DID RICK REALLY SAY WHAT MARIO SAYS HE DID?
Written by Rick Archer
twenty years ago today that Sergeant Pepper taught
the band to play.
The time frame 'twenty years'
is significant because it also marks
the time that has passed since my greatest single business defeat.
1987 was the
year that the top dance
students at SSQQ slowly but surely
began to dump my studio to begin
taking Whip lessons over at
Southwest Whip Club. 30 SSQQ students
from my Martian Whip class decided
to switch to the class of
Mario Robau, the Houston City Whip
champion and Texas State Dance
I was a very good
dancer, but Mario was better.
I was a very good teacher, but Mario
Behind my back, the word spread that
I had taken my students about as far
as I could. Now it was time
for them to seek their higher
destiny in the world of dance.
I watched helplessly as one by one
they began to drift away.
What made this exodus particularly
painful for me was that I was not
only losing my best students to
another teacher, I was also losing
my best friends in the world.
taken a pretty bizarre set of circumstances to come
to this point. After my divorce in 1986, I
stumbled upon an unusual self-therapy program
whereby I went Whip dancing every night of the week
201 Nights in a
Since I had to have someone to dance with, I
encouraged my students to come along with
Every night a group of us went out dancing.
Different people joined us every night, but
I was there EVERY
Over the course of 1986 and the following
year, the entire group of us became a
tight-knit group indeed.
wonderful friends and we became wonderful
also slightly insane. This picture alone
should prove that much.
As they say, Practice makes Perfect. Because I
practiced the most, I will immodestly claim I was
the best Whip dancer of the bunch. However
there were a lot of people who weren't far behind
me. Thanks to all that practice, this group of
dancers had become talented dancers in their own
The elite dancers were Tom Easley, Mike Fagan, Ted
Jones, Carol Gafford, Diane Head, and Margie Saibara.
These six people were my lieutenants so to speak.
They were leaders of the Whip Group in their own right.
People looked up to them just as much as they did
As we frequently went out dancing as a group, it was just a matter of time
until these elite dancers met Mario Robau in one of
the night clubs. Mario was just beginning to
make a name for himself in 1986. They marveled
at his prodigious dancing ability.
Mario is like one of those kids who sits down at a
piano and starts to play immediately. Seeing
Mario dance, we would all gasp and wonder if this was
proof of reincarnation. Whatever the
supernatural explanations for his ability, Mario was
clearly gifted. Over the
course of the next year, Mario came into his own as
the finest dancer in the city and perhaps the state.
If he wasn't the best, he was definitely gaining on
One day in 1987 Mike and Tom approached me about going over
to Southwest Whip Club and taking classes from
Mario. Carol Gafford had been over there
scouting it out. Going over to Southwest would
mean another opportunity to dance Whip, their passion,
during the week.
Mike and Tom said they weren't going to go over there
without clearing it with me. I won't lie. I was
crushed inside. We were close friends.
Friends stick together. I thought to myself,
'Why do you have to leave me?' But I also understood.
As their teacher, I knew in my heart that they
wanted to improve as dancers and maybe enter dance contests.
They had that kind of talent. Besides, I taught social
dancing, not competition dancing. How would I
be able to face my conscience if I stood in their
So I gave them my blessings to go over to Southwest.
Ted, Carol, and Margie joined Tom and Mike in the
big adventure. The plan was for all of them to
keep one foot over at SSQQ and one foot over at
Southwest. Diane Head, who had just begun
to teach for me, decided not to go with them.
In addition, Sharon Crawford, my newest dance superstar,
also chose to
stay with me.
Soon the word was out - Rick's best dancers had gone
over to Mario!
Up till now there had been a
barrier. You were either Southwest or SSQQ.
But having Tom and Mike over there immediately
signaled that I wasn't going to kill anyone.
The herd instinct kicked in. Now a flood of my
second tier students decided they too were going to
go see what the 'enemy' was all about. I was
appalled. Although I had done nothing wrong,
my students began to desert me right and left.
Next the third tier of students left me too.
In all, I estimate at least 30 of my top dance
students made their way over to Southwest Whip.
It was definitely not a coordinated effort, but more
like little icebergs breaking off from the shelf and
floating over there one at a time.
In a way, maybe the Group was TOO close knit.
Once the leaders were over there, the rest assumed
it was the place to be. One for all and all
for one. Mario was getting the entire package. I was totally beside
myself with exasperation. I was their teacher,
damn it! I didn't want my students who I had
been training for months and years to pick up and
move on. But it was too late. The entire
group was gone. Poof. Here today,
A recent letter from one of my best friends, Bob Job, made a brief reference to the Exodus.
From: Robert Job
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 11:06 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: colorado state
Like a lot of the old crowd, Louise and I had
deserted SSQQ to go over to the Southwest Whip
Club and to the Space City Ski Club for social
activities in the late 1980s.
I was sick
with grief. This may have been 'business', but
how was that supposed to make me feel better?
The pain was intense. Not only was I losing the heart
of my studio, in a sense I was losing my best
friends to my biggest rival.
This was not something we could talk about. I
think when Tom-Mike-Carol-Ted-Margie saw the rest of
the group tagging along behind them, they were
mortified. This had been a private decision
that they cleared with me. They had nothing to
do with the pack of 25 people shadowing their
footsteps. But the damage was done. This
was just far too awkward to discuss openly.
One person actually did talk to me. One night I spoke with one of
the 'defectors', an attractive woman named Ailene.
She came up to me at the end of class to tell me she
had decided to begin classes at Southwest the
following week. Judging from her expression, she
may have felt a little
I stared at her. "Why, Ailene?"
I don't think Ailene appreciated being put on the
Embarrassed, Ailene mumbled,
"I don't have to explain it to you, but that's where all my friends are now."
That summed it up right there. None of this
had anything to do with me. It was just a
lousy twist of fate. The fickle fingers of
fate had snatched this Group from my tutelage.
Over a period of several months, I watched the ranks
diminish one by one. I was crushed.
(Note: I wrote extensively about this period of my
life once before in the article known as
Look for the section titled "Heartbreak Hotel".)
As far as Mario Robau was concerned, I didn't think
he had the slightest thing to do with this transfer
of loyalties. He didn't directly play any Pied
Piper role. He wasn't actively luring anyone
over there. Mario was simply the best dancer
in the city who served as a shining advertisement
for the glories of Southwest Whip. He was in the right place at the
I was bitter to be sure, but no one had done
anything wrong. These people had a right to do
what they were doing.
It wasn't anyone's 'fault'. There wasn't any
one person to blame. My value as a teacher had
not disappeared, but someone better had suddenly
appeared on the scene.
We all know this kind of scenario happens in
business occasionally. A new theater goes in
down the street and suddenly the neighborhood
abandons the previous favorite. Or a Mom
and Pop hardware store goes under when a Home Depot
shows up. Fortunately we are shielded from the
pain, but you know there must be people whose
livelihood is damaged or even ruined.
When you put it into that kind of perspective, I
should be grateful I still had my studio intact.
I had only lost 5% of the studio. It was the
most valuable part to be sure, but there was
definitely going to be another day for me.
All I could do was
shake my head and bite my tongue. No
point in alienating these people.
Someday they would be back. But for
now there wasn't a damn thing I could do
about it but accept my defeat and lick my
Call it a whim. Suddenly SSQQ wasn't the 'In Place' to be any more.
The dance studio of the month award goes to
Southwest Whip Club, voted the most popular new
place to take dance lessons. Ta ta, Rick, old buddy.
See you around.
So I was left behind.
Reeling as I was, I didn't see the next blow
coming either. It turned out this Exodus
had a second phase. I
became increasingly bitter when I discovered
there was no two-way street. Once they
switched their loyalties to Southwest, they
abandoned the social side of SSQQ
as well. Except for
maybe the Halloween Party, they were
completely gone. That discovery hurt
just as much as the original Exodus.
It was one thing to lose them as students,
but now people I had hung out with for one,
two, three years were gone from my life.
If I wanted to see them, I would have to go
visit them at Southwest. And that
wasn't going to happen.
The entire experience was about as
humiliating as having your dog decide to go
live with your next door neighbor. My
pride was ripped right out of my heart.
the problem at the time by going into a shell. Slowly but surely I disengaged from
this Group that had been my closest friends.
turned my energy into developing a new generation of
dancers. But from that time forward, I never
let myself get that close to my students again.
This experience had been much too painful to allow
From that point on, I kept a
distance from my students. I was their teacher, not their
friend. I refused to get involved in their
lives as I once had. I entered a new, lonelier phase of
my career. A lot of the joy had gone out of
this dancing stuff.
As I hinted before,
the news wasn't all bad. Believe it or
not, my studio was flourishing at the time.
Financially SSQQ did not suffer much at all
from the loss of its elite dancers.
Thanks to my mask, the new dancers at SSQQ
did not have the slightest clue what I was
going through. The 1988 SSQQ group of
dance students became fixtures at the
exciting Studebakers Club. They
Jitterbugged the Night Away to the great
music of the Fifties and Sixties. They
could not have cared less that the former
leaders of the studio were gone. The
new group was having a ball.
I was the only person who actually suffered.
You can't be a good teacher if you don't invest
yourself in your students. But I had made a
mistake - I had invested TOO MUCH in the Whip Group.
Practically my entire identity was wrapped
around these guys. I had gone dancing with them 201 Nights in a row,
the dance equivalent of a Great Adventure.
These people were not only my best dancers, they were my best friends
And now they were gone. Their loss was a tough pill to swallow.
I had learned a
terrible lesson the hard way - don't get too
close your students. They will all
leave you some day. But I wasn't going to cry in public
or make a fool of myself. I wasn't about to
let the world see my shame.
For a while I considered taking up competition
whip dancing and putting my own name in the spotlight.
But the time demands of running my enormous dance studio
were just too great. The studio had more than
doubled in size practically overnight. As I
thought about it, I realized I preferred to be a teacher, not a performer. I
could have learned to perform, but it wasn't in my
nature. Teaching was in my nature.
Plus there was something else. Shortly before
the Exodus, we had a Whip Party at the studio.
Someone suggested we have a dance contest. So
for the first and ONLY time in the history of SSQQ,
three couples competed against each other. Yes, one
couple won, but it was the faces of the 4 people
who lost that I watched. They were
crestfallen. In turn, I was sick in my
I would never again permit brother and sister to
compete like this. It tore at the fabric of
what my studio was all about - Community. It
was plain and simple. I did not like pitting
one of my students against another. I remember
exactly what I thought to myself at the time. "Hell,
if they want to compete, let them go over to
Now is that prophetic or what? How does
the expression go, "Be careful what you wish for..."
So even though I absolutely loved dancing the Whip
and I was very good at it, I turned my back on the
world of competition whip dancing. I rendered unto
Mario what was Mario's.
Mario and I have never been buddy-buddy.
We were dance rivals back in the
mid-80s. Then, starting with the Exodus
incident of 1987, Mario and I became business rivals
as well. We have been in direct
business competition for the past 20 years. Thanks
to his superstar status, I say with regret that the
balance of power has always been in his favor.
Therefore, from my point of view, I have not minded the
distance that has always existed between us.
Who enjoys being reminded of an ass-kicking? Quite frankly, I cannot hear his name without
recalling the Exodus. It is a wound
that has diminished with time, but will never be
That said, although we have never had a
friendly rivalry, I don't think we have had an
underhanded rivalry either.
There is one point I need to make clear. Even
though we were rivals, I respected Mario's immense
talent as a dancer and as a teacher. Mario
worked wonders with my former students. In
fact, thanks in large part to my former students,
Southwest Whip hit a Golden Era in the late Eighties
and early Nineties. Under Mario's tutelage,
not only did people like Mike Fagan, Margie Saibara,
and Ted Jones win major championships, as a group
the X-SSQQ dancers joined Mario's dance team and
dazzled people for years with their performances.
So I have to say that although I was the one who was
left behind in the rear view mirror, it was the
clearly the right move for the elite members of my
group. Mario did indeed help the group realize
For the next twenty years, I went my way and Mario
went his. Houston is a big city. Our
paths rarely crossed.
During that time, I had two large regrets where Mario was
In the very beginning, I often quietly wished to
myself that I could join Mario's team and be
reunited with my friends. Heck, if I wasn't so
busy running the studio, I could be there with the
whole gang again. It would have been fun...
The second regret was that Mario and I could not
team up. Sure I have an ego, but I am also
realistic. Getting beat at dancing by Mario is
like getting beat at basketball by Michael Jordan.
There is no shame in that.
When I was up in Dallas in 2001 to watch a
dance competition, I developed
a case of patriotic fever. I suddenly
realized I didn't have any moral misgivings
about competing against strangers. I
also realized I didn't care about what
happened back in 1987. That was water
under the bridge. Why not
team up with Mario and kick some Dallas
Think about it - Back in 1987,
Mario and I had inadvertently cooperated to
turn out the greatest generation of dancers
Southwest Whip had ever seen. I got
them going and Mario took them to the next
level. What would happen if we worked
On the spot, I decided to offer to come over
and teach at Southwest Whip. I wanted
to help develop talent at the pre-Mario
level. I would help set the
So I stood in line for my opportunity
to speak to him about my idea. Mario
noticed me and said he would be right with me.
While I waited patiently, Mario continued to
talk to someone else. Then without so
much as a word or a nod in my direction, he
away and left the building.
So much for my idea. All I
wanted to do was contribute.
Fast-forward now to September 2007. Up
at Dallas Dance over Labor Day Weekend, SSQQ
Whip instructor Jack Benard and his girlfriend Jackie
Chang enjoyed the performances and the workshops.
While they were up there, Jackie decided to purchase
some private lessons from Mario Robau as a birthday
present for Jack.
As they discussed the details of the forthcoming
private lessons, Mario said something unusual to
Jack. Mario told Jack that twenty years ago I
had told Mario never to set foot on SSQQ premises
again. Jack was stunned. He could not
imagine why I would say something like that.
So Jack decided to play peace maker. He sent
me this email.
From: Jack Benard
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 2:07 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: A few thoughts and rumors
When I was at Dallas Dance I talked to Mario
He mentioned to me that twenty years
ago you told him to never set foot on your
premises (that is why you get little or no
contact from him).
I thought that was odd and told myself I am
going to let Rick know about this. May I suggest
that bygones be bygones and send him a letter to
the contrary? Unless of course you still
mean it. (I don't know your side of the story,
just letting you know what I heard from Mario.)
3. (FYI) These two items are second and third
hand information, I did not hear it from Mario
directly. I don't know how true they are.
A.) I have heard that Mario wants to be with his
kids more so his kids go with him every weekend
now when he travels. He has also decided to quit
teaching at Melody for the rest of the year so
he can spend more time with his kids.
B.) Brian is supposedly taking over for him. My
second hand information source swears this
occurred after Brian left SSQQ and was not the
reason Brian left.
SSQQ Dance Instructor
From: Rick Archer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 5:03 PM
To: Jack Benard
Cc: Tom Easley; Mike Fagan; Mario Robau
Subject: RE: A few thoughts and rumors
Thank you for your interesting letter, Jack.
As far as that comment about Mario, that is
ABSURD. Absolutely ABSURD. I do not recall
saying anything of the sort. This is the
first time I have ever heard this story in my
If Mario is convinced it happened, then it may
be possible someone told him I said something
like that, but it is still not true. I do not
recall ever saying any such thing. Furthermore,
in my heart, I don't believe I even thought
those words to myself, much less said them.
When would it have happened? Even back in the
Eighties, the contact btw Mario and myself was
extremely limited. Our paths rarely crossed and
I do not recall one private conversation with
him beyond a low-level argument over whether
Whip could be led on the 1 or the 2. I said it
should only be led on the 2, Mario said it could
led on either beat. Mario was right. That
argument happened at my studio, by the way.
Mario has been right about a lot of things over
the years so I won't say my alleged quote did
not happen, but I will say again that I DOUBT
Mario delivered my worst business defeat in
history many years ago (1988) when his
reputation as a dancer and a teacher gutted my
whip program. About 30 or 40 advanced whip
students that I had taught from the ground up
deserted SSQQ to go over to SW Whip. Not
only did I lose all my students and practically
every friend I had, I also lost my girlfriend
Janet to his circle as well. The entire
experience was a tough pill to swallow and I was
bitter about it, but I never "blamed" Mario.
He had more talent, so once my students reached
a certain level, they needed a stronger teacher.
It was a tough break, but I was man enough to
accept that there are winners and losers in the
business world. I lost. I didn't
like it and I was bitter, but I don't recall
ever doing anything inappropriate like ban Mario
from the studio. I accepted my fate and got on
By the way, this incident is no dark secret. I
don't have anything to hide. I wrote the story
of the incident. It sits in the
article for the entire world to see in my
section about the late Eighties. Look for
However, twenty years is a long time to remember
things and I admit I was pretty hurt for a while
there. So there may something to this statement.
I seriously doubt I said it and I would need to
be convinced I said it. When, where, who
else heard me say it, etc.… then I would
apologize to Mario from the bottom of my heart
and I would be ashamed of myself.
I am not going to lie about something this
serious, Jack. Yes, there has always been a
tension btw Mario and I, but what else would you
expect from business rivals?
Mario is a formidable business competitor who to
this point has won all the major battles btw his
organization and mine. But as far as I can tell,
he has won everything fair and square. We have
had several mutual friends over the years.
No one has ever come to me and said, "Mario did
this horrible thing or Mario said that awful
thing about you, Rick." Never.
I have an anecdote for you. About fifteen
years ago, Tom Easley, Mario, and I met for a
day of activities at some sports event near the
Astrodome. Mike Fagan might have been
there too. I think Tom's son Tommie was
there as well. We had an excellent
afternoon together. There was no
animosity. Tom is a witness and can vouch
for me - please note that I have carbon copied
Tom above. I also remember talking to
Mario about playing some sand volleyball, but it
never came to pass. If there was any bad
blood, why would the three of us hang out
together for an afternoon? Why wouldn't
Mario say something to me?
That said, I accept it is possible Mario really
believes I said this. If so, this might
explain some things. It is my impression that
Mario has always been distant towards me.
In 2001, I made a serious effort to talk with
Mario up at Dallas. I took a workshop that
he taught and waited in line afterwards. I
had something important to say to him.
Mario said he would be right with me, talked to
someone else, then walked away and left the
building. He literally left me standing
there watching him walk away. It was a
serious brush-off to be sure. What made
his actions more peculiar was that a month
earlier over at SW Whip, Mario had specifically
said there was something HE wanted to talk to me
about (I phoned him and left my number, but did
not receive a call back.)
In 2005 I wrote an email letter of
recommendation to Mario to help Bryan Spivey get
his job over at SW Whip after that fiasco with
Damon and Lisa. Mario did not bother to
respond to that letter.
In 2006 I emailed Mario to ask him whether in
his opinion we should drop teaching Whip at
SSQQ. He encouraged me to continue, but
added nothing else.
That is the complete summary of direct contact
between Mario and I for the past twenty years. I
assumed the guy wanted me to leave him alone, so
As far as I can tell, Mario has never done
anything unethical towards me or openly
ridiculed my studio. So we are square one on
that issue. On a personal level, I do not hold
even the slightest grudge towards the man at
all. Live long and prosper.
Now, as far as Bryan is concerned, I have three
things to say about him.
One, I do not know the truth behind his reasons
for leaving. I just know that no man who is just
getting started like
Bryan is quits a good job to help around the
house. With a baby on the way, common
sense says a man works hard to provide for his
family. So his resignation remains a mystery.
Two, I spent 5 years doing everything in my
power to help Bryan develop his career and that
time is now totally wasted. I find Bryan's
behavior to be incredibly ungrateful.
Three, I made an exception for Bryan to allow
him to teach at SW Whip. Despite all the
wounds I feel towards SW Whip, I still gave my
permission. I did it for one single reason
- Because it was in Bryan's best interests to do
so. I knew at the time it was a risky move
(and history has proven me correct), but at the
time I consciously chose to do the unselfish
thing because I thought Mario would help Bryan
develop as a dancer and a teacher. This
action alone should prove there is no grudge btw
Mario and me, at least not from my end.
I also hoped that Bryan could form some sort of
alliance btw SW Whip and SSQQ as he promised he
would attempt to do, but we all know how poorly that
I won't say it was a mistake to trust Bryan. But
I will say he disappointed me.
Any other rumors? If so, bring them on.
Since you have told me that Mario said these
things to you directly, I will take the liberty
of sending him this email as well. And I will
say this, "Mario, you are welcome to set foot in
my studio any time you wish. I would be honored
to have you visit. And I apologize for any
misunderstanding. If it is true I said those
things, please accept that I was wrong to say
Thank you for taking the time to help mend
fences, Jack. There is no point in having old
men be enemies for no reason.
SSQQ Dance Studio
two more emails. In one email, I wrote to
confirm that I had used Mario's correct email
address. I was told I had indeed sent my
letter to the correct address.
Second, I asked Sharon Crawford Shaw what she
thought. Sharon, of course, was my closest
associate at the studio in those days. If I
talked to anyone at all, I talked to Sharon who more
or less kept me glued together through this ordeal.
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 11:54 AM
To: Sharon Shaw
Subject: mario robau and jack benard
Sharon, do you ever wonder if you are losing
Jack says Mario claims I banned him from
ever setting foot at SSQQ again. My first
reaction was to tell Jack that Mario's claim
But I was so hurt at the time (20 years
ago), it does seem remotely possible I would
act like that. I would be ashamed of
myself if it did, but I was a pretty angry
guy in those days. Still, I have such
a tendency to brood, I imagine I would have
mulled over an incident like that for days
and that it would stick in my mind.
I vaguely remember going to some dance
competition with you back about that time.
Maybe something did happen.
So I am writing to ask if you remember
anything that would either support my
position that it didn't happen or Mario's
From: Sharon Shaw
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:57 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: mario robau and jack benard
Sorry, I don't remember anything like that
I know you were really angry, but I don't
remember any incident.
I actually don't remember you being angry
with Mario, just at the whole whip/southwest
whip thing in general.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:21 PM
To: Sharon Shaw
Subject: RE: mario robau and jack benard
Sorry? Why should you say 'sorry'?
That's wonderful! You just confirmed
EXACTLY what I remember myself.
I was just worried I had suppressed some
horrible memory of a time I had insulted
Mario and buried the ugly incident for
twenty years in my subconscious.
I feel much better. Maybe I am not losing my
mind after all.
After Sharon's email, I had private phone
conversations with other people who shared the same
arena twenty years ago. They agreed they never
heard anything about me angrily banning Mario from
However, my friend Tom Easley said something curious
that stopped me in my tracks.
I was talking to Tom about how well Mario and I had
gotten along at the Sports Expo at the Astroarena
fifteen years ago. Then I asked Tom if our
friend Mike Fagan had been there. Tom didn't
think so. Then I pointed out that Tom's son
Tommie had been there. Tom thought about
it and said there was a kid there, but it wasn't
Tommie. After a moment's pause, he decided it
was Alan Brown's son.
Tom recalled beating Alan Brown's son in a footrace
that day. Then Tom said, "I wonder if Alan
Brown was there?" Then he answered his own
question. "I guess Alan Brown had to be there
if his son was there." I told Tom I
vaguely remembered the footrace. But truth be
told, I was embarrassed that I had completely
forgotten about Alan and his son till now.
Then I asked Tom about playing sand volleyball with
Mario. Tom laughed and said one time he had
played sand volleyball with Mario and had gotten
drunk afterwards. So that night when he got
home, he was so tired he passed out on the bed still
covered head to toe with sand. We both
laughed. Tom said he was amazed Margaret
stayed married to him after that one.
I told Tom I would have enjoyed playing volleyball
with both of them. That's when Tom reminded me
that I had played water volleyball at Tom's house
with Mario one Saturday.
"No, Tom, I would remember that. I never
played water volleyball with Mario at your house."
Tom continued to insist I had played water
volleyball with him and Mario at his house.
The more Tom insisted, the more I was quietly
convinced that Tom was wrong. Mario may have
indeed played water volleyball with Tom, but not
when I was there.
But what was the point of arguing? Who cares?
After we finished the phone call, I gave it some
thought. I said Tom's son was at the
Astroarena. It turned out to be Alan's son.
Tom said I played water volleyball with Mario.
I said I didn't.
Mario said I forbade him from setting foot in my
studio twenty years ago. I don't remember any
such thing ever happening.
If Mario believes I said what he said I did, then
maybe it really did happen. Or maybe someone
said something to him and over the course of time,
Mario decided it was me who said it. Besides,
considering how hurt I was in those days, I am quite
sure my hostility conveyed that message loud and
clear whether I said anything or not.
The only thing I am sure of is that none of us
have a good enough memory to be sure of anything
that happened that long ago.
Mario Robau is welcome at my dance studio any time
he wishes to visit. I would be flattered to
have him visit.
And I apologize to Mario for my animosity towards
him back in the late Eighties. As I have said
repeatedly in this story, Mario has always behaved
professionally towards me.
Southwest Whip stopped being the enemy in my mind
many years ago. I have no grudges towards
Mario and I have none towards Southwest either.
I think this story should make that perfectly clear.
As Jack Benard suggests, I would like to let bygones
CLIMBING YOUR WAY TO THE TOP
There is a great deal of Mythology regarding
the WAY to becoming a good West Coast Swing dancer.
The first question to ask is whether to take Private
Lessons or Group Lessons. When I learned to
dance the Whip, I first took Group Lessons, then I
took Private Lessons. Both systems had their
advantages and disadvantages.
Given my overview, I suggest you start with
Group Lessons. The reason is that West Coast
Swing begins as a Social Dance.
Learn this dance as a way to have fun before
anything else. It is a way to meet people, to
make friends, to socialize, to enjoy a new hobby, to
practice and get valuable exercise.
Learning to dance in a Group not only gives you
valuable social contact, it lends itself to built-in
opportunities to practice all the way up the ladder
with your class. Now hanging out with your
friends becomes just as much a reason to continue as
the class itself. You are literally part of a
dance support group who will encourage you to
continue just as you will in turn urge them to
practice and get better.
On the other hand, people who learn via private
lessons turn into bubble boys and bubble girls.
In private lessons, you only learn to dance with
your perfect instructor or with a partner who knows
exactly what you are going to do. Once you are
exposed to dance viruses like poor rhythm and bad
leads plus threats like new patterns and different
styles, you will realize why private lessons are
impractical for beginners.
show a particular gift for your dance, your Group
Class teacher will let you know. Then you can
decide for yourself how far you wish to pursue the
dance. If you wish to shoot for the stars,
then Private Lessons become the preferred route.
But for the vast majority of dancers, a top-flight
Group Class combined with plenty of practice and
repetition is sufficient for the 90% who prefer to
be social dancers.
THE DARK AND DANGEROUS
One of the biggest misconceptions about SSQQ
is our constant allegiance to the mysterious dance
known as the Whip.
Even though the Whip is not considered the easiest
dance to learn, we continue to teach Whip at SSQQ
for a single important reason - the Texas Whip is
really hot! No dance where a woman works
her body inside a man's arms should ever be ignored,
trust me. Besides, the Whip has so much in
common with West Coast Swing that I have discovered it only takes a
few brief detours in our curriculum to add it to
your repertoire. Considering the payoff,
you will be glad for the side trips, believe me.
How about a little background about the Whip?
The Texas Whip came into being shortly after World
War II. East Coast Swing danced to Big Band music was
the style of the day. However, during the war the floors
out in California had grown so crowded they invented
a new style whereby they danced East Coast in a straight line
to save space. Hence
the origins of West Coast Swing. After the
war, Texas GIs returning from California brought
back the rudimentary West Coast Swing to Texas soil.
Once they exposed this dance to Texas Blues
music, the California version quickly changed from a
fast-paced footwork dance into a raw, sensual bump
and grind featuring some pretty sexy hip motion.
In other words, the look of the dance was influenced
by the nasty stripper-style music that played in the
background. Thus was born the Dirty Whip, a
legendary pickup dance used in smoky,
pressure-cooker lounges and rough blue-collar honky
tonks across Texas.
By the Seventies, the Dirty Whip had been cleaned up
quite a bit, mostly because the nice girls wanted to
get in on the fun. The sanitized version still
raised eyebrows, but at least it could finally be
danced with the lights on. Whip hit its heyday
in the mid-Eighties thanks to a perfect storm
combination of two successive movies: Saturday
Night Fever and Urban Cowboy.
SNF got America dancing again, but
here in Houston, Disco died young thanks to
Urban Cowboy. Filmed right here
in Houston, UC fueled an unprecedented
interest in Western Dancing. The early part of
the Eighties was the Era of the Western Swing until
people started to get bored. They looked
around for a new dance challenge.
Over there sitting unappreciated in the corner
was the Texas Whip. This dance had been almost
totally ignored for the past six years. Now
all these talented Disco and Western dancers picked
up this new toy and began to play with it.
Suddenly there was a huge movement to learn the
Whip. That's where Mario and I came in to
begin our strange parallel careers.
The Whip enjoyed its greatest day in the sun
throughout the remainder of the Eighties.
However the Nineties brought on hard times for this
dance. The first natural enemy was the music.
Rap Music and Whip do not mix very well. Then
came Garth Brooks to lure people back to Western
Dancing. Garth was followed by Zoot Suit Riot
Meanwhile the Whip acquired a new threat: West Coast
Swing. For fifty years, the West Coast
Swing had followed its own development path in other
parts the country. Free from the Blues
traditions of the South, West Coast Swing found its
own music. WCS had more movement, footwork,
and speed. It was a flashier dance that
allowed more interpretation to the music and more
variety of things for the woman to do. In
short, West Coast Swing looked better in the
During the Nineties, the West Coast Swing tried to
cross our state boundaries. Thanks in part to
videotape and to a growing interest in National
level Swing competitions plus new WCS-trained
instructors moving to Texas from other areas, by the
turn of the century West Coast Swing had rudely
pushed the Whip to the side. Here in Houston,
the Whip began a slow descent into oblivion.
can only speak for myself, but until you
have danced the Whip, you have no idea just
how much fun it is. I love West Coast,
but the Whip adds an entire new dimension.
What most people fail to realize is
just how easy it is to mix Whip and West
Coast together. There are
certain gaps in West Coast such as the
Closed Basic, the Hammerlock, and the
two-hand Basic where quite frankly the Whip
variations are SUPERIOR. Those 3 gaps
are exactly where SSQQ trains its students
to use the Texas Whip. There is no
need to choose. You can have your West
Coast and your Whip too. Together,
they are a lethal combination to watch.
Here at SSQQ, we start with West
Coast Swing just like everyone else.
Then we show you how to blend in the Whip.
Get yourself the right partner. Then
some night when the floor is dark and a
steamy song comes on the jukebox, you will
begin to understand what I have been talking
about. That is when you will smile and
be grateful you learned the secrets of the
mysterious Texas Whip.