Home Up Go Texan Day 1

The Toughest Dance Assignment of My Career

February, 2001
By Rick Archer

During the 2000-2001 School Year, my daughter Samantha was a 4th grader at Duchesne Academy here in Houston. Including Pre-K, this was her 6th year at Duchesne.

Her mother Judy and I both love this school. We have the highest regard for the education Sam has received. In fact, Sam loves her school so much she even looks forward to their summer program as well. She is practically a year-round kid at this “home away from home”.

Another thing I like about Duchesne is the warmth of the school. They have many events that allow time for fun as well as education. When they educate, the school is very serious, but they take having fun seriously too. Duchesne is a great school and I would recommend it to anyone with a smart daughter! 

Nevertheless, in February 2001, my daughter’s school handed me the most difficult teaching assignment of my dance career.  Here is the story.

The Phone Call

In January 2001, Sister Dunn, the Headmistress of Duchesne Academy, called me at home to ask me to develop a one-hour all-school dance program themed around “Go Texan Day”.

I was thrilled to be asked. For one thing, I was the perfect person to be asked.

To begin with, I have taught the social dance program to the 7th Grade students at Saint Johns, Kinkaid, Second Baptist, and River Oaks Baptist for the past 5 years. As a result, I doubt anyone in Houston is more experienced at teaching social dance to teenagers.

Second, last summer I taught a line dance workshop at Duchesne to high school students visiting from around the country. This workshop was very well received and the girls had a ball. So did I!!  I was pretty sure we could duplicate that success with the entire student body.

Finally, I was the right person to be asked because I very much wanted to contribute in some way to my daughter’s school.

Duchesne has done so many good things for her; I was definitely grateful for the opportunity to give back in a way I was perfectly suited for. I accepted the assignment without hesitation. 

One of the reasons I love Duchesne so much is the place has a “Heart”. For example, Sister Dunn carefully explained that the school is divided into “Families”. Each Family has a child from practically every grade plus faculty supervisors. There are 38 families consisting of 22 people each. 

Sister Dunn’s idea was to have the younger girls and the older girls dance together. The “Family” concept gave us the framework we needed for everyone to be able to dance together. I completely agreed. What a sweet idea!  

However, I knew from the start this event would be tricky to pull off. The idea was to involve the entire student body in dancing at once. 

The whole school would meet in the gym from 2-3 pm on Friday, February 23. This had never been done before. As they say, you can identify the “pioneers” on the trail easily enough. They are the ones with the arrows in their back. 


So it became my job to figure out how to involve the entire school in an hour of dancing. Was I Worried? You Bet!

The logistics seemed a nightmare. This had never been tried before. Would the gym be large enough for 600 students plus 150 staff to dance in? How were the students supposed to learn the dances?  No one was able to give me an answer.

Furthermore I knew it would be much too crowded to teach the girls in the gym on the day of the event. The learning had to take place ahead of time. And furthermore, how were we going to involve the Pre-K and Kindergarten kids who barely knew their right foot from their left?

My initial idea was to use the Upper School girls to carry the show. As you might gather, at Duchesne the High School girls are looked up to as Teen Celebrities. They are the “Big Kids”, full of confidence and almost ready to leave the nest for college. Dancing with a High School girl in the group would be a big deal, especially to the Lower School girls. I knew my own daughter very much wanted to dance with the High School girls. Her eyes grew big when I explained the idea of the event to her.

Developing my idea to use the High School girls to carry the day, I would first teach them very sophisticated line dances like the Tush Push and Boot Scoot Boogie. I was hoping they would enjoy learning these challenging dances. Then I planned to put the Upper School on the floor first to show off. I was hoping their leadership would inspire the whole school!

Then I was going to bring the Middle School (5th– 8th) down out of the bleachers to join the Upper School for easier line dances like the Four Corners and Slap Leather. I expected to use the confidence of the Upper School girls to encourage the Middle School girls to join them.

During Phase Two we would bring 13 of the 38 Families on the floor to dance the Cotton Eyed Joe, the San Antonio Stroll, and the Beer Barrel Polka. Then I would bring the next 13 Families, then the final 12. I hoped to save time by getting half the Families on the floor at once, but again I still didn’t know how many people would fit. There was a lot of mystery to keep track of!

Finally deep in my heart I hoped we could have an all-school Beer Barrel Polka for Phase Three. This clever group dance is simple, but powerful. Similar to a form of Square Dancing, I have seen the Beer Barrel Polka create a lot of smiles in my time. However I wouldn’t know if the gym could accommodate the whole school until I actually watched how the earlier part of the show developed.

This plan made sense. Now for the next problem: how were the girls supposed to know how to do these dances?  To learn all this material would be the equivalent of a two-hour crash course at my studio.

I decided the simplest thing to do was spend an entire day at the school a week before the event. I would visit with all the students during their PE class and train them in their specific dances. Afterwards I would let the PE teachers review the dance steps with their various PE classes each day for the following week. Everyone thought this made sense.


Click Here for Part Two of our Story: Teaching the Line Dances.

The Duchesne All-School Go Texan Day Story
Page One: Introduction Page Two: Preparation  Page Three: The Big Day
Adventures of a Dance Teacher Home Page


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