Rick's Gabfest with Gertrude
Written by Rick Archer, March 2006
"So what do you think the future holds?"
early 2006, SSQQ has
taken eight cruises. These cruises have
had a profound effect on SSQQ.
Our cruises have thrilled our guests out at sea and
they have totally energized the studio back at home.
I have to come to realize that our Slow Dance and
Romance activities at home have a perfect synergy
with the elegant ocean cruises.
A careful analysis of my business and their business
reveals an interesting fact - we are both in the
same business, but we don't compete! SSQQ
promotes Romance. The cruise industry promotes
Romance. SSQQ offers dance lessons. A
cruise trip offers dance lessons. But we don't
compete because they are at sea and we are on land.
Sometimes in my idle moments I see a cruise ship as
a giant floating dance studio. Where our
businesses differ is they offer vacations and my
clients take vacations.
Thus the synergy - we not only do not compete, we
help each other. The vacation energizes my
studio. My wonderful dancers energize their
ship. It is a very unique and powerful
relationship where everyone wins. Yes, Slow
Dance leads to Romance, but the Love Boat Era has
shown that Slow Dance on a Cruise Trip leads to
Romance much more swiftly.
Before I continue about the SSQQ-Cruise connection,
I would like to point out there is an energy in the
wind that may bode positive consequences for all of
The potential dawn of a new era of Ballroom Dance
seems like it is just around the corner.
When 'Dancesport' finally makes it debut as a Summer
Olympic event, people will watch in awe as the
finest dancers will become Olympic heroes in the
same way their winter counterpart - the figure skate
pairs - have been capturing the hearts of millions
At the purest level, social dance has become
'sport', a joy in movement set to music. Any
enthusiast of basketball highlights set to music
marvels at the poetry of the athletes in motion.
But when you see a top-flight dance competition, you
witness the same artistry in higher-level dance.
With intricate movements set to thrilling music, a
Waltz, a Rumba, a Cha Cha all have the power to
Although 'Dance Sport' barely missed making the cut
as an official sport at the upcoming Beijing 2008
Olympics, its inclusion in the 2012 Olympics is
considered quite likely.
The quickness, the style, the power, and the grace
of 'Dance Sport' will prove that the kind of dance I
am talking about will prove these artists are just
as much 'athletes' as the gymnasts and the hurdlers.
Dance Sport will thrill the audiences!
Best of all, the competitors will add one element
the other sports cannot touch - the elegance and
glamour of the dancers and their unbelievable sex
appeal! People will soon realize these
dancers are not only well-conditioned and highly
trained athletes, they can take their place among
the most physically beautiful human beings in the
'Dance Sport' is the only major sport besides Figure
Skating that allows men and women to not only
compete together, but encourages the athletes to
flirt at the same time!
And there you have it - the highest levels of dance
combine glamour, artistry, and sex appeal."
The mural and statue
above can be seen at the entrance of Rhapsody's 'Shall We
Dance' Lounge. Lorraine Cull,
a member of our 2004 Rhapsody
Cruise, wrote about this mural in her letter
to me after the trip:
“Dancing aboard the ship made the pictures along the
wall become a reality for those that danced.
tremendous opportunity to be able to dance in an
environment that was so luxurious as the
'Shall We Dance
Dancing invites people to mingle unlike any other
activity. Dancing offers an expression for the young
and the old that were aboard the ship. Your dance
lessons were fun and offered the participants the
opportunity to dance later in the trip that they may
have never tried to dance before.
was perfect for lessons and dancing in the evening.
"Shall we dance?"
Yes, a most enjoyable evening.
When you dance you can only be happy.
Thank you, Rick.”
"What is the importance of the
Rhapsody Mural to SSQQ?"
piece of the dance puzzle is Glamour. For
women to look their best in their gorgeous dance
dresses, you must have a glamorous setting.
'Glamour' demands a backdrop, an atmosphere, and an
audience. When it comes to Dance and Glamour,
a cruise ship like the Rhapsody, our home away from
home, delivers this setting perfectly."
The name of the Rhapsody's
Ballroom is 'Shall We Dance?' The name is a
reference to a 1937 Astaire-Rogers dance movie with
the same name. The plot has Fred meeting his future
wife Ginger on the dance floor of a cruise liner
known as the Queen Anne.
Hmm. That sounds familiar. Isn't that
how I met my wife?
You absolutely cannot enter this room on the ship
and see the beautiful murals without feeling
nostalgic for this lost era. You don't need me
to describe it. Just take a look at the
panorama above and savor the images of a time when
you could dance the night away in the arms of your
sweetheart or perhaps capture the attention of a new
lover with the simple invitation to dance. It
was a time when you could mix dinner, conversation,
romance, friendship, and dancing into one complete
It is my observation that people are beginning to
miss the elegance of this earlier era.
When people talk about the potent combination of
Orchestras, beautiful dance floors, tuxes and gowns,
elegant surroundings, sophisticated people, and best
of all, graceful Ballroom dancing, they certainly
don't think our modern times.
Invariably our minds wander to the movies of the
past when scenes of Ballroom Dancing were a constant
backdrop to every plot. Where on earth did
these days go? I am not sure why they
disappeared, but I miss them. I have a hunch
that our society is ready to try again.
I say it is high time for us to discover the
modern-day equivalent of Fred and Ginger to help us
recapture the beauty of the Jazz Age and the Big
Wouldn't it be nice if our Icons of Sophistication -
Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Cary
Grant, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Kathryn Hepburn -
could be joined by Millennium counterparts?
Fortunately at SSQQ we don't need to wait for this
to happen. We can do it ourselves."
Scenes of an SSQQ Night at Sea
- "Aboard the Rhapsody
or any ship we sail on,
SSQQ has the opportunity to recapture these magic days of
yesteryear whenever we wish."
"Of course it would be fun to recreate the
glory days of the past. How do you propose to
"I don't think I
am alone in my dreams about the days when Ballroom
Dancing was center stage in American culture.
I am willing to bet that a lot of people are
beginning to miss the glory of this earlier era.
Judging from the excitement of my fellow passengers
on Formal Night, they look forward to these evenings
just as much as I do. Fortunately we don't
have to wait for it to happen. Aboard the
Rhapsody or any ship we sail on, SSQQ actually has
the opportunity to recapture these magic days of
yesteryear whenever we wish.
The Captain's Reception and the Crown and Anchor
Dance are two Ballroom dance opportunities that are
offered on every trip. These dances coincide with
Formal Night. As a result, every person in the
room is beautifully dressed. We all look like
extras in a Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr scene aboard the
cruise ship in An Affair to Remember.
Indeed, our group is marvelous as we dance the
night away to the ship's orchestra. For an
extra flourish, every seat in the elegant ballroom
is filled to the brim with people who deeply
appreciate our dancing. We are the show.
In fact, our group is often mistaken for
'entertainment' thoughtfully provided by the cruise
line to complete the ambience of the evening.
We always grin at that suggestion. It is
indeed a very high compliment.
These evenings are the ultimate reward for hours of
dance practice back home. People take a great
deal of time over the course of a year to acquire
their dance skills and practice them after class.
Performing to smiles and eye contact of the
Rhapsody's guests is a marvelous compliment to their
skill and hard work.
These moments of dancing to classic Ballroom
standards liked Sinatra's Foxtrot 'Witchcraft' or
Benny Goodman's Swing 'Let's Dance' is a huge thrill
for the SSQQ dancers. None of us are
accustomed to this kind of attention. (But we
We don't actually realize how good we have it at
SSQQ. Sure, there are dance studios
everywhere, but their system of instruction mostly
consists of extremely expensive private lessons.
Here at SSQQ people learn the same amount of
material at a fraction of the cost they might have
to pay elsewhere. We didn't become the biggest
dance studio in the country by accident, you know.
Our group classes will never produce a dance
champion - at the highest levels you do need private
lessons - but they are very effective for creating a
veritable host of quality social dancers. That
is of course our strength and it shows on these
However surrounded here at home by all the terrific
veteran dancers, most of our people have no idea how
good they are because they lack perspective.
You can never really appreciate how good our dancers
are until you see our program through different
A funny anecdote also carries a strong point.
When Marla and I got married aboard the Rhapsody in
2004, I was pretty exhausted from all the frenzy of
last-minute preparations and details. Plus our
'oops' wedding left both Marla and me drained of all
energy. As a result, neither of us was
in the mood to dance very hard on that trip.
On several occasions I would take a
back seat in the Shall We Dance Lounge so I could
rest. I thoroughly
enjoyed observing how much fun my
friends were having and how impressive their
on the fifth night of the trip, 40
SSQQ dancers filled the
dance floor during the Crown and Anchor Party.
Marla was asked to dance so I sat in a corner.
By chance I overheard a curious conversation
from a couple sitting nearby. They were dressed
attractively in tux and gown.
They were indeed a handsome couple both in their
40s. I had the feeling they were
relatively new to their
relationship and this was their
first cruise together.
The lady said, “Frank,
let’s get out there and dance like everyone
The man said, “I don’t know how to dance like
that! There’s no way I’m getting out there.”
The lady replied, “Well,
there have to be at least twenty men out there
dancing. Why are you the only man in this room
who isn’t dancing?”
The man looked very
said, “I wish I knew the answer to that. This is
my third cruise and I’ve never seen dancing like
“Well, how did those guys
learn? It can’t be that hard if everyone in the
room knows how!”
every man in the room is out there. Look
around. There are a lot of guys sitting
"Well, it can't hurt to try! Just get up
there and copy them!"
"There is no way I am going to figure out
what they are doing. I'm not
going to make a fool of myself. If
you want to dance, go ask one of them!”
“Thanks. I think I will do
At that point she got up and asked one of the
men in our group to dance the next song. As
they danced, her Left-Behind friend just shook
his head in consternation the entire time.
Watching the perplexed
expression on his face, I had to laugh at his
plight. As his new
girlfriend 'oohed' and 'aahed' over the Swing
moves of her SSQQ dance partner, this guy
frowned the entire song at being upstaged so
are these guys?' he thought
Then I started to think about
his situation. It is true that Social Dancing as a
part of American life been
in serious decline. The Art of Formal Dance has
indeed become 'a Lost Art' for the majority of our
We are the lucky ones. We are at the crest of
the wave. As I write this story, Ballroom
Dancing is trying very hard to make its way back to
regain its former popularity in America. I
hope it succeeds because we could all use a little
more glamour in our lives.
But we are not dependent on the world-wide success
of Ballroom Dancing. Rhapsody, our 'home away
from home' cruise ship, has marvelous dance floors.
Now that SSQQ has taken four trips aboard the ship,
each time we return, they get more comfortable with
our antics and more cooperative with our requests to
use their floors as much as we wish.
Subject: Dancing aboard the Rhapsody
played cards with several folks during the
cruise and also met quite a few people during
the Art auctions. When we mentioned that we were
with a dancing group the majority seemed
They said they had noticed us and thought we
were wonderful. They asked
so many questions!
Several single ladies said that they love to
dance and that they wish they could find someone
to dance with during the cruise.
They begged me to help them
crash our next class although I think it was as
much as to meet our men as it was to learn more
Nevertheless I think offering some social
dance classes aboard the ship
for all the passengers - not just us -
and the opportunity to dance afterwards or in
the evenings would be a phenomenal idea.
I guarantee you and the
Captain that it would get a great
you, so much, for the wonderful cruise."
Stella Moore, 2004
One of these
days we will reach critical mass and perhaps the
Rhapsody will actually ask us to participate more
frequently than our current 'once a year' trip.
But every pretty girl knows it is more effective if
she lets the guy do the asking. We shall see."
"Can you summarize the
effect of the SSQQ Cruises on SSQQ?"
"Over all the many years of the SSQQ
Social Program that has led to so many marriages and
relationships, I have never seen another activity that enhances
my studio better than our cruises. The effect on SSQQ has
been pure joy.
SSQQ is all about Social Dancing... dancing with members of
a Group. A cruise turns out to be one of the finest
'group activities' known to mankind. For OUR GROUP, a
cruise is better than a ski trip and it is better than
flying to some destination vacation by plane. For us, a
cruise is perfect.
I cannot imagine an activity that rewards our group more
than a Cruise. It is almost like 'Senior Prom' each
year for a job well done.
People learn to dance for a variety of reasons - as an art
form, as a way to express oneself to music, as a way to get
attention, as a way to socialize in group settings, as a way
to exercise, and as a way to meet people.
A cruise trip allows a man and a woman the chance to be use
dance for every single one of those reasons.
But 'Dance' is just the start to any number of reasons why
our SSQQ community is so drawn to the cruise experience.
One of the unique aspects to our cruises is that
'Singles' and 'Doubles' both appreciate the cruises.
Singles can chase romance while Doubles can enhance
'Marriage is the Death of Dance' may be a problem ashore
with busy careers and kids, but once a married couple is on
board, it gives them a wonderful chance to reconnect with
many of their friends they knew back when they were single.
Suddenly they are thrilled to be part of the gang again.
Plus they begin to see how much they miss their dancing!
What is odd about the trip is the lines that are often drawn
between Singles and Couples start to disappear on a cruise
trip. I have never seen more cohesive groups than our
dancers vacationing together on a cruise.
Sharing the cruise together actually serves to bond
the Singles and the Doubles into one group.
For starters, when it comes to 'travel' problems, it is one
for and all for one. People offer to help with
transportation, with luggage, with snafus, you name it.
What a wonderful advantage it is to travel with a group!
The vacation puts so many people together in
different situations like the morning dance lessons,
the dinners, the Cocktail parties, and the Captain's
Reception or Crown and Anchor Reception that the
distinctions between couples and singles start to
blur. We become one big happy family at
sea and that positive energy carries over onto
Then there is the funny crossover effect.
People who meet at sea often cross over in the
middle of the trip from the Singles team to the
Doubles team. They are still close enough to
their single friends to thoroughly enjoy the
shenanigans of the Singles while enjoying an
increasing bond with the couples on the trip.
Like I said, the lines begin to blur.
Another positive aspect is the amazing number of
people who sign up for repeat trips. If there
is one thing the Doubles and the Singles completely
agree on, it is that going as a group is a lot more
fun than taking a cruise alone or even as a couple.
Our group activities are so much fun that everyone
appreciates a crowd. And in the classic 'have
your cake and eat it too', if a particular cruise
activity sounds like fun, you can always split off
from the group to go explore. But if the activity is
a dud, you always have our group to come back to.
Our people have the best of two worlds - SSQQ
activities and cruise activities. If you are
bored, it means you aren't trying very hard.
Single women in particular are very grateful for our
cruises. They say to me constantly how safe they
feel traveling as part of a large group. There
are always men around to protect them from a creep.
The best example of 'safety in numbers' was our 2004 Mardi
Gras Trip. Several women said they had always
wanted to go to Mardi Gras, but never felt safe enough.
Knowing they would be with our group gave them exactly the
security they needed to give this bizarre event a try.
Now they knew they would have people to keep an eye on them in a rough place like the
Mardi Gras. Nor were the single women alone.
Everyone in our group appreciated the fact they were one holler from having
people come to their rescue or support in a bind.
We carry strength and clout in numbers, no question
about it, and we often parlay this strength into
benefits no one would ever receive traveling as
On a cruise, no one in our group will ever lack for a friend.
No matter what they do on board or off shore, our group is
so large they will always find company if they look hard
Even better, after
the cruise is over, each person will take a hundred
new friends back to Houston with them. They are part of a
'community' now. From that point on, no matter what SSQQ activity
they participate in, there will ALWAYS be at least
one fellow cruiser hanging around. Even
better, as you remember from how people in the Tom Easley
era bonded so closely, you may have SSQQ friends for life.
These people have a shared experience that will
always bind them when they are back on land.
They will see a fellow member of last year's cruise
trip and go over to say hello. After all, they
may have sat with the person at dinner on several
occasions or been in a snorkel dive together or gone
on the submarine tour with them.
Because we know each other on land,
because we know each other through previous adventures at
sea, because we have veteran cruisers on every trip, and
because our numbers are huge, we cavort and carry on like we
own the ship.
Even when we scare the crew to death by stuffing twenty-five
people into a hot tub meant for six or seven people, they
stay as far away from us as possible! Who wants
to mess with a group as nuts as we are?"
"How has the Love Boat Era affected the
"Now that is an interesting question,
Gertrude. The current SSQQ notables are the people whose names and pictures
are part of the most recent cruises. As people go to
check out the stories and the pictures, each individual
member of the trip gains recognition.
Someone like George 'Mr. Handsome' Sargent walks through the
studio and people actually point him out. Even better,
if introduced, they will say, 'I know you! You're that
guy who always stirs up trouble on the cruise trip!'
The same thing happens to Gary 'Mr. Hat' Schweinle when he
comes to the studio. Or Don 'Don Juan' Schmidt, Abbie
'Abba Dabbo Do' Barbley and Robert 'Frisky Business'.
And goodness gracious, Phyllis Porter, the Center of
recognized wherever she goes inside or outside the studio.
Along with the ssqq staff, the cruise members are the new
ssqq celebrities. Some of these people are so
image-conscious they actually take their own camera with
them in case they cause trouble or get into trouble and need
their picture taken. Some of these 'Usual Suspects'
are so shameless that any publicity is good publicity.
One development that surprises me is these days there are
almost as many
'couples' in the In-Crowd as there are 'Singles'. Gary
and Betty Richardson, Jess and Pat Carnes, Gerald and
Virginia McEathron, Larry and Cathy Leising, Bob and Jan
Milz, Patty Harrison and Joe Lachner, CA and Cathy Riser are
couples that people recognize immediately.
The Love Boat Era has helped me solve my ancient dilemma. In
the old days, the studio did best when I was single.
Today with Marla's help, it looks like the studio is doing
just fine with me married. Together Marla and I
organize the cruises that give the studio its identity in
The cruises allow me to contribute in many ways. For
example, although my days of becoming one of the 'Usual
Suspects' is way behind me, I certainly don't mind writing
about our modern heroes.
Furthermore I don't have to shoulder all the load anymore. Because Marla is the travel agent for the cruises as well as
the Head Registrar at the studio, she has become just as important
studio as me. These days people rely on her leadership just as
much as they do me.
Our two cruise adventures each year make it pretty easy for
Marla and I to get to know everyone whether they are
married, coupled, or single.
It is very satisfying to be married and still see the social
side of the studio thrive.
"Why do you suppose the Cruise
Trips are so conducive to Romance?"
"There are several obvious reasons.
For starters, where else do you have an entire week of free
time to devote to Romance - chasing it, finding it, enjoying
it? Club Med comes to mind, but if you find it,
you probably have to leave it behind. On our cruise,
you can keep it forever if you want to.
Second, there are so many opportunities to meet people if
you are on one of our Rhapsody Trips. As the years go
by, our crowds are just going to grow and grow because the
word of our success will be passed throughout the Houston
And if you don't find the person you are looking for within
our group, then why not look outside? On the
2002 Trip, Marian Schoppe met her future husband on the trip
even though he was from outside the group. Since we
depart from Galveston, it wasn't much of a coincidence that
he lived in Houston. On the same trip, Robby Thompson
met his girl friend Lisa outside the group. Although
she was from San Antonio, they dated for quite a while until
business forced him to relocate to California.
It turns out when 'outsiders' see our people on the dance
floor, they are drawn to the energy of our group. The
dance floor becomes powerful 'Turf' and rewards all the
members of our group tremendous visibility. We are the
Rock Stars of the trip.
Best of all though, that SSQQ Slow
Dance magic is unbelievably potent at sea. Put an SSQQ couple in tux and
gown, strike up the orchestra, put them on the floor
with glamorous, sophisticated people in the
audience smiling with appreciation, then
watch our dancers put on a show to light up the place!
We are the stars of the evening. Our sheer
numbers put people in awe. Even the staff line
up to watch. What a thrill!
Or a simple evening in the Centrum with a
little three-piece orchestra playing 'Besame
Mucho' can become special... a couple can relax in each other's arms,
have a drink, get up and dance, go back and snuggle
together in a quiet corner, look out on the sea, get
up and dance some more, and chat with friends who stop
by. All the tension of fast-paced city life
start to melt away. People relax and start to open
to each other. It is pure magic.
Every stage of relationship can be touched by a
cruise. People can connect for the first time,
people can develop a relationship already in
progress, and people in established relationships
can regain touch with one another.
Yes, a cruise can be Cupid's Paradise indeed."
"If you retire, what about
the future of SSQQ?"
"I am very
curious what the future holds for SSQQ. If you
asked me today, I could not tell you where the
studio will be located in 2011 or who the owner will be.
Our lease at the Bissonnet location expires in the
middle of 2010. The current owners of the
location are the medical people who are building the
hospital next door. They have made it very
clear to me they think my space is more valuable
to them being carved up for doctor's offices than continuing
as a dance studio. So I am pessimistic that
SSQQ will call 4803 Bissonnet home after our lease
That means we will have to move. Let me be
frank. The thought of moving that floor, those
mirrors, that sound system, and all those Halloween
and Christmas decorations is not very appealing.
Plus who wants to sign a five or ten year lease
at age 60?
It is pretty obvious I am going to have to hand the
studio off to someone. Give it to my daughter
Sam? Maybe. Hire someone to run the
studio while Marla and I sail the Seven Seas?
Maybe. Take on a partner? Maybe.
Sell the studio and stick around as a consultant?
We have four complete years till the lease expires.
A lot can happen in four years. When the right
person comes along, I imagine it won't be too hard
to hand him or her the reins. After all, the
legacy of thirty years of hard work has built up a
lot of good will. Just the kids alone from all
these marriages should guarantee us a steady new
supply of customers!
In the meantime, I think I will end this article
with a preview of some of our upcoming cruise trips!!
As my friend Daryl Armstrong would say, 'Aloha!'
Thank you for reading.