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Issue One

The May 2009 SSQQ Newsletter  - Issue One
Written by Rick Archer

Schedule of classes:






4)      FUN STUFF




RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:   SSQQ welcomes everyone to this party regardless of where they learned to dance.  Who cares?  All we ask is that everyone leave your flag at home and come join us the spirit of community.  There is no propaganda, no agenda, and no horn tootin'. 

We just want everyone to dance and have fun.  The more the merrier.

Ah, the Sleazy Bar Whip Party.  The night when men are encouraged to grab women in socially-sanctioned misbehavior.  What more could a boy ask for?

Why women put up with this I am not sure, but a part of me thinks they are secretly amused themselves.  After all, it is kind of fun to be chased and desired.  However, don't expect our ladies to admit to anything.  Women have been winning this game for centuries by keeping their cards to themselves.  Don't expect them to change now.

There is a lot going on this weekend, so let me start with an overview.









Friday through Sunday, April 24 - April 26




For several years now, Mario has been conducting weekend seminars known as the "Intensive".

During 12 hours spread out over three days, up to 20 couples receive a thorough education in a wide number of dance-related topics such as the fine points of leading, following, and connection, syncopations, musical Interpretation, music theory, and pattern selection to fit the music plus techniques that will separate you from the majority of dancers on the dance floor.


If that seems like a lot of material, now you know why it takes 12 hours to absorb it all.  I can only assume the odd name "Intensive" means that it is intense. 

As if the Intensive wasn't enough, Mario suggested that anyone participated in his Intensive be allowed to attend his Friday and Saturday Whip Workshops as well.  Sure!  Why not go all in? 

There are religious retreats, business retreats, sports retreats, and personal growth retreats.  Why not have a dance retreat?   This is a marvelous opportunity to totally immerse yourself in dancing for over 20 hours during the SSQQ Whip Weekend.  This is a chance to live and breathe dancing for three solid days. 

Imagine the improvement you can make in such a short time.  The biggest problem most people have is they take a class, go home, and forget it.  Not this weekend.  There's dancing after the Friday Workshop and of course the Sleazy Bar Party follows the Saturday workshop.  On then you have Sunday to talk with Mario about what the next step is on the ladder to self-improvement. 

I will be coordinating the Whip Weekend Intensive.  I will be answering the questions and registering the participants.   And if my wife has her way, I will even be participating myself.  Talk about reversal of fortunes... can you imagine the amount of teasing I am setting myself up for? 

Let me know if you are interested.


I have listed a great of information about Mario's Intensive.  You can read it all at this spot:


Friday, April 24, 7-9 pm.  (Register at the door)

"The Legend of the Houston Whip" is a crash course Mario will be teaching Friday night. 

For those of you who have heard of the Whip, but aren't quite sure what the deal is, here is a brief background.

The Whip is a sexy Swing partner dance that originated right here in the heart of Texas.  Also known as "Push" in the Dallas area, the Whip is quite similar to the national dance known as "West Coast Swing".  This is no surprise since in a way the Whip and West Coast Swing are long-lost brothers. They were both born in California, but separated at birth.


West Coast Swing originated out in California during World War II.  The dance was born of necessity when two giant forces collided.   Thanks to the war effort, the population of California doubled during World War II.  By coincident, World War II took place at the height of the Big Band Swing Era. 


There were a lot of kids who wanted to Swing Dance in their free time.  Since it was impossible to double the size of the dance floors overnight, the Swing Kids figured out a way to make the space-guzzling Jitterbug go in a straight line.  Ask me sometime and I will show you how Jitterbug and West Coast Swing have the exact same timing and footwork.  I think you will be surprised! 

Now you know how the New York East Coast Swing became the California West Coast Swing.

The Whip traces its roots to a bunch of Texas-born GI's who returned home from California after the long fight of World War II.  After their return, the Whip was spawned in the dives, bars, honky-tonks, and western joints that surrounded the Texas oil fields and refineries back in the late 40's and early 50's.

The music played in these bars was Texas Blues.  The thing to remember is that Swing music was fast.  When the fast West Coast Swing hit the Texas Blues, the dance slowed down quite a bit.  In addition, the raunchy blues music encouraged the women to move their bodies to the rhythms. 

Now you know how the California West Coast Swing morphed into the Texas Whip.


In the Nineties, the West Coast Swing began to emerge in Houston.  West Coast Swing has a lot going for it.  For one thing, WCS works better to faster music.  For another, the ladies enjoy the tricky footwork and the freedom of movement.  The West Coast Swing is a prettier dance, more fluid, more graceful.   The West Coast Swing also has the advantage of being a National Dance rather than a local and regional dance.  West Coast Swing is danced throughout the USA as well as in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world.

If you learn the Whip, you can only use it in Texas.  Plus on certain parts of the Planet Mars.  

Most people don't have the time or energy to learn two dances.  Like VHS and Beta, one had to go.  Guess which dance won?


That said, guys like Mario and I know something the rest of you don't - when the lights are low and the music is right, the Whip encourages women to move their bodies in ways that make strong men weak.   Give me the West Coast Swing in the daytime, but give me the Whip in the darkness.  You can rest assured it will be very dark at SSQQ the night of the party.


Mario's two-hour Workshop will cover the history of the Whip, the evolution of the Whip, the woman's hip motion, and the men's double-resistance leads. 


Tonight's party is either free or it is $5. 
If you are taking a class tonight, it is free.
If you have an April SSQQ class receipt, it is free.
Otherwise it is $5.

Saturday, April 25, 7-9 pm.  (Register at the door)

Mario asked me if he could help.  How long do you think it took me to accept that offer? 

Mario said he would be happy to teach the infamous Sleazy Bar Whip Workshop right before the party on April 25.  In fact, Mario grinned and said he would get a kick out of it.

If I am reading the indicators correctly, you are looking at the biggest Sleaziest Whip Workshop in studio history.

 This is exactly the opportunity men with fast hands have been looking for.  All I can says is, ladies, wear plenty of clothing.   Put some socks in the right places.  The guys will never know the difference.



SATURDAY Whip/ West Coast Swing  CRASH COURSES 7-9 PM

(To register, just show up and pay at the door)






(To register, just show up and pay at the door)







Two Dance Parties in One! 

We combine Rooms 3, 4 and 5, put out some tables and have a Western dance at the same time as the Sleazy Bar Party!


This is a TWO IN ONE Dance Party.  We have Western in one room (we take down all the walls; there's plenty of room plus lots of tables) and Whip in another.  It allows people to go back and forth all evening and see what's happening in the different venues.  The Western people love Midnight... that's the hour when the Whippers become Strippers.  We take what little clothing we are still wearing completely off.

Obviously most people come for the Whip Dancing.  Even the confirmed Western people like to take Beginning West Coast Swing just so they dance a few songs in the Big Room.  However you would be surprised how crowed the Western floor gets in Room 4 during the party.  Many of our guests like to dance to all kinds of music!

By the way - a word to the wise - we talk a much better game about this party than we act.  A lot of people are turned off by the constant reference to 'misbehavior' and 'sleazy dancing'.   I suppose everyone is a little friskier, but very few liberties are taken that aren't allowed and very few lines are crossed without permission.   I don't care what night it is - women know where to draw the line.

What usually happens is that this party makes people laugh!  It gives us all an opportunity to play-act at being rough, bad, tawdry characters.  Although I imagine one or two people get carried away, the vast majority of us love the music, love the dancing, and love being silly.  So do not be intimidated by anything you hear.  If it is possible to misbehave in a clean-cut way, that would be us.  We have a marvelous time at this party.  Promise.


Saturday, April 25, 9 pm - Midnight  (Register at the door)


Last but not least is the party that makes me laugh and makes me smile.  I will be sharing anecdotes about the April 25 Sleazy Bar Whip Party throughout the month, but for now I will keep it simple.


If Rick Archer tells you the Sleazy Bar Whip Party is a good thing, a lot of people usually take me at my word.  I am telling you the Sleazy Bar Whip Party is a lot of fun.

Now what if Mario Robau tells you the Sleazy Bar Whip Party is a good thing?   Then you know a lot of people are going to show up. 

But what will happen if both Rick Archer and Mario Robau both tell you the Sleazy Bar Whip Party is the place to be?   Then you might have a dance party with 200 people dancing themselves silly deep into the night.  Could be interesting.

Some pretty wild things have happened over the years.  Oddly enough, the craziest of them all happened in the second year.


The idea was to dress up like you were going to the roughest bar in town.  Of course our women wore provocative clothing.   It was the men who caused the problem.  Many of the men - including me - came dressed as your basic Motorcycle Gang thug.  There were jackets, bandannas and tattoos everywhere you looked.

In the second year of our party we were nearly busted by the Bellaire Police.  Two policemen entered the building under the impression that gunshots may have been fired at our party.  Both men were shocked at what they saw!  Suddenly they thought they had stumbled on the biggest Biker Gang in Bellaire history.  One policeman had his hand on his holster as he grimly surveyed the scene while the other called for backup. Do you think I am kidding?  I am not kidding. It is a bizarre and very interesting true story!!




The SSQQ Sleazy Bar Party is basically a wink towards the naughty origins of the Whip.  Nowadays the party is more about laughter than any erotic dirty dancing. 

It is helpful to read some of the background material since newcomers find it hard to appreciate the inside jokes otherwise.  There is no way to completely appreciate the SSQQ Sleazy Bar Party unless you know the story behind it.  We have three stories to read as Sleazy Bar Homework.


Back in 1986 I visited a very nasty club on the wrong side of town each week in pursuit of some of the best blues music I have ever heard in my life... only to discover via a news article that my favorite dive concealed a very dark secret.  I was deeply stunned.

By chance I recently ran across the article again twenty years later.  In 2008 I decided to publish it to promote last year's party.  After all, if it weren't for the Four Palms, this party would not even exist. 

A tribute seems in order, yes?

STORY TWO: Tales of the Sleazy Bar Party!!

Have you ever heard the story about the origin of the Sleazy Bar Whip Party?   

This party began as a tribute to a favorite dive on the bad side of town known as the Four Palms.  Not only was the Four Palms home to the best blues band in the city, it also nursed a dark secret.

None of us was happy when it went out of business.  So we decided to recreate the experience with our very own Sleazy Bar Party.   Read the History of the SSQQ Sleazy Bar Whip Party.





Prerequisite: finished Beg Western Swing



Synchronized Polka is a form of Western Polka where the man and the woman do the same footwork and dance the same patterns at each other's side to Polka-rhythm Western music.  


The patterns are fun to dance, fairly easy to lead, and graceful to watch.


This course will cover the Get Ahead series, the Get Even series, the Reverses, and the Swinging Door patterns. We will cover SPIRALS, WINDMILLS, SWEETHEARTS, SIDE SWITCH TURNS, RELAY RACE, SHADOW TURNS, DISHRAG, and LARIAT.  Better bring your brain or you will forget everything.


For a simple example, think of the Cotton-Eyed Joe which is basically the 'original' Synchronized Polka dance... both people start with their right foot and both people dance side by side.


Synchronized Polka has always been an all-time favorite Crash Course.  There are several reasons for the popularity of this dance form.  One, when your regular patterns to Polka get old, Synchronized Polka offers some pretty neat alternatives.  Second, when the lady is tired after lots of double turns, Synchronized Polka offers her a chance to catch her breath.  Third, the patterns are pretty easy to learn and fun to use.  Fourth, Synchronized Polka is very flowing and rather Romantic as well as two people dance side by side in the Sweetheart Position. 


Now you get to learn every possible move in a single month class.  You will really enjoy this course!



Prerequisite: completion of Intermediate Swing


The fascinating Charleston kick patterns are an all-time favorite at SSQQ.  Originally a derivative of the Lindy Hop, Swing Charleston patterns have been adapted into Swing as well.


Maureen will teach two Swing Charleston courses:  Side by Side Charleston patterns in May and Tandem Charleston Patterns in June.  Maureen will show you how to get in and out of them using the regular 6-beat timing of Swing.


Swing Charleston Classic patterns include Bus Driver, Kick and Rock, Side by Side Charleston, and Crossed-Hand Charleston as well as others. Many people are not aware that the Lindy originated out of the Charleston. In particular, the "Side by Side" and "Crossed-Hands" patterns were pretty much the first Lindy patterns ever used when Lindy was making its breakout from the Charleston in the 1920s.


Please note this is a tough class, so if you are a total beginner, steer clear. Thanks!!



In April, Mario completed his first month of teaching his advanced West Coast Swing class.  Amazingly, he taught practically no patterns at all.   Instead he concentrated on fundamentals involving the Anchor and the rest of the West Coast Basic.  You would think most advanced dancers would yawn, but actually most of the people in the class were challenged to keep up!   Enough said. 

Mario is reputed to be one of the finest dance teachers in the USA.  I think the first month of class was an indication this reputation is well-deserved.   His class of 100 students was thoroughly challenged and thoroughly pleased.


As opposed to American Tango which is more structured and memorized, Argentine Tango is creative and improvisational. With an emphasis on intricate footwork including foot flicks, leg wraps, and swivels, Argentine Tango is a wonderful dance!

People ask all the time what the difference is between American and Argentine and International Tango. Here is a wonderful quote:

"The forms of tango are like stages of a marriage. The American tango is like the beginning of a love affair, when you're both very romantic and on your best behavior. The Argentine tango is when you're in the heat of things and all kinds of emotions are flying: passion, anger, humor.  The International tango is like the end of the marriage, when you're staying together for the sake of the children."

Argentine Tango allows you to be in tune with your partner in a very sensual yet elegant way. It makes the woman look graceful.


Steve Gekas is taking a month's vacation.  His Tuesday Advanced Salsa class will be back in June.

Taking his spot for one month are Morris Sosa and Angela Rodriguez with their Advanced Bachata class. 


For the ninth year a row, Sharon Shaw had another Beginning Western Waltz class of 100 people.  This woman has some serious magic about her.


Pre-Requisite: Must have completed at least one course in Salsa

"Rueda" is Spanish for "Circle".  Rueda is a particular type of round dancing of Salsa.  Rueda is a Salsa Dance for several couples working together as a team. This dance is quite popular in Miami and LA, but has never caught on Houston like it has in other cities.

Also known as Rueda de Casino, Salsa Rueda, and Casino Rueda, Salsa Rueda was developed in Havana, Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Its development was credited to the famous group Guaracheros de Regla. One of its main choreographers and creators was Jorge Alfaro from San Miguel del Padrón, a soloist of a comparsa.

Pairs of dancers form a circle, with dance moves called out by one person, a caller (or 'Líder' or 'cantante' in Spanish). Many moves have hand signs to complement the calls; these are useful in noisy venues, where spoken calls might not be easily heard. Many of the moves involve the swapping of partners.

The names of the moves are mostly in Spanish, some in English (or Spanglish; e.g., "un fly"). Some names are known in slightly different versions, easily recognizable by Spanish-speaking dancers, but may be confusing to the rest.

Although the names of the calls are presently the same across the board, the different towns in Cuba use their own calls. This was due to the fact that when the pioneers of Rueda de Casino started, they wanted to keep others from participating in their Rueda. Nowadays many local variations of the calls can be found. They can change from town to town or even from teacher to teacher.

Casino Rueda scenes may be seen in the movie "Dance with Me".

Basically each couple does the same pattern which includes switching partners. In a way, Rueda is similar to Square Dancing in that the patterns are memorized and a caller synchronizes the next steps. 

Here at SSQQ, this August course assumes you have completed at least Beginning Salsa, but preferably some Intermediate Salsa as well.  The Rueda Circle is only as strong as its weakest link... everyone has to have some experience for this dance to be fun.



By request!


The consensus in the Salsa community is that Bachata has now moved past Merengue to become the second favorite Latin dance behind Salsa.

Bachata is a Latin dance used to slow-rhythm Salsa music. It is considered "suggestive" and naughty. Originating in the Dominican Republic, Bachata traces it roots to an ancient African dance rhythm known as 'Ibo' brought over by slaves stolen from the Nigerian Kwa tribe in the early 1800s.  The dance is very similar to Bossa Nova.

Long considered disreputable music of the lower classes, Bachata was not played on commercial radio until recently, even though it had a huge grassroots following. In many ways the history of Bachata is similar to that of American blues. Originally a rural, guitar-based form, Bachata was the music of the poor and uneducated. The lyrics often contained raw double-entendres and bawdy sexual innuendoes.

And now that you know that Bachata is sometimes known as the Salsa version of "Dancing Down and Dirty", come learn how to dance it!



Hi Everybody,


We are now down to the wire... it is time to jump on board the Conquest Cruise.

The faxes and emails are coming in like crazy.  I literally have the phone glued to my ear working with Carnival.  In the last two days alone we have added 9 new passengers!


I would like to welcome Joel Konkel, Sherry Thornton, Jeanne Tobin, Mark Sellers, Roberta Burns, Edward Sanchez, Scott Greason, plus Larry Leising and Cathy Leising to our trip.

We are currently at 72 passengers that will be sailing the Western Caribbean Sea on August 23rd, enjoying seven days full of fun, sun and as much dancing as is humanly possible.


I have once again secured the famous Alfred's Lounge for our private after hour's dancing pleasure, in addition to Henri's for our private dance lessons and parties.


Steve Gabino has volunteered to be your DJ this year (as well as your photographer!)

If you are interested in this trip, please do not procrastinate.  The current rates are as follows:


Inside Cabin Category 4 B is $515

Oceanview Cabin Category 6B is $635

Balcony Cabin Category 8B is $805

All rates are quoted as per person double occupancy.

The current prevailing rate for the same cabins is as follows:

Inside --  $615

Oceanview -- $735

Balcony -- $855

We currently have only 4 inside cabins left at this super low price.

When Carnival pulls my reserved cabins, our rates will go to the current prevailing rate.

The time is right, the price is definitely right; so don't find yourself left out of all the fun!

You may email, fax, or simply hand me your registration form.

Plus I will be at the studio all weekend if you want to ask me a question.




It's still not too late to join the group headed to the Western Mediterranean aboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas on September 27th! 

This group stands at 49 passengers.  We would like to welcome MG and Gay Anseman, Imre and Eileen Kondor and Robert Bratton since our last newsletter announcement.

Royal Caribbean has been very flexible with this cruise.   I still am holding several cabins at the group rates. 

Royal Caribbean is offering a terrific air promotion right now.  If you book an oceanview or balcony cabin, roundtrip air and ground transportation is only $867.  In addition, if you book the balcony cabin, your cruise price will be only $1356.  This is a $90 rate reduction.  For anyone currently booked on the cruise, this may apply to your booking as well.  The promo is only for the day of cruise embarkation and debarkation.  Sorry, but if you want to come early or stay late the promo doesn't apply.

This trip currently has the same number of passengers as last year's Greece cruise.

Take a look at all the good times we shared in Athens:

I am sure we will have many stories to share about our adventures in Barcelona, Nice, or Capri. 

If you can swing the time and the cash, I hope you will join us for what I think will be a phenomenal vacation.


Please email, fax or hand me your registration form:


Happy Sailing,


Marla Archer

SSQQ Dance Studio




Rick Archer's Note:  I am afraid I have given some people the impression that last year's Conquest Cruise was a disappointment.  The actual truth is that last year's trip was a phenomenal success.

We took our largest group ever - 144 people.  The energy was unbelievably high.  There was mischief everywhere I looked.  The majority of people had a great time!

So why haven't you heard about all the good things that happened?  

Well, if you are new to the SSQQ Newsletter, you might not be aware that a couple of negative incidents on last year's cruise - the gate crasher incident, Destructo and Oblivion, plus some smaller episodes - made me so darn grouchy that I developed a bad case of 'writer's block'.


I write my best cruise stories when I feel like doing it, not when I force myself to do it.


Well, guess what, this week I felt like writing a story from last year's trip. 

"A Walk on the Beach" is the story of a long walk I took down Cayman Island's Seven Mile Beach.  As you will discover when you read the story, Seven Mile Beach is on the short list of the Caribbean Sea's most beautiful beaches.  In addition to perfect sand and beautiful waters, Seven Mile Beach is the location of choice for some of the most exquisite hotels and condominiums you will ever see. 

Best of all, Seven Mile Beach is a public beach, free to everyone.  You can go anywhere you want, snorkel wherever you wish.  Seven Mile Beach is a definite paradise on earth.


I would post the story in the Newsletter, but half the story is told by the pictures I took.  You really can't appreciate the story without the pictures of the beautiful condos, the lovely waters, and the beautiful beach. 

Unless you develop a bad case of Condo Envy, this is one story sure to put a smile on your face.





Richard Greason and Toni Maciel are already signed up for this summer's Conquest Cruise.  They previously were on our 2007 Conquest Trip as well. 

Richard and Toni are bringing several family members along as well.  As Marla and Richard spoke, he mentioned that he had proposed to Toni last New Year's Eve. 

I suppose the nitpickers will say I am about five months late in posting the announcement, but I say better late than never! 

Don't forget to congratulate Richard and Toni on this year's Conquest Cruise.  Don't worry, I will remind you!




Rick Archer's Note:  Doug Peabody was a neat guy who was a fixture in the SSQQ Swing Community for nearly ten years until he passed away in 2007.

Yesterday, I wrote about a last-minute appearance by Two Tons.  In the process I published a picture from an August 2007 field trip to Austin TX taken by the SSQQ Two Tons Fan Club.  My friend Charley Denton noticed Doug was in the picture and decided to send me a very thoughtful letter.

Here is Charley's letter.


From: Charley Denton

Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2009 8:30 PM

To: Rick Archer

Subject: Two Tons Picture


Hey Rick, That group picture of us at the Broken Spoke with Two Tons you just published is a special one for many of us. 

It was the last time many of us saw Douglas Peabody.  He either didn't know he was sick or had not revealed it yet. We all miss him.

When a group of us had a memorial dinner for him one night, we all discovered other sides to him we didn't know.  An old friend of his didn't know he danced, some didn't know he had an amazing collection of gadgets and zippo lighters, none of us knew his time was so short.  He gave Teresa a zippo for safekeeping when he went in the hospital. He gave me a bunch of his NASA fans (cardboard cuts of NASA documents we used to fan ourselves).  Judith said he always made her feel a part of the group .... sadly she doesn't anymore.  We honor him every 2nd Tuesday of the month with a dance where we bring lots of baby powder for the floor(another one of his touches) & sometimes kids or parents or friends will come to see some of the magic that Douglas helped to start.  

Doug was a nice eccentric man who didn't need many words to touch others.  We all miss him. 


(Rick Archer's Note:  SSQQ has a Rest In Peace spot on the web site.  Thanks to Charley's kind words, Doug is now listed as he should be right along our other friends who have passed on. )




-----Original Message-----

From: tindog
 Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 5:01 PM

Subject: Long Beach Airport Larry the Moron

"Larry never made it as far north as LAX.

The restricted airspace he violated was Long Beach Airport (as can be seen on your map of his flight path)."


On 4/22/09, Rick Archer wrote:

"I appreciate that you took the time to correct me.  I prefer to get it right.  Thx!"


On 4/22/09, tindog wrote:


"No problem.  I feel the same...  enjoyed your page!"



Rick Archer's Note: One of the most popular stories in the history of the SSQQ web site is the tale of Larry the Moron, America's very own Icarus.

Back in 1982, Larry tied some giant balloons to a lawn chair, filled them with helium, then cut the ropes.

Larry didn't just lift off the ground... his makeshift air-balloon contraption shot 16,000 feet into the air!  That is five miles high. 

Larry had no way to control his aircraft.  So when his lawn chair sailed over a nearby airport, the authorities were alerted to this strange aircraft. 


The brief email above was sent to me by a man who noticed my story listed Los Angeles Airport when in reality Larry's balloon crossed Long Beach Airport instead.  Details Details!

In the process I was reminded to tell everyone about this great story.  If you have never heard this wild tale before, you will be incredulous.  This is not an Urban Legend.  This really happened.  Go read it as fast as you can.



AND THAT'S A WRAP FOR THIS ISSUE!   This issue was only 15 pages long!    And Cher Longoria wasn't mentioned once!   Amazing.  

Thank you for reading to the bottom.

Rick Archer

Issue One Issue Two Issue Three
Issue One Issue Two Issue Three Bottom of Page
Issue Two

The May 2009 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Two
Written by Rick Archer


The May 2009 SSQQ Newsletter
Issue Two

Written by Rick Archer




9:15 - 11:30 pm, cover charge $7

Wear some White and Dance all Night!


(To register, just show up 15 minutes before class starts. Registration goes very fast.)



RUMBA - Jill


SLOW DANCING (Cpls only) - Marla

SINATRA FOXTROT - Rick  (requires at least one month of Western Waltz)



Please note this Swing Dance will also include the occasional Foxtrot and Waltz song.




9:15 - 11:30 pm, cover charge $7

Take a Cue and Wear some Blue!

(To register, just show up 15 minutes before class starts. Registration goes very fast.)


BEG C&W: TEXAS TWOSTEP - Robert and Cher


DIRTY DANCING (Cpls Only) - Ben





A fun evening of Western Dancing!  The featured Crash Course is Ben Liles and his infamous "Dirty Dancing" Crash Course.  The Dirty Dance Crash Course is twenty years old, but it is just as much fun today as it has been for the last two decades.  Based of course on the movie, these intimate moves are best used to Swing and Jitterbug music.  However a creative mind can find many different dances to apply them to.  Some people don't even need music.



(Rick Archer's Note:  One nice feature of the SSQQ Newsletter is the ability to unsubscribe.  Just click the link at the bottom of any Newsletter.  Our Newsletter readership stands at 2,400.  Oops... make that 2,399.)



-----Original Message-----

From: victoria.ricke@

Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 2:24 PM

To: SSQQ Newsletter

Subject: AWeber ssqqnewsletter: This Lead Unsubscribed: victoria.ricke


This lead has unsubscribed by following the link at the bottom of one

of your AWeber messages, and decided to provide comments. 


Name:        victoria.ricke

Signup Date: 08/07/08 01:25 PM Eastern


Comments:   This man has the nerve to send his private company business in an email to those who do not need to hear.



-----Original Message-----

From: ssqq newsletter  

Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 2:34 PM

To: victoria.ricke@

Subject: This Lead Unsubscribed: victoria.ricke


The SSQQ Newsletter is a business newsletter.  Your comments make no sense.



-----Original Message-----

From: victoria.ricke@

Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 3:09 PM


Subject: RE: This Lead Unsubscribed: victoria.ricke


You're an idiot and I would never come to a facility that sent an email to all paying customers regarding issues within the company organization.


Please do not send me any further communications.




(Rick Archer's Note:  I was tickled to read this blurb in today's Chronicle)


Norman Jewison is a legendary Hollywood director.  Among his notable movies are "Moonstruck" (Oscar for Best Actress Cher Longoria) and "In the Heat of the Night" (Oscar for Best Picture, Oscar for Best Actor Rod Steiger).

One year the United Jewish Appeal decided to honor Mr. Jewison as a "Great American Director". 

One problem - Jewison is Canadian.


So the United Jewish Appeal switched gears and offered to honor Mr. Jewison as a "Great Jewish Director". 


One problem - Jewison is Protestant.


When told that Jewison wasn't even Jewish, the jolted UJA official uttered, "How could he not be Jewish?  His name means 'Son of a Jew'.  And he directed 'Fiddler on the Roof'!"




At the end of September, Marla and I plus 50 of our friends are heading off to Barcelona, Spain, to take a cruise along the coast of Western Italy.


Our ports of call for this trip are spectacular.  In addition to Barcelona, we visit Naples, Capri, Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Nice (France), and Marseilles (France).


One place I am especially looking forward to seeing is Florence. 


Florence has the world-famous Uffizi Museum, home to Michelangelo's David and many other famous works of art by artists such as Giotto, Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, Raphael Sanzio, Titian, Caravaggio, etc.  The list goes on and on.


The entire city is lined with amazing sculptures, beautiful architecture, and wonderful parks perfect for taking those long romantic strolls. 


If you would like to learn more about Florence, I put together a special page for your viewing and reading pleasure:





(Rick Archer's Note - People are always asking me where they can go have dinner and dance to Ballroom music.  Here is an email I received.  I work on Wednesdays at the studio so maybe one of you will drop by and check it out for me.  If you do, send me an email and tell everyone what it is like.)


From: Over the Hill Gang
Sent: Friday, May 01, 2009 6:42 AM
Subject: good music


The Over the Hill Gang plays Traditional/Classical Jazz.  We also can play swing, waltzes, and latin.
We play at Vargo's every Wednesday from 7:00pm to 9:30pm.
There is NO COVER CHARGE.  Vargo's has a dance floor and a beautiful setting. The Over the Hill Gang can make your toes tap with our music.  Most of the songs we play are from the 1920's, '30's, and '40's. We don't don't anything more modern than Hello Dolly and New York, New York.
The Over the Hill Gang would like to invite you and your students to come to Vargo's on Wednesday Jazz Night to listen and dance to our music.





I have been so busy I have neglected the Joke Picture Page.  Well, now we have five new joke pictures to amuse you.  Where does the time go?


May 2009 - Swine Flu Remembered

Contributed by Frank Fruzyna


Fortunately the 2009 Swine Flu Terror abated without the serious consequences the authorities warned us about.  So now we can have a chuckle about it.



 April 2009 - The Art of Cropping

Contributed by Gerald McEathron


They say every picture tells a story.  Now that Facebook rules the world, the photograph is everything.


Cropping occurs when people want you to know only a part of the story.


March 2009 - Louisiana Road Sign

Contributed by Chris Holmes


There's a lot of missing people in Louisiana.  Now we know why.



February 2009 - High School Exam Answers

Contributed by Jim Dulaney


These crazy answers speak for themselves.



January 2009 - The World's Silliest Bear

Contributed by Gerald McEathron



My friend Gareld has sent us many crazy animal pictures over the years.


Here we have a bear who thinks he's a squirrel.




AND THAT'S A WRAP FOR THIS ISSUE!   This issue was only 5 pages long!    

Thank you for reading to the bottom.

Rick Archer 

Issue One Issue Two Issue Three Bottom of Page
Issue Three

The May 2009 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Three
Written by Rick Archer



9:15 - 11:30 pm, cover charge $7

Take a Cue and Wear some Blue!

(To register, just show up 15 minutes before class starts. Registration goes very fast.)

BEG C&W: TEXAS TWOSTEP - Robert and Cher


DIRTY DANCING (Cpls Only) - Ben





A fun evening of Western Dancing!  The featured Crash Course is Ben Liles and his infamous "Dirty Dancing" Crash Course.  The Dirty Dance Crash Course is twenty years old, but it is just as much fun today as it has been for the last two decades.  Based of course on the movie, these intimate moves are best used to Swing and Jitterbug music.  However a creative mind can find many different dances to apply them to.  Some people don't even need music.

Another interesting Crash Course will be Steve Casko's "More Synchronized Polka".   This class will cover difficult patterns such as clockwise and counterclockwise Shadows and Handoffs, Dishrags and Pinwheels.  If you haven't had the Beginning Sync Polka crash course, you can take this one anyway as long as you can Polka well.  Otherwise it isn't fair to hold the class up.


Today Thursday around noon my daughter Sam, 17, came in to my office.  Sam is a Senior at Duchesne, a private Catholic girls school on the corner of Memorial and Chimney Rock. 

Sam had just completed her final Final Exam today.  Sam is finished with high school on her way to the University of Texas next fall.

Sam has been going to Duchesne for fourteen years - practically her entire life!  In my opinion, she has received a marvelous education at this school.  I recommend this school to anyone who wants their daughter to get a first-rate college prep education. 

Sam and I would like to take this time to thank all of you for supporting Sam's academic career all these years through your patronage of the dance studio. 


In last week's Newsletter I wrote about five new Joke Pictures on the SSQQ Web Site, but forgot to list a URL.  That was typical of my scattered mind these days.

If you want a quick smile, go visit



From: Mary
Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 4:27 PM
Subject: Private Lessons - Austrian type of Waltz

After enjoying our two months of East Coast Swing lessons at SSQQ earlier this year for our daughter's wedding, my husband Richard and I could be considered advanced beginner or intermediate level swing dancers. Now we are traveling to Austria in mid June of this year, and we wanted to have some private Waltz lessons to get us up to speed in short order.  Is there anyone who can help us out in this regard?  Thank you for your help, Mary & Richard

(RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  Now doesn't that sound like fun?   These two are with a group going to Austria.  On one of the nights, they are supposed to have a class in "Viennese Waltz" with a dance to follow.  Richard and Mary decided the smart thing to do was to get a head start.

I enjoyed helping them get ready, but now I am really envious!   Marla needs to schedule a cruise to Austria.  Please pester her to do so.)


Mario ROBAU's Intensive Weekend - April 24-26, 2009


As Memorial Day approaches, Mario Robau is currently finishing up his second month teaching here at SSQQ. 

His first two classes here have been a phenomenal success by every measure.  For example, Mario's first class in April had 100 people; his second class in May had 80 (a number that surely would have been higher if not for the huge rain deluge on Registration Night). 

Mario has been able to challenge his students in ways I never thought possible in a group setting.  Oddly enough, Mario has not taught difficult patterns.  Instead, he has concentrated on making normal patterns fancier using footwork techniques.  It is amusing to see many of Houston's finest Swing dancers try to master the intricacies of syncopations and flying feet.  These are people who are not used to feeling foolish on the dance floor any longer, but here they are grimacing as they try to master lightning quick dance movements.

And you know what?  They love it.  You don't get to be as good as these people are by shying away from challenges.  Furthermore, they are overjoyed to have the man who can best challenge them emerge from his self-imposed retirement to begin kicking their backsides again.  Bring it on!

Best of all, Mario seems to be enjoying himself.  In his own words, his days of competitive dancing are winding down.  After a career of double figure Houston City Championships, double figure Texas State Championships, three US Open Swing Championships plus many other equally impressive accomplishments, competitive dancing has lost some of zest. 

These days Mario is turning his attention to teaching more 'social dancing' than he used to.   This is one reason why he was receptive to teaching here at SSQQ... social dancing has always been our emphasis.  


When Mario and I first talked about establishing his "Solar Whip" class here, I asked him if he would be interested in participating in our April Sleazy Bar Dance Party.  Mario grinned and said it would be an honor.  Mario then asked if I would consider organizing an "Intensive Weekend" for him. 

Since I had no idea what an "Intensive" was, I asked him to explain.  Mario explained the Intensive was more like a college lecture course than it was a dance class.  He said there would be dancing of course, but the emphasis was mostly on 'theory of dance'. 

Theory of Dance?   Was he pulling my leg?  I took a good look at Mario's expression.  He looked serious to me.   Okay.  I'm game. 

So we made a deal - Mario would help me promote the Sleazy Bar Whip Party and I would help organize his Intensive.

I soon discovered there was a lot of interest in his workshop.  Despite some cancelations and a couple people who couldn't find partners, we still ended up with 15 couples.  That was an impressive number.

I had been curious from the start how Mario could make the class relevant for so many people with different levels of experience.  As I surveyed the 15 couples, I spotted several competition dancers in the crowd.  The majority were experienced social dancers who were also taking Mario's Monday Night "Solar Whip" class.  I also noticed people who had been dancing WCS less than a year.  I could tell that every one of these people had different skill levels and different objectives.  Now how exactly was Mario going to relate to so many different experience levels and different reasons for taking the weekend intensive?


The first two hours of the workshop took place on Friday afternoon, April 24.  We set up tables, listened to some introductory ideas from Mario, and then began videotaping.  Two couples danced at a time for about half a song. 

The idea behind the videotaping was to give Mario something to refer to at the very end of the workshop when he talked to each couple separately.  In other words, after he had spent twelve hours imparting various ideas to us, now he could relate those ideas directly to areas he thought needed improvement.


After the videotaping, we broke for an hour of dinner.  Everyone came back at 7 pm for Mario's Friday Night "Legend of the Houston Whip" Crash Course. 

I was pretty curious what Mario had to say and teach.  Although Mario Junior is 18 years younger than me, his father Mario Senior is a Whip dancer himself.  Over the years, Mario Senior has surely told his son many stories about the good old days.  In addition over the years Senior introduced Junior to all sorts of veteran Whip dancers with anecdotes to share.  

Sure enough, as I listened to Mario speak, he definitely knew some Whip stories I had never heard before.  Mario said the whole thing started with the Charleston, an eight-count dance, during the Roaring Twenties.  This was actually something I had heard before.  He said the Charleston started out with people dancing apart, but eventually the men and women found a way to dance the Charleston in closed position.

The original Charleston was an eight count pattern - step pause, front-kick pause, step pause, back-kick pause.  Mario said the social arbiters of the day decided the front kick was un-ladylike.  Something about the dress coming up and showing too much leg.  It had to go.  This sounded like a yarn to me.   But Mario said it with a straight face, so I guess he wasn't pulling our leg.

Now that the front kick was gone, the Charleston partner dance was reduced from an 8-count to a 6-count.  And somewhere along the way the back kick was changed to a rock-step.  Behold - these two changes brought on the 6-count Swing. 

Mario went on to explain how the changes in music over the next twenty years morphed East Swing into Jitterbug, West Coast Swing, and Whip.  Unfortunately he went a little too fast for me to remember all the details.   I remember making a mental note to ask him some more questions one of the days.  Over the years, I get the impression that Mario has met and talked with every major player on the local dance circuit, state dance circuit and national circuit past and present.   I have no doubt he has some stories to tell.   Wouldn't it be fun to get some of those memories down on paper?



Saturday morning the gang showed up bright and early at 10 am.  Mario handed out a textbook he had written to each person.  This textbook was so long it even had a Chapter Index:  Pattern Design, Connection, Music Theory, Pattern Selection, Footwork and Weight Changes, Texture-Shading-Depth.  

As I scanned the Chapter Titles, I couldn't help but grin. I have often teased that dance teachers don't make as much money as psychologists because they don't have enough inscrutable terms to confuse people. 

I'm telling you, when those therapists start spewing out that psychobabble stuff - Maladaptive psychoneurotic triadic dysfunction, transient situational adjustment reaction, ego mass diffusion, motoric inhibition of ideational functioning - the patients just surrender.  The moment they realize they can't understand a thing the therapist is saying, they assume they must be so mixed up they need therapy. 

Lawyers play a dirty trick of their own - everything is done in Latin.  Amicus curiae, Casus belli,

Caveat emptor, Certiorari, Contradictio in adjecto, Fiat justitia ruat caelum, Habeas corpus, In absentia

In camera, In flagrante delicto, In loco parentis, Ipso facto, Nolle prosequi, Nolo contendere, Non compos mentis Obiter dictum, Persona non grata, Posse comitatus, Prima facie, Subpoena ad testificandum, Sui generis, Tabula in naufragio, Volenti non fit injuria, and of course my favorite.....  amo sui yui (I can't wait to sue you).

No wonder these guys are rolling in the dough.   No one can understand a word they say.  How do you argue with them?

But for my money, therapists and lawyers can't hold a candle to physicians.  Doctors are the worst. 

My gosh, every disease has some awful Latin or Greek name.  How about these for starters:   Aarskog syndrome,  Abductor spasmodic dysphonia, Abiotrophy, Ablation, endometrial abruptio placentae, Absinthism, Acanthamoeba keratitis, Acanthosis nigricans, Acapnia, Acaricide, Acathisia, Aceruloplasminemia, Achondrogenesis, Achromatopsia, Acoustic neurofibromatosis, Acrocephalosyndactyly, Acrochordon, Acrocyanosis, Acrodermatitis enteropathica, Acrodynia, Acromegaly, Acromioclavicular joint, Acromion, Acrophobia, Acrylamide.

If some doctor tells me I have an acute case of Acrocephalosyndactyly, gee whiz, I mentally start updating my will on the spot.  I figure if you can't even pronounce it, it must be fatal.


On the other hand, here are my important professional terms - walk walk, tap step, triple step, step ball change, frame, wiggle, bounce, posture, shake your booty, shake your groove thing, plus my single most impressive word - syncopation.  No wonder I am at the low end of the professional pay scale.  If anyone can understand me, how tough can my job be?

However, as I made a cursory scan through Mario's opus, I gasped.  Compacting patterns, V-Shaped Leads, Embellishment (good one!), Connection, Extensions, Compression, Scrolling, Bending, Time Warping, Texture, Legato and Staccato.  Holy Smokes!  I knew instinctively I had just discovered a very good reason why Mario was at the top of the dance teacher food chain.  This was the best dance teacher jargon I had ever heard.

I made a silent vow to memorize this book.  So what if I didn't know what these terms meant, as long as no else did either I was in the clear.  This notebook alone was guaranteed to make people respect me!   Move your Legato and Shake your Staccato! 



We spent Saturday morning listening to Mario explain ideas about dance patterns that I frankly admit I had never heard before.  This was about the time I shed my earlier irreverence about Mario's complicated dance terms.  Mario clearly understood the dance at a level I had never even imagined existed.  I felt like I was getting a PhD lecture on WCS.  This guy could definitely walk the talk.

The end of morning covered a segment I found very interesting - scrolling dance patterns.  Mario showed how to take common WCS dance patterns like the Whip Step and the Basket Whip (aka the Walkaround to old-timers) and create brand new patterns by modifying the footwork.  I smiled as he demonstrated three fairly simple Whip Step patterns I had never seen before in my life.  Now why didn't I think of that?  

I was enjoying myself.  It was interesting hearing all these new concepts related to teaching the dance I enjoy the best.  At various points, Mario got us all up on our feet to practice what he had just explained.  This is how he bridged the gap from the theory to practical use. 

Mario spent a lot of time on connection, i.e. the tension between the man's arm and the lady's arm.  He covered the idea of A-Shaped leads and V-Shaped leads.  He explained how the position of your body creates a leverage that makes each move easier to lead and follow.  As I listened, I realized everything he said made perfect sense.  In fact, much of what he said was common sense information that I had actually 'felt' for a long time, but had never actually put into words.  I had all sorts of little 'aha' moments.

Ultimately "gravity" is the world's oldest dance teacher.  Gravity affects your balance.  If you do something wrong, thanks to gravity, you lose your balance.  Every time you fall down, gravity is telling you to try something else.  Eventually if you do it right, gravity leaves you alone. 

When you dance long enough, your body actually learns to hit these A and V positions without anyone having to teach it to you.  All dance principles can be learned intuitively through practice, but it will take a long time.  However if someone can point out these balance secrets in advance, the learning curve can be accelerated.  That's why a good dance coach can save you a lot of time.  A good coach will make the difference between learning things the hard way - gravity - and the easy way.

The second part of Saturday covered Music Theory and its relationship to West Coast Swing dancing.  Quoting from Mario's textbook, dance music can be divided in Standard 8 Bar Sets (32 beat phrase) and 12 Bar Blues (48 beat phrase).  Mario Robau is a widely recognized master at music interpretation.  His deep understanding of music allows him to predict changes in the music and choose the right dance movement to fit each special part of the music. 

For example, Mario is famous for is teaching people how to "Hit the Breaks".   "Hitting the Breaks" is a technique where you anticipate stops or breaks in the music.  Once you know when these Breaks are about to appear, you can insert special memorized routines for dramatic purpose. 

I will readily admit that most of what Mario spoke about in his music theory segment was over my head.  What I did understand however was that Mario's gift as a dance choreographer is based on his deep understanding of the music plus his extensive bag of dance tricks.  Not only does Mario know what to look for throughout every song, he has several dance movements he can choose from to express the music perfectly. 

The ability to express the music through movement is of course the very definition of dance.  I just had never realized before the top professionals in the world of 'social dance' took the music just as seriously as any Broadway choreographer.

I don't know where Mario would rate himself up against famous dance choreographers like Bob Fosse, Tommy Tune, and Twyla Tharp, but he clearly plays in a league way beyond the understanding of the rest of us. 


The group took a two hour break and then reassembled at 7 pm Saturday night for Mario's Sleazy Bar Whip Workshop.  I have taught this workshop myself from time to time.  For strictly professional reasons, over the years I have acquainted myself with various disgusting and thoroughly vulgar moves a man and a woman can perform on the dance floor. 

Now all of you have seen "Dirty Dancing" and love it.  You might not be aware that Houston has its very own homegrown "Dirty Dance".  Known as the "Dirty Whip", this dance thoroughly deserves its bad reputation.  The Whip got its start as a pickup dance in honky-tonks and bars around Texas.  When the nasty blues music came on, women would get out on the floor and start to roll their hips. 

Once that sensual blues sound came on with those suggestive lyrics and hip-grinding sax riffs, the place got hot and inhibitions disappeared.  How does that saying go - "dance is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire"?    If you are talking about the Dirty Whip, I guarantee no dance in history has ever created a 90 degree shift in positions faster than the Dirty Whip.

Now I personally have always played the Sleazy Bar Whip Workshop for laughs.  I think it is very difficult to be 'deliberately sexy'.  Let's face it - the whole point of the workshop is to learn 'how' to be sexy.  If you were already proficient, what do you need the Workshop for?   And since many of the positions are frankly a bit on the awkward side if not done correctly, the opportunity for embarrassment is rife.  I have always had a field day making people laugh.  It is definitely a fun workshop to teach.

This year after I finished my own semi-sleazy workshop on Saturday Night, I decided to go into Room One and take a peek at what Mario had taught.  I gasped in surprise.  The entire room was filled with 100 people dancing very sophisticated 'sleazy' patterns.  This is not easy to explain, but in essence Mario had injected an 'artistic' element into these movements.  These people were not only naughty, but they looked good doing it! 

I was impressed.  A lot of these people looked really good.  In fact, I could not help but notice some of those women were moving in highly "professional" ways.  Where did they learn to do that?  Hmm.  I wonder.  There's an old saying that good girls have to learn the Whip, but bad girls just get out there and do what comes naturally.  There were definitely some naturals out there tonight. 

Not that I minded.  After all, that was the whole point of the night - lose your inhibitions and make some mischief.  I just hadn't expected 'creativity' to be added to the mix.

Mario was smiling too.  I think he had fun teaching that class.



The three-hour Whip Party was a smashing success.  I estimate we had a crowd of 150 people.  It was quite a bash.  Many of Houston's finest Swing dancers put on quite a show all night long. 

I had a lot of fun as well.  My biggest problem is getting started.  I have always been slow to warm up.  Sometimes I just sit down and get comfy.  That's when I decide it is easier to just to enjoy the show than it is to force myself to get up and dance for the millionth time in my life.  And the longer I sit there, the harder it is to get going. 

However tonight I was in luck.  I didn't have to force myself to get going; someone lit the spark for me.  One of the ladies from the Intensive, Amy Carter, came over and asked me to dance.  Amy is quite a dancer, so I was flattered to be asked.  So I got up off my big fat youknowwhat.  I had a great time dancing with her.  And now the ice was broken.  The next thing I knew, I danced practically non-stop for the next two hours. 

I absolutely love Blues music.  I may be getting up in years, but that Blues music can still get my blood stirring like the good old days.  It was fun to discover the Magic is still in there.


On Sunday morning, the group crawled in on all fours.  Having that kind of fun doesn't come without a price.  That party had beaten the stuffing out of a lot of people.  Where we had been sitting at tables taking notes the day before, half of us slunk over to the couches instead.  We weren't alert, but we were alive.  Thank goodness.

Mario looked a little tired himself.  No one minded a bit.  If he wanted to warm up slowly, that was just fine with us.  Coffee cups appeared everywhere, but without notable success.  No one was in much of a hurry. 

Nevertheless, to my surprise, Mario soon found his stride.  This morning's new material was very interesting.  Yesterday had been music theory.  Today was about selecting patterns to fit the music.  Mario explained how the Leader should try to pick patterns that emphasize count 1 of every 8 beats in order to remain in accordance with the music (that's a quote from his textbook).

Since dance music is recorded in eight-beat segments, an eight-beat pattern accomplishes this goal very nicely.   The problem is that most WCS patterns are 6 beats in length.  So one modern trick is to learn "extensions", i.e. ways to add two beats to a pattern and make it an eight-beat pattern. 

As I watched Mario's different suggestions on ways to "extend" patterns, I was fascinated at how clever these moves were.  Sometimes you add two extra walks, sometimes you grab a woman's arm and make her repeat a movement to kill two more beats, or maybe you stand there and grin for two beats.  Whatever.  The point was that Mario had more tricks up his sleeve than a saloon card player.

This was my favorite part of the weekend so far.  Unfortunately, duty interrupted my reverie.  A group of five dance students strolled into the studio about 11 am for their Sunday private lesson.  Unfortunately their instructor got the wires crossed and no-showed.  All attempts to reach the instructor by cell phone failed.  I decided the right thing to do was pick up the lesson.  Over the years, people have bailed me out plenty of times when I made a mistake; this would be a good time for me to do a good deed for someone else.   You gotta balance the Karma, right?  So I disengaged from the Intensive and taught the Ballroom lesson instead.  Although I enjoyed the lesson, I definitely regretted missing an hour and a half of the most interesting part of the Intensive.  Oh well.

Marla didn't do much to make me feel better about missing this section.  When I returned to the group, she was full of enthusiasm.  "Guess what, Rick?  We worked on styling.  This stuff was wonderful! "

Marla said that Mario had given them a fairly simple 32-beat pattern using common moves that fit the music to a T.  While the men led these basic moves, the women had a specific job trying to hit the most important beats (1, 3, and 5) with a special movement.

As Marla explained it, Mario had spent time talking about moving the five body parts - head, arms, shoulders, hips, and feet - at these specific points.  They also spent time changing up the anchor steps with special taps, kicks, and holds.   The whole point was to dance the same common patterns as everyone else, but mysteriously seem to look sharper doing it than everyone else.

Marla concluded her recap by saying this was definitely the best part of the weekend.  I rolled my eyes. Oh great.  No good deed goes unpunished. 


I now apologize to everyone, but I don't remember much from this final three hour segment.  I was hanging for dear life.  I knew I still had four hours of teaching ahead of me on Sunday evening.  To conserve energy, I went into a state of semi-consciousness.   In other words, I was there, but I wasn't completely there.   Consequently, this part of the workshop is now a distant blur in my memory.

One thing I do remember is that our goal in the afternoon was to identify "Verse" and "Chorus".  We would change our dance style according the energy of the music.  Mario showed us all kinds of different ways to interpret the music by changing the style of our dancing when it was Verse and changing it again for the Chorus. 

In addition, Mario had many ideas I had never heard before.  He talked about varying the distance between partners, varying your own height, changing the width of the slot, and varying the variations.  It wasn't that this material was over my head, but it was very unusual.  I sensed that this material was directed at the most advanced dancers because it was highly technical.  I just wish I had more energy at the time because it definitely required concentration. 

Mario concluded the day by reviewing the videos with each couple individually.  Since the workshop ran a little over time, the Sunday 4:30 classes had just begun.  Consequently Mario had to use the studio office to go over the videos.   This was an unanticipated development.  I groaned.  Since no one even uses it anymore, that office is a mess!   Oh well, nothing I can do about it now.

I suggested the people wait on the couches in Room Two till it was their turn.  As I taught my class in the same room, I remember watching their worried faces with great amusement.  No one was in a joking mood; I can assure you of that.  I don't what they worried about more - the thought of what Mario might say or the fear of seeing the office clutter first-hand.  Welcome to the Jungle.

Since I was busy teaching, Marla went to see Mario by herself.  When I asked her later on what he had criticized me on, Marla said Mario couldn't find anything at all to criticize.  Yeah, sure.   Still, I appreciated her diplomacy.  Just another of the many reasons why I married her. 

(By the way, after Marla read this story, she told me in no uncertain terms I needed to tell the truth - yes, Mario was able to find a few small things I could possibly improve on.  Maybe some big ones too.  No one's perfect.)



Mario covered a vast range of subjects.  The sheer volume and depth of the material reflects the 'intense' nature of the Intensive. 

All teachers realize that a student can only grasp so much based on his ability and his previous knowledge.   You can also add that 'stamina' plays a part in comprehension as well.  I can attest to that! 

Mario explained everything very well.  He had music ready at all times to help make his points.  In addition he frequently asked various students like Mara Rivas or Cher Longoria to stand up and dance with him to help demonstrate his points.  So I can say without hesitation that we all 'understood' what he was talking about. 

However I can't say we all understood his points well enough to put them into action.  There was just too much to remember!  I have been teaching dance for thirty years, yet even with my experience I found myself hearing a remarkable amount of material for the very first time. 

For example, although I definitely followed what Mario told us about music theory, I certainly didn't understand it well enough to actually apply it.  This is one area where I would like to hear what he had to say again.  I think taking the Intensive a second time around would be helpful. 

One suggestion would be to conduct shorter seminars (4 hours?) on a specific subject so the students could practice one specific skill.  However, since the weekends are the best time for these seminars and since Mario travels out of town on most weekends, this might not be a practical idea for him. 


For me, what I enjoyed the most from the weekend wasn't so much what I learned, but that I was given a glance into the highest level of my own profession.   

I remember going to a Rockets game a few years ago.  A friend had given me front row tickets, so I got there early to watch the players warm up.  What I quickly became aware of was the incredible grace and economy of motion in these athletes.  I swear these giant men in their own way moved just as gracefully as any ballet dancer.  I have played basketball my entire life, but I have never seen anyone move like they did.  Nor were they ever out of control.  They were like giant cats, totally sure of their movements.  They combined the same quickness and balance you would expect from the lead in 'Swan Lake'.  These men had a gift. 

After the Intensive, I had a similar feeling about Mario.  Everyone knows he is a marvelous dancer, but he is a different cat himself.   Watching him morph his dance style at will the moment a song changed to a different tempo was like watching an X-Man mutant reshape his body. 

When Mario talked candidly to us about switching styles to the music, Marla looked at me and said, "I only have one style.  Do you have any extra styles?"  I shook my head.  Nope.  I only had one style too.  Not Mario.  It was a little spooky seeing him float from one dance persona to another.   This was my first real glimpse at the kind of control a championship dancer has over his own body.  Name a body part and Mario would move it six different ways without bothering to think about it. Pretty amazing.

However, believe it or not, there was something I found even more impressive.  That was Mario's keen intelligence and his ability to express his dancing knowledge in fairly comprehensible ways.

Here is a story I have never told before.  Sometime around 1985, my friend Mike Fagan and I took a dance workshop from a guy who was a city Whip champion.  Among other things, this guy claimed he could take anyone and turn him into a dance champion as well.

Soon the guy taught a fancy move.  Mike and I immediately asked him what his footwork was.  His answer?  "I don't know.  I just do the move and my feet go along for the ride.  If you want to know what my feet do, watch me!"  So we watched.  His feet did something different every time. 

That's the day Mike and I realized that many of the best dancers don't even have a clue what their feet are doing.  They have a gift which allows them to see a dance move and intuitively copy it, but they don't have the slightest idea what their feet are doing.  They can't even begin to explain how the move works.  They may win contests, but they make lousy dance teachers. 

Mario on the other hand knows exactly what his feet are doing.  Even better, he can also explain what his feet are doing.  In other words, Mario is just as analytical as he is graceful on the dance floor.  Now THAT is impressive.  

But what I find most impressive about Mario is that he can also tell you in simple human terms - not greek, not latin - how you can learn to move your own feet better.  In other words, he communicates just as well as he dances.  When it comes to 'genius' in any field, it isn't often that your best dancer turns out to be your best teacher as well.  


Let me finish up with a story.  My first love is Whip Dancing.  This infatuation dates back to 1978. 

I admit my nose was bent out of shape when West Coast Swing broke into the Houston area back in the late Nineties.  West Coast Swing invaded the city like a tidal wave.  It quickly began to supersede the Whip faster than you can say 'Killer Bees'.  About this same time, it was Mario's father oddly enough who sent shivers down my spine when he announced to me "the Whip is Dead."  Uh oh.

No matter how unhappy I was about this unwelcome development, I figured it wasn't the worst thing that had ever happened.  As long as people were still interested in dancing, I guess I could accept this new direction.   So I went about learning the West Coast Swing. 

The more I learned about WCS, the more I realized just how similar the two dances were.   They weren't really different dances, but rather different styles.   It didn't take me long to realize that Whip and West Coast could be effortlessly danced to the same song.   Furthermore, although West Coast was now the more popular dance, I saw places - Closed Position for example - where the hip motion of the Whip could thrill a man in ways the dance-apart style of the West Coast Swing could never emulate.  The phrase 'down and dirty' was meant for the Whip, not WCS.  West Coast might be easier to learn and prettier to watch, but Whip still had a sizzle to it that no man can ever forget. 

As I grew more familiar with West Coast Swing, it dawned on me that I didn't have to choose one dance over the other.  I could have my cake and eat it too.

As I experimented, I realized at certain music speeds, both dance systems worked in perfect harmony.  You could flow into the Whip and back out to WCS so fluidly a casual onlooker would never realize you were using two distinctly different dance systems.  When the music got faster, WCS was clearly the better system to use.   When the music slowed down - slow Blues for example - the double resistance of the Whip became very useful.   I smiled.  The Whip wasn't dead after all.  We just had to find a special place for it.  Something this good needed to be preserved.  As I like to say, when the music is fast and the lights are bright, West Coast Swing is definitely the prettier dance.  But when the music is slow and the lights are low, bring on the Whip.

So in the late Nineties I began to teach Whip and West Coast side by side in the same class.  I didn't have any trouble teaching Whip from the Closed Position, but I had fits teaching both dances from the Open Position.

For the life of me, I could not understand why I was able to lead a Whip or a West Coast Swing Sugar Push Basic any time I wanted, but could not figure out how to teach a student how to do the same thing.  Time and again, I would try to teach Whip leads to a WCS student only to discover I had confused him completely.   Finally I made a simple compromise.  Open Position was now reserved strictly for West Coast Swing, Closed Position was reserved for the Whip.  That solved the problem nicely.  The confusion disappeared.  

But was I happy about my decision?   Not at all.  In the dark corner of my mind, I was mad at myself.

Fast forward ten years.  Recently out of curiosity, I told Mario about my dilemma.  He knew the answer before I finished my question.  Mario told me if I shortened my left arm on 4, I would get a Whip lead.  If I extended my arm on 4, my lead would change the energy to West Coast.  His suggestion worked like a charm.  Mind you, the difference in the two elbow positions was no more than two inches apart, but the difference in tension was remarkable.  In the blink of eye, my understanding of the problem had gone from the intuitive level to the explanatory level.  

I was flabbergasted.  For the first time, I was pretty sure I could now teach a man to go back and forth between leading both systems.  But if it was so obvious, why didn't I think of it?

After all, for the past ten years, I have always deliberately shortened my arm whenever I wanted to switch from West Coast to the Whip.  Why didn't it occur to me that other men needed to do the same thing?  Shortening my arm was just something "gravity" had taught me during years of practice.  In fact, now that I thought about it, I realized I even had actual drawings of men dancing the Whip with their elbows tucked in their bellies.   But it had never once occurred to me this simple trick was actually a major technique.


I began shaking my head in disbelief.  This solution was so obvious!   Let's face it; I had a major blind spot.  There is no other way to explain it. 

As I said earlier, all dance principles can be learned intuitively through practice, but it will take a long time.  However if someone can point out the important techniques in advance, the learning curve can be greatly accelerated.  That's why a good dance coach can save you a lot of time.  A good coach will make the difference between learning things the hard way and the easy way.

And now you have my testimonial.  In the flicker of a moment, Mario solved a ten-year headache for me.  That is why I say that Mario is not only a master dancer, but he is also a master instructor.  That is a mighty rare combination. 

It is obvious to me Mario has studied dancing so thoroughly that he has developed the ability to make very complex subjects comprehensible to the average dancer.  Let me tell you - that is quite a gift.  

Although Mario and I have led parallel lives for the past twenty years, our paths have only fleetingly crossed in that time.  Truthfully I knew very little about Mario the person until a couple months ago.  I now find it very easy to understand why Mario Robau became the youngest person ever to be inducted in the Dance Hall of Fame (2004).  My only question is why they waited so long.

The next time Mario offers his Intensive, I highly recommend it to each and every person who sincerely wants to improve as a Swing dancer.  Mario Robau is the best dance teacher I have ever met.


AND THAT'S A WRAP FOR THIS ISSUE!   This issue was only 15 pages long!   

Thank you for reading to the bottom.

Rick Archer 

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