, it's a great way to express oneself.

Which dance?

To begin, you need to decide on a particular dance. Let me say upfront that I will not discuss free style or line dancing. I think it is great to try one of these dances if it gets you out on the floor. It's much better than sitting a song out. Given the choice though, I much prefer partner dancing. (I've always enjoyed the expression: "Texans like to hold their ladies when they dance.")

The decision as to which style to start with can be based on geography. For example, down in Texas, two-step, salsa and polka are the most popular. In the Northeast, it's swing and hustle. If I moved to Spain, I would consider learning the paso doble.

One can decide by which dance is most popular at any given time. A few years ago in the States, primarily because of a well-known Gap commercial, and movies like "Blast from the Past" and "Swing Kids", swing was the most popular dance. Currently, it's salsa. If I were to guess what the next new craze would be years from now, I would say hustle.

If one was to decide which dance to learn on the style that was most versatile, there is little doubt that swing would be your best choice. It can be danced to many different song styles and genres. Everything from Big Band, to 50s rock and roll, to the Beatles and Van Morrison, to Garth Brooks, up to present day music. In addition, it is by far one of the easiest dances to learn and lead/follow. Make sure, though, that you start with East Coast swing. West coast swing is a variation of swing that is very popular, but much more difficult to learn.

Finally, one could pick a style based on the music you most enjoy listening to. Personally, I like country western music, so it is no surprise that my best and most favorite dances are two-step and waltz.  My friend Juana, on the other hand, enjoys Latin music. So her best dances are salsa and meringue.

How to learn?

The best and fastest way to learn is to find a good instructor for the dance you are interested in, and take private lessons. You will rapidly advance, given the one-on-one attention. This will cost more money though (usually around $60/hour)

An inexpensive way is to find a studio, and sign up for weekly group lessons. There are many group lessons offered in the D.C. area, specializing in different dance styles. Group lessons have the added advantage of having you practice with different people, so you learn how to lead or follow with different people. Preferably, you never want to learn how to dance with just one person as your partner (It can also be better for the relationship, too).

Alternatively, most clubs and dance venues will offer lessons at the beginning of the night that will teach a pattern or two for the dance style featured that evening. The down side to this is that you will have all levels represented, and little personal attention to your needs. This is a great way to learn new patterns once you know the basics of a dance, but not a good way to learn the basics.

Regardless of how you begin, the important thing is getting started, focusing on one dance style to begin with, and being persistent. And practice, practice, practice! You can read all about swimming in a book, but till you get in the water and try it, you will never be a good swimmer. Same with dancing. You need to get the moves into "muscle memory" by practicing what you learn on the dance floor.

Dance rules.

In conclusion, I end with some of my favorite rules of dance. The examples below assume the leader is the guy, the follower is the lady. This is not set in stone, though. For example, my most enlightening (and humbling) experiences has been when I've tried following a female instructor's lead.

1) It is ALWAYS the man's fault, on the dance floor. If I had a nickel for every time I've said: "Someday I'll have to learn to lead that move better"…

2) If you are asked to dance and you decline, you are NOT to accept another's offer till the next song, at the earliest.

3) Guys, don't look down at your feet. It doesn't look good. Even if you spot something wrong, you won't be able to fix it in time. And besides, women are never sure what you're looking down at.

4) Unless asked, NEVER offer your partner advice on the dance floor on how to dance properly.

5) Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels. Guys. When possible with a traveling dance, switch and go backwards for a time, letting the lady go forward. Your reward will be a guaranteed smile.

6) If you sweat, bring an extra shirt to change into, later that night. Guaranteed, your partner(s) will appreciate this.

7) Beer bottles, cigarettes, and purses are not appropriate accessories on the dance floor.

8) Hand(s) on your partner's butt is not a variation of proper frame and technique.

9) Breath mints are your friend.

10) Hygiene is huge.  Sweaty guys are a big big turn-off (solution: bring a towel and bring a change of shirts, visit the restroom.)  Guys who smell are an even bigger turn-off.  And often the guy doesn't even know it.  You are out there busting your butt to learn every dance move in the book and women still avoid you like the plague.  And you don't even have a clue what the problem might be.   Well, now you do.  Solution: take a bath before dance class.

11) Guys. It is solely your responsibility to avoid collisions on the dance floor with other couples. Remember, you are the frame, she is the picture. Your primary job, guys, is to make the lady look good and part of that is keeping her safe.  (That said, if you ladies see an imminent collision, don't be afraid to do something!)

12) Guys. Do not lead moves too advanced for the lady, to try to impress her. You will merely frustrate her, and reduce your chances for a second dance. (I'm guilty of this more often than I'd like to admit)

13) Ladies. As hard as it may be, if the guy is dancing off-beat, dance to the beat in the guy's head, and not to the beat of the song.

14) Guys. Don't become a pattern junkie. It is infinitely better to know and lead 3 different moves well, than leading 30 different moves poorly.

15) Ladies. As hard as it may be to resist the urge, never back-lead a dance. Though if the guy is a weak or bad lead, I certainly don't envy your position.

16) Generally, it takes guys twice as long to learn dancing compared to ladies. Ladies, be patient.

17) Smile! (Even when toes are stepped on.)

18) Dance as if no one's watching.

20) Have fun!

Marty Shea



14. T




16.  LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Rick Archer

For many years, the most popular section of the entire Newsletter has been the Complaint section. 

One day it dawned on me that I get lots of email that is actually quite pleasant and almost as interesting as the much-loved complaints.

I hope you enjoy this new feature.

If you have something you would like to say or comment on, send it to dance@ssqq.com












Rick's Note:
Historically the "Complaint of the Month" is the absolute favorite section of the SSQQ Newsletter.  Sometimes I think I would rather not know why. 

COMPLAINT ONE - Air Quality of the Studio

Here is one complaint that is sure to be a classic.

-----Original Message-----
From: Kirk
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 8:29 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: My experience at your studio criticism

Hi Rick,
The purpose of this email is to give you constructive feedback regarding your studio. I attended last Saturday's crash course/party and it was my first visit to your studio. I think that the service you offer is terrific. However, I had misgivings about your studio from the minute I walked in the door, not because of the people there, or the courses offered, or the appearance of your studio. I immediately noticed what I can best describe as an old building, poorly maintained air system smell which is likely full of allergens and mold which could even be toxic. I stayed too long and I wish I hadn't because I am sensitive to indoor allergens. I had some mild chest congestion the following morning and I picked the red-tinted mucous out of my nose this evening. A fun experience is a healthy experience and I won't be back because I do not believe that your studio is a healthy place to be. If my suspicions are true, then I hope that you will consider overhauling your air system for the health of your patrons. There is nothing more important.

Rick's Response: I did not respond directly to this complaint. What is there for me to say?  It is the first of its nature in thirty years.  This man is correct that our building is old, but I have already decided we have no choice but to look for another building. 

Not to seem insensitive, I do actually care about the air we breathe.  After all, I breathe it too and so do all the people I care about.  For example, I made a decision twenty years ago not to allow smoking in the building.  At the time, my decision was both praised and criticized.  As smoking in public places is increasingly prohibited throughout the city, my position is now mainstream.  

At the moment, the air quality of SSQQ is good enough for most of us. As I teach classes, I do not see people gagging and wheezing.  I think my sense of humor causes a great deal more suffering than the air we breathe.


Posted by amy mcafee on City Search

My husband and I, along with two other couples, took the Rumba, Cha Cha, and Tango class. When we arrived at our first class, the Rumba had been replaced with swing. Although swing is fun, it was not what we signed up for. This would have been fine without the constant switching of partners. There were twice as many women as men in the class, and I was only able to dance with my husband 3 times throughout the two-hour class. We took a dance class in hopes of improving our dancing as a couple. The other two couples had similar complaints. In the future we will pay the extra money to take semi-private lessons at another studio.

Rick's Response:  Actually, I think this woman has a legitimate concern.  We have been asked on several occasions to have a "couples only" dance class.  It is only natural in a new setting to prefer to spend time with a friend or spouse.  I am completely sympathetic to the sentiment this woman espouses.  This is why in classes that I teach I give people every chance to pair back up with their original partners on a frequent basis. 

We do not have any plans for 'couples classes' for four reasons. 

The first explanation is we do not have the space to do so.  We constantly have demands for more courses than we have rooms.  Can you see DOUBLING our courses... one Twostep class for couples, another one for singles?

The second explanation is economics.  Since our studio is essentially half couples, half singles, each class would become half the size it currently is.  Not only would many classes no longer "Make", they wouldn't make enough money to stay in business.

The third explanation is practical.  SSQQ teaches people to lead and follow.  In the past, we learned that when we allowed couples to not switch, the couples had difficulty learning to lead and follow.  By creating a circle and forcing people to switch, the instructors were able to identify the areas that needed more attention.  In addition, the Circle allowed women to learn through experience how to follow all kinds of leads.  The Circle also showed the men they could no longer count on their partners to memorize patterns. 

But the practical reasons aside, the main reason you aren't going to see Couples Classes any time soon is because it goes against the SSQQ Philosophy of Friendship.  SSQQ teaches Social Dancing, i.e. Dancing for the Fun of It. 

A Group Dance Class at SSQQ is not just about learning to Social Dance, we also have a quiet agenda aimed at making friends.  Obviously "singles" want to meet people, but most couples are just as appreciative of making friends as well.  The SSQQ reputation for match making gets the headlines, but I think our studio's ability to help create friendships is just as important. 

SSQQ is a Community.  I take enormous pride that we have people who are black and white, brown and yellow, Christian and Jewish,  Protestant and Muslim,  heterosexual and gay, as well as earthlings and martians who all take dance classes together in peace and harmony.   Can you imagine me dividing SSQQ group classes over an issue like couples and singles? 

It won't happen.

That said, I am aware that not everyone wishes to be involved in a dance community.  Nor do I see any reason in forcing people to do something against their wishes. 

My only question to Ms. McAfee would be to to ask why she feels the need to go to another studio for the private lessons? 

We have six instructors who also do a thriving private lesson business:  Linda Cook, Jack Benard, Dakota Wilhelm, Jill Banta, Scott Ladell, and Marla Archer. 

I might add that I am curious to ask what semi-private lessons are.  Is that like a nudist colony where you keep some of your clothes on?

By the way, I have covered these issues in great detail in two articles.

One is titled
SSQQ Group Classes.
It covers the events that explain how we developed our Group Class Dance program. This section is actually something of a meditation on the nature of the Rights of an Individual Versus the rights of the Group. It covers in great detail the incidents that led to our policies and the reasoning behind the policies.  Why do we insist everyone switch partners?  Why can't people watch classes?  Why are children banned from the studio?

The other article is titled
SSQQ Philosophies.  It explains the advantages of Group Lessons versus Private Lessons, and why Practice Night is so important to our dance program.

Two other articles of interest would be:

SSQQ At a Glance  gives a quick overview on the many facets of the studio.

History of SSQQ  covers the events that led to the development of Houston's largest dance studio.


Posted by chart on City Search

A friend and I left after half a class. They give you all kinds of reasons why mandatory switching is good, but when you get stuck with the big greasy sweaty guy for 20 minutes, no reason is reason enough. I really just wanted to dance with my friend, and that's not possible at SSQQ.

Rick's Response:  I have two responses.  One is that I insist we switch partners constantly, but I imagine it is possible to get stuck with the 'big, greasy, sweaty guy' for 20 minutes.  So as nasty as this woman is in her criticism, I am sorry to admit she is likely to be telling the truth.

I have a note to all students, but mostly to men - Personal hygiene is a huge concern in Social Dancing.

I have to say occasionally my female instructors come up to me in despair about this guy or that guy who smells so bad they can barely tolerate it.  For some reason, people who have the odor problem don't seem to be able to smell themselves.  So they are not even aware of the problem while the people around them are about to faint.   What makes this problem worse is that no one wants to be the bad guy and talk to the offensive people. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Chris M
Sent: Tuesday, August 17, 2004 1:22 PM
To: 'dance@ssqq.com'
Subject: complaint Praise for SSQQ

I've been taking classes at SSQQ since January of this year. I've enjoyed them all. The instructors I have had, Darrell and Loni and Maureen and Tom, Jill and yourself have been wonderful. I look forward to taking more classes and have encouraged others I know to take classes at SSQQ.

I only wish I could tell you a way for more people to stay for practice night. As you know, if you don't practice it won't stick.

P.S. - don't let the whiners and complainers get you down!  Who wouldn't want the perfect room temperature with wonderful dancers in an uncrowded room and their classes offered every night for the price of one and well behaved gentleman and this and that and the other......You'll never please them all but you'll rarely hear from the ones that are pleased.... which is most of us!


-----Original Message-----
From: Jo
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:44 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Switching group classes to privates

Hello -

My husband and I are enrolled in the Beginning Salsa class that started 2 Saturdays ago.

We couldn't make the 1st class so we went to last week's Thursday class to make it up.  We weren't able to make this past Saturday's class again, so we were going to go to tonight's class.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to make it tonight either.

We're wondering if we can switch our lessons to private ones after mid-Feb.

I couldn't really tell by looking on the site. In essence, we've only been to 1 class and it was the 2nd class. We'd really like to take salsa but have conflicts right now (and we also feel we're in need of more personalized attention because of our complete lack of dance skill :)).

And is there anything else we should know about that I haven't asked?

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 11:40 AM
To: Jo
Subject: RE:
Switching group classes to privates

Group lessons cannot be exchanged for private lessons.

You are welcome to retake the Beg Salsa class at no charge. Just let me know when you are ready to do so.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jo
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 2:13 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Switching group classes to privates

Hello -

I just saw that you have a beg. salsa class starting on Sat. Is it too late to sign up for it and use our credit?

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 4:09 PM
To: Jo
Subject: permission for two people to take Beg Salsa September 2007

By all means. Print this out to show the Registrar. There will no charge.

Rick Archer's Note:  Of all the rules we have, the least understood Rule regards switching tuition from Groups to Privates.

Without going too deep into the subject, switching tuition from Groups to Privates essentially amounts to Time Theft.  Not only do we have to keep showing up for our Group Lessons, now we have to show up at the studio to give an EXTRA Private Lesson for free.  If you are curious to understand our reasoning, click
Tuition Switch 




It was twenty years ago today that Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. 

The time frame 'twenty years' is significant because it also marks the time that has passed since my greatest single business defeat.

1987 was the year that the top dance students at SSQQ slowly but surely began to dump my studio to begin taking Whip lessons over at Southwest Whip Club.  30 SSQQ students from my Martian Whip class decided to switch to the class of Mario Robau, the Houston City Whip champion and Texas State Dance champion. 

I was a very good dancer, but Mario was better.  I was a very good teacher, but Mario was better.

Behind my back, the word spread that I had taken my students about as far as I could.  Now it was time for them to seek their higher destiny in the world of dance.  I watched helplessly as one by one they began to drift away.  

What made this exodus particularly painful for me was that I was not only losing my best students to another teacher, I was also losing my best friends in the world.

It had taken a pretty bizarre set of circumstances to come to this point.  After my divorce in 1986, I stumbled upon an unusual self-therapy program whereby I went Whip dancing every night of the week for 201 Nights in a row. 

Since I had to have someone to dance with, I encouraged my students to come along with me.

Every night a group of us went out dancing.  Different people joined us every night, but I was there EVERY NIGHT.

Over the course of 1986 and the following year, the entire group of us became a tight-knit group indeed. 

We became wonderful friends and we became wonderful dancers.

We were also slightly insane.  This picture alone should prove that much.

As they say, Practice makes Perfect.  Because I practiced the most, I will immodestly claim I was the best Whip dancer of the bunch.  However there were a lot of people who weren't far behind me.  Thanks to all that practice, this group of dancers had become talented dancers in their own right.

The elite dancers were Tom Easley, Mike Fagan, Ted Jones, Carol Gafford, Diane Head, and Margie Saibara.  These six people were my lieutenants so to speak.  They were leaders of the Whip Group in their own right.  People looked up to them just as much as they did me. 

As we frequently went out dancing as a group, it was just a matter of time until these elite dancers met Mario Robau in one of the night clubs.  Mario was just beginning to make a name for himself in 1986.  They marveled at his prodigious dancing ability. 

Mario is like one of those kids who sits down at a piano and starts to play immediately.  Seeing Mario dance, we would all gasp and wonder if this was proof of reincarnation.  Whatever the supernatural explanations for his ability, Mario was clearly gifted.  Over the course of the next year, Mario came into his own as the finest dancer in the city and perhaps the state.  If he wasn't the best, he was definitely gaining on everyone fast.

One day in 1987 Mike and Tom approached me about going over to Southwest Whip Club and taking classes from Mario.  Carol Gafford had been over there scouting it out.  Going over to Southwest would mean another opportunity to dance Whip, their passion, during the week.

Mike and Tom said they weren't going to go over there without clearing it with me.  I won't lie.  I was crushed inside.   We were close friends.  Friends stick together.  I thought to myself, 'Why do you have to leave me?'  But I also understood.  As their teacher, I knew in my heart that they wanted to improve as dancers and maybe enter dance contests.  They had that kind of talent.  Besides, I taught social dancing, not competition dancing.  How would I be able to face my conscience if I stood in their way?

So I gave them my blessings to go over to Southwest.  Ted, Carol, and Margie joined Tom and Mike in the big adventure.  The plan was for all of them to keep one foot over at SSQQ and one foot over at Southwest.  Diane Head, who had just begun to teach for me, decided not to go with them.  In addition, Sharon Crawford, my newest dance superstar, also chose to stay with me. 

Soon the word was out - Rick's best dancers had gone over to Mario!

Up till now there had been a barrier.  You were either Southwest or SSQQ.   But having Tom and Mike over there immediately signaled that I wasn't going to kill anyone.  The herd instinct kicked in.  Now a flood of my second tier students decided they too were going to go see what the 'enemy' was all about.  I was appalled.  Although I had done nothing wrong, my students began to desert me right and left.  Next the third tier of students left me too.  In all, I estimate at least 30 of my top dance students made their way over to Southwest Whip.  It was definitely not a coordinated effort, but more like little icebergs breaking off from the shelf and floating over there one at a time.

In a way, maybe the Group was TOO close knit.  Once the leaders were over there, the rest assumed it was the place to be.  One for all and all for one.  Mario was getting the entire package.  I was totally beside myself with exasperation.  I was their teacher, damn it!  I didn't want my students who I had been training for months and years to pick up and move on.  But it was too late.  The entire group was gone.   Poof.  Here today, Southwest tomorrow.

A recent letter from one of my best friends, Bob Job, made a brief reference to the Exodus.

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Job
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 11:06 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: colorado state

Like a lot of the old crowd, Louise and I had deserted SSQQ to go over to the Southwest Whip Club and to the Space City Ski Club for social activities in the late 1980s.

I was sick with grief.  This may have been 'business', but how was that supposed to make me feel better?  The pain was intense. Not only was I losing the heart of my studio, in a sense I was losing my best friends to my biggest rival.

This was not something we could talk about.  I think when Tom-Mike-Carol-Ted-Margie saw the rest of the group tagging along behind them, they were mortified.  This had been a private decision that they cleared with me.  They had nothing to do with the pack of 25 people shadowing their footsteps.  But the damage was done.  This was just far too awkward to discuss openly.

One person actually did talk to me.  One night I spoke with one of the 'defectors', an attractive woman named Ailene.  She came up to me at the end of class to tell me she had decided to begin classes at Southwest the following week.  Judging from her expression, she may have felt a little guilty.

I stared at her.  "Why, Ailene?"

I don't think Ailene appreciated being put on the spot.  Embarrassed, Ailene mumbled, "I don't have to explain it to you, but that's where all my friends are now."

That summed it up right there.  None of this had anything to do with me.  It was just a lousy twist of fate.  The fickle fingers of fate had snatched this Group from my tutelage.  Over a period of several months, I watched the ranks diminish one by one.  I was crushed. 

(Note: I wrote extensively about this period of my life once before in the article known as
Matchmaker.  Look for the section titled "Heartbreak Hotel".)

As far as Mario Robau was concerned, I didn't think he had the slightest thing to do with this transfer of loyalties.  He didn't directly play any Pied Piper role.  He wasn't actively luring anyone over there.  Mario was simply the best dancer in the city who served as a shining advertisement for the glories of Southwest Whip.  He was in the right place at the right time.

I was bitter to be sure, but no one had done anything wrong.  These people had a right to do what they were doing.  It wasn't anyone's 'fault'.  There wasn't any one person to blame.  My value as a teacher had not disappeared, but someone better had suddenly appeared on the scene. 

We all know this kind of scenario happens in business occasionally.  A new theater goes in down the street and suddenly the neighborhood abandons the previous favorite.   Or a Mom and Pop hardware store goes under when a Home Depot shows up.  Fortunately we are shielded from the pain, but you know there must be people whose livelihood is damaged or even ruined.

When you put it into that kind of perspective, I should be grateful I still had my studio intact.  I had only lost 5% of the studio.  It was the most valuable part to be sure, but there was definitely going to be another day for me.

All I could do was shake my head and bite my tongue.  No point in alienating these people.  Someday they would be back.  But for now there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it but accept my defeat and lick my wounds.

Call it a whim.  Suddenly SSQQ wasn't the 'In Place' to be any more.  The dance studio of the month award goes to Southwest Whip Club, voted the most popular new place to take dance lessons.  Ta ta, Rick, old buddy.  See you around.

So I was left behind.  Reeling as I was, I didn't see the next blow coming either.  It turned out this Exodus had a second phase.  I became increasingly bitter when I discovered there was no two-way street.  Once they switched their loyalties to Southwest, they abandoned the social side of SSQQ as well.  Except for maybe the Halloween Party, they were completely gone.  That discovery hurt just as much as the original Exodus.  It was one thing to lose them as students, but now people I had hung out with for one, two, three years were gone from my life.  If I wanted to see them, I would have to go visit them at Southwest.  And that wasn't going to happen.

The entire experience was about as humiliating as having your dog decide to go live with your next door neighbor.  My pride was ripped right out of my heart.

I handled the problem at the time by going into a shell.  Slowly but surely I disengaged from this Group that had been my closest friends.  I turned my energy into developing a new generation of dancers.  But from that time forward, I never let myself get that close to my students again.  This experience had been much too painful to allow to repeat. 

From that point on, I kept a distance from my students.  I was their teacher, not their friend.  I refused to get involved in their lives as I once had.  I entered a new, lonelier phase of my career.  A lot of the joy had gone out of this dancing stuff.

As I hinted before, the news wasn't all bad.  Believe it or not, my studio was flourishing at the time.  Financially SSQQ did not suffer much at all from the loss of its elite dancers.  Thanks to my mask, the new dancers at SSQQ did not have the slightest clue what I was going through.  The 1988 SSQQ group of dance students became fixtures at the exciting Studebakers Club.  They Jitterbugged the Night Away to the great music of the Fifties and Sixties.  They could not have cared less that the former leaders of the studio were gone.  The new group was having a ball.

I was the only person who actually suffered.  You can't be a good teacher if you don't invest yourself in your students.  But I had made a mistake - I had invested TOO MUCH in the Whip Group.  Practically my entire identity was wrapped around these guys.  I had gone dancing with them 201 Nights in a row, the dance equivalent of a Great Adventure.  These people were not only my best dancers, they were my best friends FOR LIFE.  And now they were gone.  Their loss was a tough pill to swallow.  

I had learned a terrible lesson the hard way - don't get too close your students.  They will all leave you some day.  But I wasn't going to cry in public or make a fool of myself.  I wasn't about to let the world see my shame. 

For a while I considered taking up competition whip dancing and putting my own name in the spotlight.  But the time demands of running my enormous dance studio were just too great.  The studio had more than doubled in size practically overnight.  As I thought about it, I realized I preferred to be a teacher, not a performer.  I could have learned to perform, but it wasn't in my nature. Teaching was in my nature. 

Plus there was something else.  Shortly before the Exodus, we had a Whip Party at the studio.  Someone suggested we have a dance contest.  So for the first and ONLY time in the history of SSQQ, three couples competed against each other.  Yes, one couple won, but it was the faces of the 4 people who lost that I watched.  They were crestfallen.  In turn, I was sick in my stomach.

I would never again permit brother and sister to compete like this.  It tore at the fabric of what my studio was all about - Community.  It was plain and simple.  I did not like pitting one of my students against another.  I remember exactly what I thought to myself at the time. "Hell, if they want to compete, let them go over to Southwest Whip."

Now is that prophetic or what?   How does the expression go, "Be careful what you wish for..."

So even though I absolutely loved dancing the Whip and I was very good at it, I turned my back on the world of competition whip dancing.  I rendered unto Mario what was Mario's.  

Mario and I have never been buddy-buddy.  We were dance rivals back in the mid-80s. Then, starting with the Exodus incident of 1987, Mario and I became business rivals as well.  We have been in direct business competition for the past 20 years. Thanks to his superstar status, I say with regret that the balance of power has always been in his favor.  Therefore, from my point of view, I have not minded the distance that has always existed between us.  Who enjoys being reminded of an ass-kicking?  Quite frankly, I cannot hear his name without recalling the Exodus.  It is a wound that has diminished with time, but will never be forgotten. 

That said, although we have never had a friendly rivalry, I don't think we have had an underhanded rivalry either. 

There is one point I need to make clear.  Even though we were rivals, I respected Mario's immense talent as a dancer and as a teacher.  Mario worked wonders with my former students.  In fact, thanks in large part to my former students, Southwest Whip hit a Golden Era in the late Eighties and early Nineties.  Under Mario's tutelage, not only did people like Mike Fagan, Margie Saibara, and Ted Jones win major championships, as a group the X-SSQQ dancers joined Mario's dance team and dazzled people for years with their performances.  So I have to say that although I was the one who was left behind in the rear view mirror, it was the clearly the right move for the elite members of my group.  Mario did indeed help the group realize their dreams. 

For the next twenty years, I went my way and Mario went his.  Houston is a big city.  Our paths rarely crossed.

During that time, I had two large regrets where Mario was concerned. 

In the very beginning, I often quietly wished to myself that I could join Mario's team and be reunited with my friends.  Heck, if I wasn't so busy running the studio, I could be there with the whole gang again.  It would have been fun...

The second regret was that Mario and I could not team up.  Sure I have an ego, but I am also realistic.  Getting beat at dancing by Mario is like getting beat at basketball by Michael Jordan.  There is no shame in that. 

When I was up in Dallas in 2001 to watch a dance competition, I developed a case of patriotic fever.  I suddenly realized I didn't have any moral misgivings about competing against strangers.  I also realized I didn't care about what happened back in 1987.  That was water under the bridge.  Why not team up with Mario and kick some Dallas butt?

Think about it - Back in 1987, Mario and I had inadvertently cooperated to turn out the greatest generation of dancers Southwest Whip had ever seen.  I got them going and Mario took them to the next level.  What would happen if we worked together?

On the spot, I decided to offer to come over and teach at Southwest Whip.  I wanted to help develop talent at the pre-Mario level.  I would help set the plate.

So I stood in line for my opportunity to speak to him about my idea.  Mario noticed me and said he would be right with me.  While I waited patiently, Mario continued to talk to someone else.  Then without so much as a word or a nod in my direction, he abruptly walked away and left the building.

So much for my idea.  All I wanted to do was contribute.


Fast-forward now to September 2007.  Up at Dallas Dance over Labor Day Weekend, SSQQ Whip instructor Jack Benard and his girlfriend Jackie Chang enjoyed the performances and the workshops.  While they were up there, Jackie decided to purchase some private lessons from Mario Robau as a birthday present for Jack.

As they discussed the details of the forthcoming private lessons, Mario said something unusual to Jack.  Mario told Jack that twenty years ago I had told Mario never to set foot on SSQQ premises again.  Jack was stunned.  He could not imagine why I would say something like that.  So Jack decided to play peace maker.  He sent me this email.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Jack Benard
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 2:07 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: A few thoughts and rumors

Hi Rick,

When I was at Dallas Dance I talked to Mario Robau Jr. He mentioned to me that twenty years ago you told him to never set foot on your premises (that is why you get little or no contact from him).

I thought that was odd and told myself I am going to let Rick know about this. May I suggest that bygones be bygones and send him a letter to the contrary?  Unless of course you still mean it. (I don't know your side of the story, just letting you know what I heard from Mario.)

3. (FYI) These two items are second and third hand information, I did not hear it from Mario directly. I don't know how true they are.

A.) I have heard that Mario wants to be with his kids more so his kids go with him every weekend now when he travels. He has also decided to quit teaching at Melody for the rest of the year so he can spend more time with his kids.

B.) Brian is supposedly taking over for him. My second hand information source swears this occurred after Brian left SSQQ and was not the reason Brian left.

Jack Benard
SSQQ Dance Instructor


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer (dance@ssqq.com)
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 5:03 PM
To: Jack Benard
Cc: Tom Easley; Mike Fagan; Mario Robau
Subject: RE: A few thoughts and rumors

Thank you for your interesting letter, Jack.

As far as that comment about Mario, that is ABSURD. Absolutely ABSURD.  I do not recall saying anything of the sort.  This is the first time I have ever heard this story in my life.

If Mario is convinced it happened, then it may be possible someone told him I said something like that, but it is still not true. I do not recall ever saying any such thing. Furthermore, in my heart, I don't believe I even thought those words to myself, much less said them.

When would it have happened? Even back in the Eighties, the contact btw Mario and myself was extremely limited. Our paths rarely crossed and I do not recall one private conversation with him beyond a low-level argument over whether Whip could be led on the 1 or the 2. I said it should only be led on the 2, Mario said it could led on either beat. Mario was right. That argument happened at my studio, by the way.

Mario has been right about a lot of things over the years so I won't say my alleged quote did not happen, but I will say again that I DOUBT IT.

Mario delivered my worst business defeat in history many years ago (1988) when his reputation as a dancer and a teacher gutted my whip program. About 30 or 40 advanced whip students that I had taught from the ground up deserted SSQQ to go over to SW Whip.  Not only did I lose all my students and practically every friend I had, I also lost my girlfriend Janet to his circle as well. The entire experience was a tough pill to swallow and I was bitter about it, but I never "blamed" Mario.

He had more talent, so once my students reached a certain level, they needed a stronger teacher. It was a tough break, but I was man enough to accept that there are winners and losers in the business world.  I lost.  I didn't like it and I was bitter, but I don't recall ever doing anything inappropriate like ban Mario from the studio. I accepted my fate and got on with it.

By the way, this incident is no dark secret. I don't have anything to hide. I wrote the story of the incident. It sits in the Matchmaker article for the entire world to see in my section about the late Eighties.  Look for Heartbreak Hotel.

However, twenty years is a long time to remember things and I admit I was pretty hurt for a while there. So there may something to this statement.  I seriously doubt I said it and I would need to be convinced I said it.  When, where, who else heard me say it, etc.… then I would apologize to Mario from the bottom of my heart and I would be ashamed of myself.

I am not going to lie about something this serious, Jack. Yes, there has always been a tension btw Mario and I, but what else would you expect from business rivals?

Mario is a formidable business competitor who to this point has won all the major battles btw his organization and mine. But as far as I can tell, he has won everything fair and square. We have had several mutual friends over the years.  No one has ever come to me and said, "Mario did this horrible thing or Mario said that awful thing about you, Rick."  Never.

I have an anecdote for you.  About fifteen years ago, Tom Easley, Mario, and I met for a day of activities at some sports event near the Astrodome.  Mike Fagan might have been there too.  I think Tom's son Tommie was there as well.  We had an excellent afternoon together.  There was no animosity.  Tom is a witness and can vouch for me - please note that I have carbon copied Tom above.  I also remember talking to Mario about playing some sand volleyball, but it never came to pass.  If there was any bad blood, why would the three of us hang out together for an afternoon?  Why wouldn't Mario say something to me?

That said, I accept it is possible Mario really believes I said this.  If so, this might explain some things. It is my impression that Mario has always been distant towards me.

In 2001, I made a serious effort to talk with Mario up at Dallas.  I took a workshop that he taught and waited in line afterwards.  I had something important to say to him.  Mario said he would be right with me, talked to someone else, then walked away and left the building.  He literally left me standing there watching him walk away.  It was a serious brush-off to be sure.  What made his actions more peculiar was that a month earlier over at SW Whip, Mario had specifically said there was something HE wanted to talk to me about (I phoned him and left my number, but did not receive a call back.)

In 2005 I wrote an email letter of recommendation to Mario to help Bryan Spivey get his job over at SW Whip after that fiasco with Damon and Lisa.  Mario did not bother to respond to that letter.

In 2006 I emailed Mario to ask him whether in his opinion we should drop teaching Whip at SSQQ.  He encouraged me to continue, but added nothing else.

That is the complete summary of direct contact between Mario and I for the past twenty years. I assumed the guy wanted me to leave him alone, so I did.

As far as I can tell, Mario has never done anything unethical towards me or openly ridiculed my studio. So we are square one on that issue. On a personal level, I do not hold even the slightest grudge towards the man at all.  Live long and prosper.

Now, as far as Bryan is concerned, I have three things to say about him.

One, I do not know the truth behind his reasons for leaving. I just know that no man who is just getting started like Bryan is quits a good job to help around the house.  With a baby on the way, common sense says a man works hard to provide for his family. So his resignation remains a mystery.

Two, I spent 5 years doing everything in my power to help Bryan develop his career and that time is now totally wasted. I find Bryan's behavior to be incredibly ungrateful.

Three, I made an exception for Bryan to allow him to teach at SW Whip.  Despite all the wounds I feel towards SW Whip, I still gave my permission.  I did it for one single reason - Because it was in Bryan's best interests to do so.  I knew at the time it was a risky move (and history has proven me correct), but at the time I consciously chose to do the unselfish thing because I thought Mario would help Bryan develop as a dancer and a teacher.  This action alone should prove there is no grudge btw Mario and me, at least not from my end.

I also hoped that Bryan could form some sort of alliance btw SW Whip and SSQQ as he promised he would attempt to do, but we all know how poorly that panned out.

I won't say it was a mistake to trust Bryan. But I will say he disappointed me.

Any other rumors?  If so, bring them on.

Since you have told me that Mario said these things to you directly, I will take the liberty of sending him this email as well. And I will say this, "Mario, you are welcome to set foot in my studio any time you wish. I would be honored to have you visit. And I apologize for any misunderstanding. If it is true I said those things, please accept that I was wrong to say them."

Thank you for taking the time to help mend fences, Jack. There is no point in having old men be enemies for no reason.

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio

I wrote two more emails.  In one email, I wrote to confirm that I had used Mario's correct email address.  I was told I had indeed sent my letter to the correct address.  

Second, I asked Sharon Crawford Shaw what she thought.  Sharon, of course, was my closest associate at the studio in those days.  If I talked to anyone at all, I talked to Sharon who more or less kept me glued together through this ordeal.

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 11:54 AM
To: Sharon Shaw
Subject: mario robau and jack benard

Sharon, do you ever wonder if you are losing your mind?

Jack says Mario claims I banned him from ever setting foot at SSQQ again. My first reaction was to tell Jack that Mario's claim is ridiculous.

But I was so hurt at the time (20 years ago), it does seem remotely possible I would act like that.  I would be ashamed of myself if it did, but I was a pretty angry guy in those days.  Still, I have such a tendency to brood, I imagine I would have mulled over an incident like that for days and that it would stick in my mind.

I vaguely remember going to some dance competition with you back about that time.  Maybe something did happen.

So I am writing to ask if you remember anything that would either support my position that it didn't happen or Mario's claim.


 -----Original Message-----
From: Sharon Shaw
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:57 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: mario robau and jack benard

Sorry, I don't remember anything like that happening.

I know you were really angry, but I don't remember any incident.

I actually don't remember you being angry with Mario, just at the whole whip/southwest whip thing in general.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:21 PM
To: Sharon Shaw
Subject: RE: mario robau and jack benard

Sorry? Why should you say 'sorry'?  That's wonderful!  You just confirmed EXACTLY what I remember myself.

I was just worried I had suppressed some horrible memory of a time I had insulted Mario and buried the ugly incident for twenty years in my subconscious.

I feel much better. Maybe I am not losing my mind after all.

Thanks, Sharon!

After Sharon's email, I had private phone conversations with other people who shared the same arena twenty years ago.  They agreed they never heard anything about me angrily banning Mario from the studio. 

However, my friend Tom Easley said something curious that stopped me in my tracks. 

I was talking to Tom about how well Mario and I had gotten along at the Sports Expo at the Astroarena fifteen years ago.  Then I asked Tom if our friend Mike Fagan had been there.  Tom didn't think so.  Then I pointed out that Tom's son Tommie had been there.   Tom thought about it and said there was a kid there, but it wasn't Tommie.  After a moment's pause, he decided it was Alan Brown's son.

Tom recalled beating Alan Brown's son in a footrace that day.  Then Tom said, "I wonder if Alan Brown was there?"  Then he answered his own question.  "I guess Alan Brown had to be there if his son was there."   I told Tom I vaguely remembered the footrace.  But truth be told, I was embarrassed that I had completely forgotten about Alan and his son till now.

Then I asked Tom about playing sand volleyball with Mario.  Tom laughed and said one time he had played sand volleyball with Mario and had gotten drunk afterwards.  So that night when he got home, he was so tired he passed out on the bed still covered head to toe with sand.  We both laughed.  Tom said he was amazed Margaret stayed married to him after that one.

I told Tom I would have enjoyed playing volleyball with both of them.  That's when Tom reminded me that I had played water volleyball at Tom's house with Mario one Saturday. 

"No, Tom, I would remember that.  I never played water volleyball with Mario at your house."

Tom continued to insist I had played water volleyball with him and Mario at his house.  The more Tom insisted, the more I was quietly convinced that Tom was wrong.  Mario may have indeed played water volleyball with Tom, but not when I was there.

But what was the point of arguing?  Who cares?

After we finished the phone call, I gave it some thought.  I said Tom's son was at the Astroarena.  It turned out to be Alan's son.  Tom said I played water volleyball with Mario.  I said I didn't.

Mario said I forbade him from setting foot in my studio twenty years ago.  I don't remember any such thing ever happening.

If Mario believes I said what he said I did, then maybe it really did happen.  Or maybe someone said something to him and over the course of time, Mario decided it was me who said it.  Besides, considering how hurt I was in those days, I am quite sure my hostility conveyed that message loud and clear whether I said anything or not. 

The only thing I am sure of is that none of us have a good enough memory to be sure of anything that happened that long ago.

Mario Robau is welcome at my dance studio any time he wishes to visit.  I would be flattered to have him visit.

And I apologize to Mario for my animosity towards him back in the late Eighties.  As I have said repeatedly in this story, Mario has always behaved professionally towards me. 

Southwest Whip stopped being the enemy in my mind many years ago.  I have no grudges towards Mario and I have none towards Southwest either.  I think this story should make that perfectly clear.

As Jack Benard suggests, I would like to let bygones be bygones. 




There is a great deal of Mythology regarding the WAY to becoming a good West Coast Swing dancer.  The first question to ask is whether to take Private Lessons or Group Lessons.  When I learned to dance the Whip, I first took Group Lessons, then I took Private Lessons.  Both systems had their advantages and disadvantages. 

Given my overview, I suggest you start with Group Lessons.  The reason is that West Coast Swing begins as a Social Dance.  Learn this dance as a way to have fun before anything else.  It is a way to meet people, to make friends, to socialize, to enjoy a new hobby, to practice and get valuable exercise. 

Learning to dance in a Group not only gives you valuable social contact, it lends itself to built-in opportunities to practice all the way up the ladder with your class.  Now hanging out with your friends becomes just as much a reason to continue as the class itself.  You are literally part of a dance support group who will encourage you to continue just as you will in turn urge them to practice and get better.

On the other hand, people who learn via private lessons turn into bubble boys and bubble girls.  In private lessons, you only learn to dance with your perfect instructor or with a partner who knows exactly what you are going to do.  Once you are exposed to dance viruses like poor rhythm and bad leads plus threats like new patterns and different styles, you will realize why private lessons are impractical for beginners.

If you show a particular gift for your dance, your Group Class teacher will let you know.  Then you can decide for yourself how far you wish to pursue the dance.  If you wish to shoot for the stars, then Private Lessons become the preferred route.  But for the vast majority of dancers, a top-flight Group Class combined with plenty of practice and repetition is sufficient for the 90% who prefer to be social dancers.


One of the biggest misconceptions about SSQQ is our constant allegiance to the mysterious dance known as the Whip. 

Even though the Whip is not considered the easiest dance to learn, we continue to teach Whip at SSQQ for a single important reason - the Texas Whip is really hot!  No dance where a woman works her body inside a man's arms should ever be ignored, trust me.  Besides, the Whip has so much in common with West Coast Swing that I have discovered it only takes a few brief detours in our curriculum to add it to your repertoire.   Considering the payoff, you will be glad for the side trips, believe me. 

How about a little background about the Whip?

The Texas Whip came into being shortly after World War II.  East Coast Swing danced to Big Band music was the style of the day.  However, during the war the floors out in California had grown so crowded they invented a new style whereby they danced East Coast in a straight line to save space.  Hence the origins of West Coast Swing.  After the war, Texas GIs returning from California brought back the rudimentary West Coast Swing to Texas soil. 

Once they exposed this dance to Texas Blues music, the California version quickly changed from a fast-paced footwork dance into a raw, sensual bump and grind featuring some pretty sexy hip motion.  In other words, the look of the dance was influenced by the nasty stripper-style music that played in the background.  Thus was born the Dirty Whip, a legendary pickup dance used in smoky, pressure-cooker lounges and rough blue-collar honky tonks across Texas.

By the Seventies, the Dirty Whip had been cleaned up quite a bit, mostly because the nice girls wanted to get in on the fun.  The sanitized version still raised eyebrows, but at least it could finally be danced with the lights on.  Whip hit its heyday in the mid-Eighties thanks to a perfect storm combination of two successive movies: Saturday Night Fever and Urban CowboySNF got America dancing again, but here in Houston, Disco died young thanks to Urban Cowboy.   Filmed right here in Houston, UC fueled an unprecedented interest in Western Dancing.  The early part of the Eighties was the Era of the Western Swing until people started to get bored.  They looked around for a new dance challenge. 

Over there sitting unappreciated in the corner was the Texas Whip. This dance had been almost totally ignored for the past six years.  Now all these talented Disco and Western dancers picked up this new toy and began to play with it.  Suddenly there was a huge movement to learn the Whip.  That's where Mario and I came in to begin our strange parallel careers.

The Whip enjoyed its greatest day in the sun throughout the remainder of the Eighties.  However the Nineties brought on hard times for this dance.  The first natural enemy was the music.  Rap Music and Whip do not mix very well.  Then came Garth Brooks to lure people back to Western Dancing.  Garth was followed by Zoot Suit Riot Swing Dancing. 

Meanwhile the Whip acquired a new threat: West Coast Swing.   For fifty years, the West Coast Swing had followed its own development path in other parts the country.  Free from the Blues traditions of the South, West Coast Swing found its own music.  WCS had more movement, footwork, and speed.  It was a flashier dance that allowed more interpretation to the music and more variety of things for the woman to do.  In short, West Coast Swing looked better in the daylight.

During the Nineties, the West Coast Swing tried to cross our state boundaries.  Thanks in part to videotape and to a growing interest in National level Swing competitions plus new WCS-trained instructors moving to Texas from other areas, by the turn of the century West Coast Swing had rudely pushed the Whip to the side.  Here in Houston, the Whip began a slow descent into oblivion.

I can only speak for myself, but until you have danced the Whip, you have no idea just how much fun it is.  I love West Coast, but the Whip adds an entire new dimension.

What most people fail to realize is just how easy it is to mix Whip and West Coast together.   There are certain gaps in West Coast such as the Closed Basic, the Hammerlock, and the two-hand Basic where quite frankly the Whip variations are SUPERIOR.  Those 3 gaps are exactly where SSQQ trains its students to use the Texas Whip.  There is no need to choose.  You can have your West Coast and your Whip too.  Together, they are a lethal combination to watch. 

Here at SSQQ, we start with West Coast Swing just like everyone else.  Then we show you how to blend in the Whip.  Get yourself the right partner.  Then some night when the floor is dark and a steamy song comes on the jukebox, you will begin to understand what I have been talking about.  That is when you will smile and be grateful you learned the secrets of the mysterious Texas Whip. 





And that’s a wrap for September.  Thanks for reading this month's issue of the SSQQ Newsletter!

Rick Archer
dance@ssqq.com  (email)


Please direct questions, comments, and contributions to:
Rick Archer at 

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