WHAT IS NEW AT SSQQ
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
The cost is $15 which includes refreshments. I hope
you will come out and support to dancing to live
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
BEG C&W : TEXAS TWOSTEP - Rhonwyn
BEG WESTERN WALTZ - Jill
NIGHT CLUB - Scott
CHER’S FAV GHOST TOWN PTNS - Cher and Robert
SYNCOPATED POLKA PTNS - Linda
JACK'S FAVORITE WHIP PATTERNS - Jack
is coming up on October 13.
ZYDECO - Ronnie
BEGINNING SALSA - Alex
CUMBIA/TEJANO - Luis
BACHATA - Linda
MERENGUE - Jill
STEVE'S FAV SALSA PTNS - Steve Gekas
And of course the party we have all been waiting
for is just a month away. This year's
will be on October 27. If you want to get
in the mood, be sure to read
Tales from the SSQQ
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
From: Patty J
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2007 7:35 AM
Subject: re COMPLAINT OF THE MONTH: EXTENDED
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
I don't know
why I find such pleasure in reading the
Complaint of the Month, but I do.
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
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
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
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.
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.
month I published the
a series of five chapters that illustrated the need
to protect your
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
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
Reputation stories pretty
issue of the Newsletter dealt with the Reputation of
SSQQ Reputation on the
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
Two letters in particular were interesting, so I
decided to share them with you.
Letter to the Editor One was a
reaction to the sudden and rather curious departure
of former SSQQ instructor Bryan Spivey.
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
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 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:
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
Finally, 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
Curious? I'll bet. You won't be
disappointed. It is an interesting story.
Really Say What Mario Says He Did.
Here are the
Chapters in this month's Newsletter:
RICK ARCHER IS A
COMPLETE LOSER (must read)
SSQQ PRESSURES ITS CUSTOMERS TO TAKE MORE
LESSONS (must read)
THE SSQQ DEMON DANCE CUSTOMER
WHERE IS THE
HAWAII CRUISE WRITEUP?
SSQQ REPUTATION TRILOGY
FOUR NEW REPUTATION STORIES!
(Victoria, Alex, Cheryl, and Google)
SSQQ SLOW DANCE AND ROMANCE
LETTER TO THE
EDITOR: REPUTATION AND
LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
COMMENTS ABOUT SSQQ
FORMER SSQQ INSTRUCTOR MARTY SHEA SAYS HI!
MARTY SHEA'S ARTICLE ON THE BENEFITS AND
ETIQUETTE OF SOCIAL DANCING
COMPLAINT OF THE MONTH:
DID RICK REALLY SAY WHAT MARIO SAYS RICK
SAID? (must read)
FAVORITE STORIES FROM PREVIOUS ISSUES
ARCHER IS A COMPLETE LOSER
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
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.
Because they are crammed
with people just like you who match the
landscape you just described- short and stubby
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
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.
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
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
Good luck with your Social Dance club
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.
From: Patterson, Keith
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007 11:29 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Costa Maya stuff
I ran across this, noticed your name down the
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
targeted man-made cruise port and its
wrecked buildings in the shopping mall
of the Costa Maya port, Majahual, Mexico
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
Jungle is an
alt-travel writer's funny and
jaundiced take on Costa Maya
Author Rick Archer
annual cruises of members of
SSQQ Dance Studio in Houston,
which boasts "Magic at creating
and spun off a travel business
to do Love Boat-style cruises.
COSTA MAYA is
one long Web page, slow to load
because of dozens of photos of
Costa Maya, but
worth the wait.
Here is a sample
of Rick Archer's story:
from Rick Archer's story "Colorful
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
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
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
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
experienced a crisis of confidence:
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
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!
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
You can read
all of Rick Archer's astonishment at
Costa Maya -- many of Americans
being silly -- from this trip at this
COLORFUL COSTA MAYA
Rick's Response to Sheila's
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
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
I will let you in on some of the fun. Here are
two descriptions of Costa Maya:
Costa Maya is bold and beautiful.
- the majestic expense of Puerto Costa Maya
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
Costa Maya is the entrance to a marvelous and exciting world
village was in the absolute middle of nowhere and the area
possessed little natural beauty
- I don't know what these developers were smoking
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.
on the bus for a grueling four
hour round trip to see some mosquito-infested ruins 60
- Why would anyone want to travel a thousand miles on an
expensive cruise trip to see a place that is devoid of
So which description of Costa
Maya is correct? And guess which one I
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
PRESSURES ITS STUDENTS TO TAKE FURTHER LESSONS
CRITICISM (Posted on City Search): SSQQ is the Least Recommended
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
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
Cons: Surly service, unusual clientele,
parking, high pressure sell
INITIAL RESPONSE TO KATKLAW CRITICISM
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
Pressure its students to take further lessons
Written by Rick Archer
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.
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
Houston studio. It was
located at the time on West Gray over in the River Oaks
(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
Maggie and I had been dating for a month. Maggie knew I had been taking
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
The first half-hour lesson consisted of one move to
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
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
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.
THE 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.
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.
THE THIRD LESSON
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
Before my very eyes, Henry
actually got out two Report
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
would have given that jerk a piece of my
ADDING INSULT TO
INJURY - TIME FOR THE SHAKEDOWN
As if my Report Card
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
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
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 training!!
because they desperately needed our help with the Novice phase
of the competition due to our 'unusual
promise', they would give us a
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
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
What person in their right mind would cooperate with an
approach this stupid?
MAGGIE TAKES CONTROL
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
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
- 'we are kind of busy'
- 'we don't know much about dancing'
sure if this is right for us, couldn't we think
- 'how about if we let you know
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
Staring down at the seated men, I gave them a look that said I meant
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
MAYBE I DID LEARN SOMETHING AT THAT STUDIO AFTER ALL
I didn't do too well at learning the Tango, but I did learn a
valuable lesson nonetheless.
As you might gather, this 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
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
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.
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
Sorry to say, this was no tale of redemption.
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
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
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
MORE ABOUT THE KATKLAW CRITICISM
On August 17,
2007, I received the following email.
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
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
These statements are false:
- (unless you agree to buy the big
- the pressure to buy is their
- less pressure filled environment
- 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
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
review on City Search
A STUDENT RESPONDS TO
(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)
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 11:56 AM
I just had a few moments and decided to give the newsletter a once
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
ANOTHER LETTER ABOUT
(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.)
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
From: Joe C
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 6:36 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Kim Soo
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
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.
our next dance lesson....
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 4:10 PM
To: Joe C
Subject: Kim Soo and 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.
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.
From: Joe C
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 8:17 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Kim Soo and 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.
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
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.
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
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
You do not have to strong-arm people in order to get them to sign up
dance lessons. Just make the classes fun. The dancing
will do the rest.
THE SSQQ DEMON DANCE CUSTOMER
Note: We will begin this important story
with a letter from 2006.
OVERCROWDED SALSA ROOM
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.
From: Phil P
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 11:57
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: 2006 February Newsletter
My name is Phillip.
I am currently a student at SSQQ
for Intermediate Salsa 2.
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
Salsa is ridiculous. I have
never seen so many students in all my
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.
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
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Subject: policy salsa overcrowding
I wondered when I would get a letter like
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
is to limit the size of classes AND to
prohibit switching from one night to
For now let's
see if canceling the extra Tuesday class
does the trick.
"THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT": A MEDITATION
THE DILEMMA OF DEALING WITH DIFFICULT
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:
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
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
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
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
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
FIRES ITS 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
By RICK WARTZMAN
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
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
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
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
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
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
THE SSQQ DEMON DANCE
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SSQQ
AND ITS CUSTOMERS
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
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.
like the Demon Dance Student give our studio a
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.
Sent: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 8:52 AM
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
No, we don't allow people to stand and watch
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
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
"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
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.
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.
For even more detail on many
of the classes listed below, please visit the EXTRA
WHERE IS THE
HAWAII CRUISE WRITEUP?
Our Hawaii Cruise back in May
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
sending me all those wonderful
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.
ABOUT THE REPUTATION TRILOGY
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
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
So naturally your next question is, "What did you do
to deserve getting slapped three times in a row?"
TRILOGY STORY TWO: HARVEST MOON
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
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
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.
I 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
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.
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.
might just save your Reputation from going through a lava
field some day.
SSQQ REPUTATION ON THE LINE
my stories about
Reputation, I devoted a Chapter to answering several
direct questions about the studio.
- - IS THE SSQQ
SALSA PROGRAM BELOW AVERAGE?
- - WHY ARE THERE
SO MANY EX-SSQQ STUDENTS?
- - IS THE QUALITY
OF SSQQ INSTRUCTORS POOR?
- - DOES RICK RUN
OFF HIS BEST INSTRUCTORS?
- - DID RICK RUN
- - WHAT DOES THE
FUTURE HOLD FOR SSQQ?
SSQQ Reputation on
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.
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
Curious Christmas Calamity of Victoria Osteen
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.
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.
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.
the Belly Dancer, Joye the Same Sex Dancer, and Ted the Girl
2007 SLOW DANCE AND ROMANCE
aLTHOUGH I DON'T HAVE A PICTURE OR ANY DETAILS,
BARRY NEWMARK, ONE OF THE SSQQ HALL MONITORS,
RECENTLY MARRIED RENEE FULLER IN AUGUST 2007.
BARRY MET RENEE AT SSQQ, PROVING YET AGAIN THERE ARE
SOME MARVELOUS FRINGE BENEFITS TO WORKING AT THE
WEDDING CAPITAL OF hOUSTON.
IN ADDITION, LINDA COOK REPORTS THAT RUBEN LAREZ
AND CLAUDIA OCHOA WERE MARRIED EARLIER THIS YEAR,
BUT I HAVEN'T GOTTEN THE DETAILS YET.
LETTER TO THE
EDITOR: REPUTATION AND
COMMENTS ON THE AUGUST 2007 NEWSLETTER
(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
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
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
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
LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
COMMENTS ABOUT SSQQ
(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
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:02 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: about ssqq
be the first to admit that SSQQ doesn't always
fulfill my all of my present selfish interests
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.
From: Martin Shea [MShea@avalonrx.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:59 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: newsletter info.
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
Risky, but rewarding work;
especially if our discoveries succeed and save
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
1) The 1998 cruise to the Caribbean (proudly being
half of the "wonderful wino" duo, and meeting all
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
4) Being a member of the Heartbeat dance team (truly
a special group of people coached by Susie, the
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.
ARTICLE ON DANCING
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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
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!
16. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -
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.
have something you would like to say or comment on,
send it to
COMPLAINTS OF THE MONTH:
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
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 8:29 PM
Subject: My experience at your studio
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
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.
TWO - TOO MUCH SWITCHING PARTNERS
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
We do not have any plans for 'couples classes' for
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
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
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
way, I have covered these issues in great detail in
One is titled
SSQQ Group Classes.
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
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:
THREE - MORE ABOUT SWITCHING PARTNERS
SSQQ At a Glance gives a quick
overview on the many facets of the studio.
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
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
I have a note to all students, but mostly to men -
Personal hygiene is a huge concern in Social
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.
FOUR - DON'T TEAR YOUR HAIR OUT OR LOSE ANY
From: Chris M
Sent: Tuesday, August 17, 2004 1:22 PM
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!
COMPLAINT FIVE - SWITCHING
GROUP TUITION TO PRIVATE LESSONS
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:44 AM
Subject: Switching group classes to privates
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
Unfortunately, we won't be able to make it
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
And is there anything else we should know about
that I haven't asked?
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 11:40 AM
classes to privates
Group lessons cannot be exchanged for private
You are welcome to retake the Beg Salsa class at
no charge. Just let me know when you are ready
to do so.
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 2:13 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Switching group classes to privates
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?
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 4:09 PM
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.
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
DID RICK REALLY SAY WHAT MARIO SAYS HE DID?
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
I was a very good
dancer, but Mario was better.
I was a very good teacher, but Mario
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.
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
201 Nights in a
Since I had to have someone to dance with, I
encouraged my students to come along with
Every night a group of us went out dancing.
Different people joined us every night, but
I was there EVERY
Over the course of 1986 and the following
year, the entire group of us became a
tight-knit group indeed.
wonderful friends and we became wonderful
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
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
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
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
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,
A recent letter from one of my best friends, Bob Job, made a brief reference to the Exodus.
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
I stared at her. "Why, Ailene?"
I don't think Ailene appreciated being put on the
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
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
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
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.
the problem at the time by going into a shell. Slowly but surely I disengaged from
this Group that had been my closest friends.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
From: Jack Benard
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 2:07 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: A few thoughts and rumors
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.
SSQQ Dance Instructor
From: Rick Archer (email@example.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
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
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
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
article for the entire world to see in my
section about the late Eighties. Look for
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
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
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
Thank you for taking the time to help mend
fences, Jack. There is no point in having old
men be enemies for no reason.
SSQQ Dance Studio
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
CLIMBING YOUR WAY TO THE TOP
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.
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.
THE DARK AND DANGEROUS
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 Cowboy.
SNF 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
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
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.
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.
that’s a wrap for September. Thanks for reading this month's issue of the SSQQ
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