One - The Ritz Dance Disaster
Story written by Rick Archer
First Published: January 2001
Last update: February 2010
ever reflect back on your life and ask yourself, "What was
the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me?"
I know my own answer to that question. It happened
in June 1978.
The single most embarrassing moment of my life
took place at a long lost Disco here in
Houston known as The Ritz . I have never
been so humiliated in all my life as I was
Let us return to those glorious days of yesteryear in the
heyday of the Disco Era. Saturday Night Fever had debuted in
November 1977. In just a few short months, Disco
Fever had exploded like a supernova. Disco was Hot
Houston was no exception. Disco
Fever was burning hot throughout the city.
my favorite hangout, had been Houston's
most popular Disco in
the early months of 1978.
However, pretty soon they would be getting some competition. Entrepreneurs had taken note of the Disco frenzy and decided the
time was right to open more dance clubs. Several more
clubs opened throughout 1978, the heyday of Dance Fever.
The hottest Disco of all was the brand new
Ritz. Located on Westheimer in Highland Village a mile
east of the Galleria, The
Ritz featured the finest lighting technology seen to date in Houston. Someone had spent a
small fortune to create the largest
dance floor, the best sound system, and the most elaborate
lighting system Houston had ever seen.
The Ritz was now the place to be. Many of
Houston's best dancers had deserted my beloved Pistachio Club to become regulars at the
fabulous Ritz. Of course I had visited the Ritz to check it out.
I didn't like it at all. The place was almost as large as
a warehouse. It was so vast and dark that I felt lost in there.
Although I thought the club had a cold, sterile feel to it, I kept my
thoughts to myself. I still greatly preferred the cozy confines of the
Nevertheless I couldn't help but be impressed by the incredible lighting system in
the place. Those fancy lights
created all sorts of dazzling special effects. One
moment the dance floor at the Ritz would be brighter than the Sun, the
next moment the Disco floor would be plunged into brief but total darkness.
Once the darkness had taken effect, seconds
later white lightning bolts created by strobes would flash across the
ceiling. It was a pretty eerie effect.
Those lights were amazing!
Saturday Night Fever Hits Town
As a bit of
background information, I had inadvertently stumbled into a job as
a Disco Dance Teacher back in
October 1977. I began taking classes at Stevens of
Hollywood to learn more about partner dancing, something I knew
nothing about. However I started my class a couple weeks late.
I was worried about catching up.
The teacher, Lance Stevens, assigned a volunteer to dance
specifically with me to help me catch up. Dorothy Piazzos,
my dance angel, was very nice to me. It is a good thing
she was patient because I was really nervous.
In fact, I was so nervous I almost poked my thumb through her hand.
Dorothy patiently pointed out the nerve damage and recommended a
lighter touch. I apologized profusely and told her not to
hesitate to tell me if I did it again. 30 seconds later
she shook her hand again and nodded. I sighed deeply. Yes, I
was pretty nervous.
After I finally relaxed, Dorothy was surprised to notice
that I seemed to pick the steps up a lot quicker than most guys.
She complimented me. Responding to her kind words, I mentioned the footwork
was familiar to me since I taught
a Disco line dance class somewhere else. Dorothy raised an eyebrow.
It turned out my teacher was also the owner. By chance,
Mr. Stevens needed a disco
teacher because his instructor had quit. Mr. Stevens hated Disco music
and Dorothy knew that. She mentioned what I had told her
to Mr. Stevens. He came over to check me out. I had
been teaching line dances elsewhere for four months. It
was really just a
hobby. I had been taking
Disco line dance classes steadily for the past four years.
I knew every dance in the book. Bus Stop, LA Freeway,
Electric Slide, the Freeze, Jungle Boogaloo, Four Corners, you
Mr. Stevens didn't
seem very impressed by me, but he was more than happy to find
someone who would teach the class for him. Disco was no
big deal in his book. Dorothy was right; he hated the
music and he didn't want to be bothered.
Although I wasn't the most talented dancer
in the world, at least I
was qualified for the job. For the next four weeks, I came
to Stevens of Hollywood one night a week to
teach a Disco Line Dance class. I had 15
students. It was hardly an auspicious
start, but as they say, the mightiest oak starts out as a small acorn.
What neither Mr. Stevens nor I ever expected of course was that
just around the corner, a Tidal Wave known as Saturday Night Fever
was headed our way. My life was about to change
Saturday Night Fever hit Houston one
month after I started my job. Think about the sharp timing.
I started my class in October and one month later the movie arrived in Houston. No one earth knew a thing about the movie. I didn't
even know it had been filmed. The first time I heard about
it was the day it opened in Houston. The Houston Post had
a small Friday review about this new movie. As I read the
plotline, I was immediately curious. Disco was my first love
and here was a movie about the dancing. Wow! Better
check it out! I took
off work a little early to see the movie at 4 pm that same day.
was practically the only person in the theater. There could not
have been more than 10 people in there. That didn't
keep me from loving every single minute of the movie. I
left the theater thinking the movie was a lot better than I
expected it to be. That said, I certainly never suspected the world was
about to go nuts.
Nor did I expect this movie would change the course of my life.
But it did. I was in the right place at the right time.
It only took 4 months to go from teaching one class one
night a week to teaching 16 classes stretched over all seven
days. This was suddenly a full-time job in its own right.
Soon after the movie's release, hundreds of
students began to bombard Stevens of Hollywood for lessons. The
phone would not stop ringing. Mr. Stevens bitched the whole time. Like I said, Mr. Stevens couldn't
stand Disco. That didn't keep him from cashing the checks.
He had a better idea. Rather than teach the classes himself, he kept
scheduling more classes for me. Not only was I having fun, I
was ambitious. I turned those Beginner classes
into Intermediate classes. The Intermediate classes spawned
Advanced classes. As word of mouth about my classes spread, more Beginner classes were starting
almost weekly... all
this for a young man who knew nothing more than a bunch of Line Dances.
As you might gather, the sensation caused by Saturday Night Fever created a horrible
'Peter Principle' situation for me. The Peter
Principle holds that people who do a good job keep getting promoted.
Then one day
they find themselves promoted one level above their competence. This business axiom certainly held true for me, but with one
exception. I wasn't promoted one level above my
competence, I was pushed SEVERAL LEVELS past my level of competence.
I was overwhelmed,
but I was game. It helped that I had no idea what I was
getting myself into. Ignorance was bliss. I liked
the music and I liked the dancing. I did everything I
could to learn more line dances plus I started teaching
freestyle, i.e. line dance moves without structure. It got
close a few times, but I always managed to stay one step ahead
of the students I was teaching.
My Achilles Heel was partner dancing.
Partner dancing had been more or less non-existent on the
American Dance Scene since the Fifties. The Sixties had
never-ending series of fad dances like the Twist, Cool
Jerk, Frug, Monkey, Hitchhike, Pony, Mashed Potato, Watusi and more.
These goofy dances kept teenagers busy throughout the
Sixties. The Seventies had seen the introduction of Disco
Line Dances, my specialty. Saturday
Night Fever changed all that. SNF brought
dancing with a passion.
Everyone was inspired to
learn how to partner dance like John Travolta! My students
begged me to start teaching partner dancing.
The problem was, I barely knew any partner dancing! I had
taken some Whip lessons, but the Texas Whip certainly didn't look anything
like the fast, fluid partner dancing seen in SNF.
One day Mr. Stevens showed me a simple dance based on East Coast Swing
footwork. It used even-tempo Swing footwork. In
other words, one step per beat.
I knew this wasn't the
dance in the movie. This 4-beat dance moved too slow. On my own, I developed something
similar to Aggie Jitterbug that shortened the basic pattern
down to 3 beats. Calling it the New Yorker, my modest
invention worked for a while, but I was never satisfied.
What I really wanted to do was to learn the Latin Hustle!
could see the advanced dancers in the clubs were using a system
of footwork that was
far more sophisticated than this goofy thing I had concocted. Known as the Latin
Hustle, or Hustle for short, this beautiful dance with its syncopated timing was far
too difficult for me to pick up just by watching. I had no
idea what they were doing out there, but I really wished
I could learn how to dance it. I told Mr. Stevens about the
Hustle, but either he didn't know
was talking about or he didn't care. I didn't know where
else to learn the Hustle, so I stayed in the dark and cursed my
The demand to learn partner dancing was intense. It was
driving me crazy to feel so ignorant! Although I was teaching
partner dancing in my classes, I was barely one step ahead of my
own advanced students. I kept making up new moves based on what I
out on the dance floor during my nightly scouting trips. I was in constant fear that one day my students would realize I
didn't know any more than they did. More often than not, I would learn a pattern on Monday to teach my
advanced students on Tuesday... I was always winging it.
This practice isn't quite as unheard of as you think.
The secret of my success could be
indelicately described as "Fake it till you Make it". Every career
has moments where an opportunity arises before you are completely ready.
You can either sit back and wait for a safer chance to come along or you
can hit the hole and go. I went for every opportunity, but I was
taking some very big chances in the process.
Sometimes when you play
Fake It Till You Make It,
you get burned.
The Invitation to Perform at the
The Ritz opened,
in May 1978 Mr. Stevens
received an invitation to perform there. Mr.
his wife Cliann were celebrated Whip dancers and well-worthy of the
honor. The Texas Whip wasn't actually much of a Disco dance.
This dance was suited to slow, sensual rhythm and blues music with a
strong downbeat. The Whip vaguely resembled another dance known as
West Coast Swing that several people were trying to use in the clubs,
but I thought the West Cast Swing looked stupid to Disco music.
The fluid Latin Hustle was the dance of choice for most people including
me (I just wish I knew how to dance it!)
Nevertheless, Mr. Stevens was so good at the Whip that I was sure people
would enjoy watching him perform.
To my utter and total dismay, Mr. Stevens informed me
I would be performing too.
He didn't ask, mind you, he told me I would be
performing. He added that the performance would be
heavily promoted and that he expected the Who's Who of the Houston Dance
Community to be there. He added that he expected me to take this performance
seriously and that I better not disappoint him.
Does that sound cold? You betcha. Mr. Stevens was never
the warmest of men. In addition, his disdain for my lack of
dancing ability had been obvious for some time. But if he knew I
was such a weak dancer, why did he insist that I perform?
I never quite understood why he bullied me into doing something
I was not ready for. Yes, I spoke
up. I said I wasn't
ready, but my protests fell
on deaf ears.
Mr. Stevens asked me if I
taught partner dancing. I nodded yes. He said if I
was going to talk it, I better learn to walk it too. If I
wanted to work here as a dance instructor, I better get used to performing. It
came with the territory.
to get a
dance partner and work up a routine to precede his. In other words, I
would be his opening act.
I had two weeks to prepare.
I wasn't stupid. I
knew I was in big
trouble. I knew my own
dancing didn't remotely compare to the best dancers I watched in
the clubs on a regular basis. I knew I was in way over my head.
However I didn't see that I had much choice in the matter.
At the time I felt like keeping my job depended on it.
I can tell you from this experience, using a
job as leverage is scary. I
have little respect for people who abuse their power
like Stevens did, but there is no
question he used a very powerful form of persuasion. I
ended up doing something I didn't want to do.
Stevens had to know he was throwing me to the wolves. But
best guess is that he was being paid and he been told he needed another couple
to fill the bill. No other explanation makes sense unless you
accept the darker thought that he deliberately set me up.
Night Fever had come out of nowhere to create a huge
demand for Disco classes. Although I never saw this chance coming
ahead of time,
once I saw the Wave, I grabbed my surfboard and paddled just as hard as I could
to find the pipeline. I made
a conscious decision to accept every new opportunity that came along and
see where this magic carpet ride would take me. Up till now, my
gamble to accept every new opportunity had worked like a charm.
I had not been foolish to accept
the risks. As long as I was allowed to evolve at
a gradual pace, I was okay. After all, I knew more about what I was teaching
than 98% of my students. The other 2% seemed to like me
enough not to call me on my act.
However the Ritz was too big
a leap for me, too much of a stretch. This was one challenge that I definitely wasn't
ready for, especially when you factor in the limited time. When the Ritz Invitation came along, I had been
teaching for six months. My skills at partner
dancing were much too rudimentary. At this point I was still
mostly teaching line dances and Disco
Freestyle. Only recently had I even begun to learn how to partner
dance, much less teach it. I knew from my frequent trips to the
Disco my partner dance skills didn't even begin to match up to the
good dancers that I admired so much. I really wasn't much better than the next guy at partner
dancing. The thought that my idols
would be watching me perform upset me no end. I had no business
passing myself off as someone in their league.
Furthermore I had
never performed at anything in my life.
Yet here I was committed to perform at the Ritz
with all the best dancers watching. I was terrified. I
was so worried I wanted to throw up.
What Mr. Stevens was asking me to do - PERFORM IN FRONT OF
HOUSTON'S BEST DANCERS - was way over my head. Making matters worse, I had
no one to turn to for help.
I did not know how
to lead! That was my weakness. Advanced Disco Dancing called for lightning-quick leads.
These leads were either acquired from lots of practice or they
could be learned from a teacher. However, good
leads can't be acquired overnight. They are honed through steady practice
over time till they become is known as 'muscle memory'. No
one can develop muscle memory overnight. It is against the law
This was not something
I could acquire in a period of two weeks. Mr. Stevens
surely knew this, but he didn't lift a finger to
help me. What little I knew was stuff I had
figured out on my own. What was I supposed to do?
Wake me up... This has to be a
nightmare! But it wasn't...
To tell you I was scared out of my wits would be a vast
understatement. I had only two weeks to prepare.
The finest dancers in Houston would be watching.
I was sick in my stomach. I was in terrible trouble. I was drowning.
I was certain this was going
to end badly. And there was no one out there to save me.
I asked a lady named Suzie Mathews to be my partner.
Suzie and her husband
Chick were Ballroom students of
Suzie was interested in Disco
dancing as well,
but her husband
could not have cared less. So Suzie signed up for my Disco classes
by herself. I quickly realized she was a good dancer. Once I
realized she didn't
have a partner, I naturally began to use her to help me demonstrate
patterns in my classes. Almost immediately Suzie became more of an assistant than an
actual student. Come to think of it, Suzie knew more about dancing than I
did at the time.
Suzie's good looks and dancing ability made her a good choice to be my partner.
I soon discovered she had no
more experience at performing
than I did. Nor did she
have a clue how to teach me to lead.
Now we were both in over our heads!
God bless her, Suzie was willing to
stay the course. She should have run when she had the chance.
Instead she stuck around to suffer. Suzie was just as worried as I was. In fact, I
decided she was a worrier by nature. Suzie was always in a
semi-state of panic over our impending doom.
As we tried to prepare,
Suzie could never relax and completely concentrate because her fears
kept nagging at her. I felt like I was the one who needed the encouragement,
but she needed it more than I did! Weren't we a pair?
It was the
blind leading the blind, an ominous phrase that would soon come to have a
much more serious connotation.
Making things tougher, scheduling time to
practice wasn't easy. I had a full-time job during
the day. Using every small moment to practice,
slowly but surely Suzie and I
rehearsed various patterns. We didn't
have any help, so it wasn't easy. I was learning stuff on
the fly. Finally we decided on a
routine that was completely choreographed.
Since I didn't know how to lead, we had to memorize
the order of everything we were going to do.
What other choice did we have?
Considering how little experience
we had, it was a good routine. I
had one skill - I had discovered I was especially good at
I could throw girls in the air without a problem, I just
couldn't lead partner dancing with them.
So we planned to go thin on
the partner dancing and thick on the lifts, drops, and flips.
Dance Acrobatics are so entertaining that our lack of dance
background could actually be disguised. I was very
encouraged by this realization. I taped a bunch of
Dance Fever TV shows and came up with some good new
acrobatic moves to try.
However, we weren't out of the woods yet. Not by a
long shot. The main negative was that I wasn't able to
create the acrobatics on my own. I couldn't lead.
The lady had to memorize her part. She had know when to
jump into my arms and when not to. Anyone who knows dancing
will tell you that women hate being expected to dance memorized
patterns. Tough. We had no other choice.
Suzie and I had invested almost all of our two weeks
racking our brains for material and practicing the patterns all by
themselves. The performance was two days away and we
didn't have a routine yet, just lots of separate parts. Now it was time to integrate all the separate patterns
into a dance routine. That's when we made a painful discovery
- neither of us could remember the damn pattern!
As an unfortunate byproduct of our inexperience, neither of us
had realized how much time it would take to memorize the routine.
We had allocated too much time for development. This made
us even more nervous because we could see we were quickly
running out of time. We had two days left to get it
Two days. We had been
nervous before, but now we were sweating bricks. Nausea was a
full-time guest in my stomach.
Practicing every spare second we could find, we were now able
to remember the pattern. Sort of. That was the good news. The bad
news was that neither of us could remember the entire pattern at the same time.
We took turns screwing things up.
Then I made another bad discovery - I couldn't figure how to restart in the
middle of the pattern! Our grasp of the routine was so
flimsy that we could only perform it by starting from the top again. This worried me a lot because I
was certain something was going to go wrong... a fairly easy prediction
since it had never gone right once!
Since I didn't know how to lead or create a
move, I had to depend on
get into each acrobatics
I didn't know how to put her there myself.
We would dance a couple patterns, then Suzie was supposed to get into position.
I would grab her and throw her
up in the air for a while, put her back on
the floor, then let her get into position to start the next move.
I kept thinking to myself,
What were we going to do if we messed up... ask the deejay to start the
Finally I couldn't take the
pressure any more. The night before the performance I tried desperately to back out.
No luck. Mr. Stevens
reminded me I had made a commitment.
That night I was sick with worry.
I couldn't sleep. How did I ever let myself get
into this fix? They shoot horses, don't they?
Shoot me now. Put me out of my misery.
The next day was the day of the performance. It was a weekday.
I snuck out of the office to meet Suzie for more practice.
Throughout the afternoon we had yet to do the routine right
even a single time.
One of us would screw up and we would both freeze.
Then we had trouble deciding
how to get it going again from the middle of the pattern. We would
give up and have to start the song over again.
The entire time both of us carried that awful panicked feeling inside.
One time Suzie broke down and cried. We could both feel the impending doom.
However today wasn't quite as hopeless as it had been yesterday. We were getting closer. We were messing up later in the
routine than we had before. Isn't that a sign of progress when it
takes longer to screw up? Grasping for any sign of progress, at least I had this small
encouragement. We hugged and parted, planning to meet later at the Ritz
half an hour before the performance and try again.
Mind you, as I said goodbye,
there was one dominating fact at the front of my mind. There had
not been one
single time Suzie and I had ever performed the routine from start to
finish without a mistake. Not once. What possible
chance did we have to make this work? This was hopeless. We
were surely doomed.
The Night of the Performance
at the Ritz
The fateful night arrived.
Suzie and I met at the Ritz early
for our last ditch effort. We
went over to a dark corner
of the room and practiced furiously.
That afternoon the patterns had
been close to working. All we needed
was more time. Just give us a little
more time! We practiced for a solid
hour. People would come over to watch and we would tell
them to leave us alone so we could concentrate.
The time was getting close. Then it
happened. Five short minutes before we
were scheduled to perform,
like a miracle, Suzie and I did
the routine from start to finish without a
for the very first time! Then like Magic we
did it right a second time! Two
times in a row!
There wasn't time for a third try... it was just seconds before game time.
Still, I was very
encouraged. It was clear to me that we
now had a fighting chance of success.
Against all the odds, maybe we could
pull this thing off after all.
We heard our names called.
Time to face the firing squad. Nervous beyond any
kind of anxiety I
have ever felt before
in my life, with my heart beating
rapidly, I walked with Suzie
out onto the enormous dance floor.
There we stood
all alone in the
middle of a gigantic dance floor with the brilliant
spotlights beaming down on us. The
glare was so intense it felt like daylight. The Ritz was
packed. As predicted, there were easily 400 people present that night to
witness my performance. Four hundred people. I was
so sick with worry. The pressure on me was intense.
Once we were out on
the floor, I looked for their faces and was surprised that I
couldn't see them.
I was disconcerted to realize they could see me, but I couldn't
see them! Since I had never been on stage before, I didn't
realize the crowd would be so difficult to spot.
The Ritz had a lowered ceiling in the seating area and a raised
ceiling on the dance floor. The lighting in the
seating area was kept dark. Meanwhile the powerful lights made it so
bright out there on the floor that there was only
400 people surrounded us from a darkened perimeter.
It was so weird that we could not even see the
audience. Then I looked again and saw something white. That is when I
realized that although I could not see anyone's face,
I could see their eyes
peering at us from the darkened perimeter!
It was spooky being alone in the middle of the floor with
nothing to see except for the white eyes
of the people in front.
I felt like an animal in the jungle about to be attacked. I felt
to throw up. How on earth did I
get myself into this fix? My gut
How was I supposed to smile? How would I ever be able to perform with this kind of anxiety?
Suzie and I were introduced.
The time had come.
A phrase from my Eight Grade Latin class crossed my mind.
Morituri Te Salutamus... We who are about to die salute you.
That's what the Roman Gladiators would say as they entered the arena.
The way I felt, it seemed fitting. Death by Disco. That
would be my epitaph.
The music began. To
our surprise and great relief, our routine began
After our first tough move came off without a hitch,
Suzie smiled at me. I smiled back. Suzie and I were gaining confidence.
It felt like our last minute success off-stage had carried over onto the
dance floor. We were right on the verge of enjoying ourselves. We could feel the invisible crowd start to warm
up to us. Encouraged, we began to
smile for the audience and they responded back. From the darkness, they began to clap and cheer!
was flush with excitement. Maybe this will work
any warning the lights
were turned off!
Without warning, the Deejay had switched to the dark strobe
lighting. What was he thinking? The sudden change in lighting literally left
us blind. We had been performing in brilliant light and
our pupils were dilated. Although there was some light
from the dark strobes, it did us no good at all. Until our eyes
adjusted, we were both totally blind.
This disaster happened at a moment where Suzie and I
were dancing apart.
We had no connection and I had no idea where she was.
I literally could not see her because
I was thrown into total darkness.
to grope for her. What a time to be playing
Blind Man's Bluff!
While I searched for Suzie, I also screamed
at the DJ to turn the lights back on. His
had left us completely blind.
What kind of idiot turns the lights out while someone is
performing? The bright spotlights had
been in our eyes, but now it was totally dark.
Making things worse, the audience could see everything that was
going on. After all, they had been shrouded in darkness
the whole time. The transition to the strobes made no difference to their
eyes. As a result, they could see me clearly as I
groped around frantically for my dance partner.
I could hear them start to laugh and giggle as I kept lunging around
furiously on the dance floor trying to locate my missing
partner. I was numb with anger and frustration!
Why couldn't I find my partner? Losing my cool, I cursed
out bitterly, using the F word. I was
groping everywhere in the dark for Suzie
without any success! I kept screaming, "Turn on the lights! Turn
on the lights!"
This all took place in about 5 or
Too bad I asked for the lights to be turned on again because now my eyes had adjusted to the strobes.
I didn't realize my eyes would adjust, but
6 seconds had been enough. The strobes supplied
just enough light for me to discover Suzie was standing behind me.
Now I could see just
That didn't last long. Now I got my second blow. Reacting to the urgency in my voice,
DJ flipped the lights back on at
the exact moment I finally located Suzie. Now I
was suddenly blind again! Back to groping for my partner. What a comedy.
The crowd groaned audibly. Here we go
again. They had seen me lose my partner in the darkness.
They had seen me flailing for her without luck. They
had heard me scream at the deejay and loudly curse my bad luck. Now every person in the room was able
to see me
lose her again for yet a second time!
Now they would
witness the final act and it wasn't pretty.
Once my eyes adjusted for the second time, I found
Suzie again. I still had my wits about
me, but my partner had gone rigid with fear.
was glassy-eyed and terrified. Suzie looked like someone
who has been in a serious car accident and is wandering
around trying to make sense of it all.
Suzie was practically catatonic.
Any memory of
our routine was long gone.
Since I didn't know how to lead,
I didn't have any way to recreate the
routine. We were only one-third into our performance and
my partner had gone psycho. All I could do now was
grab Suzie and throw
She was in shock. What else could
Maybe I should have
just walked off the floor. They say the show must go on,
but this was ridiculous. Stupid me, I stayed out there.
Although I was
badly shaken, I
could still remember what patterns came next.
I cursed again, this time at my helplessness to rescue the
situation. I did not have the
ability to carry out the routine alone. We
finished the act only because I literally
manhandled this poor hapless woman for two
more painfully long minutes. A wooden dance dummy would
have actually done just as well.
Lucy and Ricky Comedy Hour
As a comedic
dance act, we would have been
great. Our problems were something out of an 'I Love Lucy'
episode to be sure. Imagine the kind of fun Lucille Ball
could have had with this story! In Lucy's world, anything
that can go wrong usually does go wrong. And of course we
laugh ourselves silly in the process at her travails. Too
bad we didn't know how to play our own mishap for laughs.
Perhaps if we had some prior experience, we could have made
something of the situation. Seasoned performers might have
waved to the crowd, acknowledged the problem, asked the crowd
for a second chance, and then turned to the DJ to ask
him to start the music again. After all, everyone
knew the lighting problem had caused our silly groping in the
dark. Of course we deserved a second chance.
But we weren't
seasoned performers, now were we? We were rookies who had
totally bombed out in our first performance. We panicked
and fell to pieces.
The crowd turned cold. These people were
expecting a professional
Once they saw how amateurish we were, they were turned off.
Fortunately they were polite in their scorn. There were some snickers, but
mercifully no one booed us.
I think most people realized we were
the victims of the deejay's stupid mistake and cut us some
slack. After all, we had looked pretty good till the
lights went out.
After our two very
public minutes of hell, Suzie and I were sick
with shame. As we crawled off the floor in
ruins, I remember the quiet crowd
separating to let us pass as if we had leprosy. Their
faces indicated that we were pathetic. We could see the frowns
and the averted glances as we passed. No
one said a single word to us. We were dead men walking. It was a grim
Mr. Stevens and his wife
Cliann passed us on their way out to floor.
Her face was taut and uncaring. She
looked rigidly straight ahead. His face was cold as ice.
Mr. Stevens refused to look at me as well. I assumed he was
ashamed of me. They just walked right
past us as if we didn't
exist. God forbid anyone should think he was associated with me.
Oddly enough, he never said another word to me about it. I might
add he never asked me to perform again either.
Fortunately I had not told a soul at the dance studio about this
performance. There was no one there to support,
but that was okay by me. This meant there was no one there to witness our
debacle who knew us. Even Suzie's husband Chick had stayed away. It was
just Suzie and me against the cold cruel world as we made our way
towards the recesses of the building.
With my arm around Suzie's shoulders, I
took her as far from the dance floor as I could. There in
the remote corner of the club
where we had practiced earlier, Suzie
came back to life. She started to cry uncontrollably.
I didn't cry, but I sure wanted
to. We were so ashamed of ourselves.
And disappointed too. We were right on the edge of pulling
this off only to have someone else's stupid mistake ruin it for
Suzie didn't say a word. She just cried. No one else came
near us. We had leprosy, remember?
As I sat there trying to comfort her, I struggled to comprehend what had gone wrong.
I suppose the Deejay in the booth above us
had sensed that our dancing had gotten the crowd excited.
As a way to enhance our performance, he had decided to switch from the
powerful spotlight to the amazing (BUT VERY DARK) strobe light system.
I imagine he
was new to this
performing business himself. He probably had no idea
how much trouble he would
cause for us by switching the lighting. He was learning
things the hard way just like we were.
experienced performers could have laughed it off and
picked up the pieces, but certainly not us.
shaky to begin with. Once the whole world
staggering around like drunken fools, our poise was shattered.
little confidence we had was completely shattered by the DJ's
It was a new club and he had made a
rookie mistake. But that mistake was more than enough to shoot us down. We never
had a chance after that. Once Suzie locked
up, there was no hope for recovery.
Our shaky house of cards came tumbling down.
My worst fear had
come to pass. The 400 best dancers in the city all got to watch me make a
complete fool of
myself. Que cera, cera. What will be, will
Little did I know it at the time, but this ugly moment foreshadowed
an astonishing string of dance performance disappointments.
Some of the incidents were silly, some were frightening, but
they all were
deeply painful to me.
I do not handle embarrassment well.
Too bad. I was about to get plenty of practice at it.
The Ritz Performance was only the start of my Dance
Like the tales of
Brave Ulysses, my Odyssey had just begun.