Mario Robau
Home Up

DID RICK REALLY SAY WHAT MARIO SAYS HE DID?

Written by Rick Archer
September 2007

It was 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 champion. 

I was a very good dancer, but Mario was better.  I was a very good teacher, but Mario was better.

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.

It had 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 for 201 Nights in a row. 

Since I had to have someone to dance with, I encouraged my students to come along with me.

Every night a group of us went out dancing.  Different people joined us every night, but I was there EVERY NIGHT.

Over the course of 1986 and the following year, the entire group of us became a tight-knit group indeed. 

We became wonderful friends and we became wonderful dancers.

We were 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 right.

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 me. 

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 everyone fast.

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 way?

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, Southwest tomorrow.

A recent letter from one of my best friends, Bob Job, made a brief reference to the Exodus.

-----Original Message-----
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 guilty.

I stared at her.  "Why, Ailene?"

I don't think Ailene appreciated being put on the spot.  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 Matchmaker.  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 right time.

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 wounds.

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.

I handled the problem at the time by going into a shell.  Slowly but surely I disengaged from this Group that had been my closest friends.  I 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 to repeat. 

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 FOR LIFE.  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 stomach.

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 Southwest Whip."

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 forgotten. 

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 their dreams. 

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 concerned. 

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 butt?

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 together?

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 plate.

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 abruptly walked away and left the building.

So much for my idea.  All I wanted to do was contribute.

2007

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.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Jack Benard
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 2:07 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: A few thoughts and rumors

Hi Rick,

When I was at Dallas Dance I talked to Mario Robau Jr.
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.

Jack Benard
SSQQ Dance Instructor

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer (dance@ssqq.com)
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 life.

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 IT.

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 with it.

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 Matchmaker article for the entire world to see in my section about the late Eighties.  Look for
Heartbreak Hotel.

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 I did.

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 panned out.

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 them."

Thank you for taking the time to help mend fences, Jack. There is no point in having old men be enemies for no reason.

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio

I wrote 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.

From: Rick Archer
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 your mind?

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 is ridiculous.

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 claim.

Thanks.
 

 -----Original Message-----
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 happening.

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.



 -----Original Message-----
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.

Thanks, Sharon!


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 the studio. 

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 be bygones. 

 


THE TEXAS WHIP


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.

If you 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 WHIP

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 CowboySNF 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 Swing Dancing. 

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 daylight.

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.

I 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. 

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