CONTROVERSY 2001 - The Last Fight
THE SSQQ - HSDS SWING
CONTROVERSY FLARES UP ANEW IN MAY 2001
COURTESY OF STEPHEN JEAN
By coincidence, the same month I got my divorce from Judy in May 2001,
a representative of the
Houston Swing Dance Society known as Stephen Jean
sent me several
highly critical letters attacking SSQQ.
As I read his letter, I was astonished to see that Stephen Jean
was trying to rewrite Swing History!!
Stephen gave me a serious piece of his mind.
We didn't have our facts straight about what really
happened back in 1997
Our teachers couldn't hold a
candle to HSDS
SSQQ Swing Program was essentially mediocre
in comparison to HSDS.
As I stared at Stephen Jean's first letter, I
realized I was so preoccupied with my
divorce, I hadn't given HSDS a single thought since Carnell's April 2000 email to me a year earlier.
There is an old Arabic saying that the quickest way
to forget about losing a finger is to cut off your hand. This
gruesome adage is attempting to say that things could always get worse.
divorce was so devastating I had forgotten about HSDS.
But now HSDS was back in my mind.
who identified himself as a representative of HSDS,
had decided to argue with me about the past. Here
we go again, I thought.
A quick look at the HSDS website identified Mr. Jean as
a member of the Hepcat Performing Group.
see what Mr. Jean had to say.
Letter from Stephen Jean to Rick Archer
Tue 05/01/2001 6:12 PM
First and for most I would like to say that yes, I am a member of the Houston Swing Dance Society. My intention is not to
deceive you at all. But, I don't believe that Carnell intended to upset SSQQ people at all when he began teaching at HSDS. Carnell, in my opinion, has always been enthusiastic about spreading the gospel of swing dancing. So by teaching at two different venues he was achieving this. I don't think that he had any intention of trying to lure any students you already had. I also believe that Carnell left SSQQ because he felt that your swing dance program was novice compared to the other swing dancing he had seen around the country. According to a good friend of mine Daniel Bosse, who stated that he was a former member of your swing dance troupe,
the SSQQ swing dance program was inaccurate in their teachings of Lindy
Hop. He even said himself that the first day he took an HSDS class (believing that he could take a Lindy 3 class from what he was taught at SSQQ), that he was lost
because your program apparently didn't teach the dance
correctly. So in conclusion I believe Carnell and any other former members of SSQQ who joined HSDS, simply joined our organization because they felt they were getting a better swing dance education, if you will, at HSDS.
By isolating your swing dance program, I believe that you are only making it suffer more. You can't learn all there is to Lindy hop or swing based on a series of Frankie Manning tapes. Have you ever even heard of Dean Collins style Lindy hop? or collegiate shag, balboa, skylar shag, all of which or often danced with Lindy Hop? Much of the success of HSDS's program is due to having outside influences such as Ryan and Jenny Franscois, Erik and Sylvia Robison, Dawn Hampton, and even Frankie Manning himself who has returned to HSDS workshops 3 times. HSDS is a full blown force in the national swing dance swing dance scene. Our workshops which draw at least 400 attendees from all over the country, and even Canada and England, have been ranked in the top 5 according to avid swing dancers from other swing scenes. If you can imagine all the different talents and styles that are exchanged during one workshop, you can understand why our program is so successful. We even have people from Austin and College Station coming down each weekend just to dance. We also are friendly with the Austin Swing Syndicate and Dallas SDS, and San Antonio SDS, and other organizations and excellent swing dancers around the world (Sing Lim from Singapore). If you believed Carnell was and still is a phenomenal dancer, as many of us do, you should see him now. So maybe
if you tried some of our tactics, maybe you could improve your swing dance
program. I understand that you teach other social dances besides swing, but I just wanted to show how a few things could make your swing program more successful.
Once again i would like to say that i'm not writing this as hate mail.
Good luck in your dancing endeavors.
Rick Archer Replies to the Letter from Stephen Jean
Wed 05/02/2001 10:49 AM
Who in the world rattled your cage?
How presumptuous of you to tell me the history of Carnell. You weren't even there. I was.
SSQQ Dance Studio
Stephen Jean Replies
Wed 05/02/2001 5:21 PM
Subject: Reply to an Ugly Answer
Dear Whoever the Hell You Think You
I didn't think you understood what I was trying to say when i tried to communicate it nicely. So here it is black and white. Carnell loves Swing, all shapes and forms. Part of the reason he decided to teach somewhere else then,and then also exclusively at HSDS, was because he loves the dance so much that he wanted to spread it to as many people as possible, and hopefully learn more about the dance. Obviously, SSQQ did not have the ability to furnish his needs, or should I say, your thoughts on expanding your swing repertoire, well, they were nonexistent. As I said earlier, Frankie Manning tapes and going to a single workshop is not going to do wonders to your swing ability. Oh sure, your people were the first to bring swing dancing back to Houston. What? Do you want a cookie? If the dancing is bad then what do you have to show for it.
I personally know a couple of dancers that still or used to attend your swing classes and dances that also go to HSDS, and well,
their opinion on your swing night, well lets just say using this euphemism, it definitely isn't as good as HSDS.
I was originally thinking that somehow we could somehow patch things up by maybe helping to improve your instructors,
since we are an educational nonprofit organization, how to really teach/dance swing, but since you insist on being so close-minded that idea was thrown in the garbage. More plainly: Since you have such a great
dance floor, We could teach you how to dance swing that's actually recognizable to other swing dancers around the
world, in for exchange for us using your oh-so-fabulous floor. I'm trying to be nice so, good luck in your future swing dancing endeavors, I think.
P.S. Remind HSDS that next time Frankie Manning is town, to have him come to review your swing dancing; then we'll see
who is better. Oh wait never mind, we already know!
"Dear Whoever the Hell You Are..."
I had just gotten a Divorce. Now I could say whatever I
wanted and Judy couldn't veto me or muzzle me. So I
immediately let Mr. Jean have it right between the eyes.
Rick Archer Replies
Thu 05/03/2001 12:32 PM
"Remind HSDS that next time Frankie Manning is town, to have him come to review your swing dancing; then we'll see whose better. Oh wait never mind, we already know!"
For your information, Stephen, I wasn't aware my studio was in competition with HSDS at
this moment in time.
However it is not necessary to ask Frankie Manning what he thinks. We already know.
I asked Judy Archer about what Frankie Manning would say about her Swing dancing. She replied, "When we helped bring Frankie Manning to Houston for the very first time, he watched me and my Swing team perform a Lindy routine. At the end of the performance, I received his personal commendation for a job well done. He said to me - specifically - 'You did a good job, Judy'.
He also gave me a kiss on my right cheek."
I might add, Stephen, this moment was recorded on videotape along with his big smile,
his smooch, and huge bear hug for Judy.
Judy then gave Mr. Manning an SSQQ T-Shirt which he wore while he taught at Swing Camp Catalina several months later. I don't believe anyone made Mr. Manning wear that T-Shirt. More likely he was proud to wear it of his own free will. And I think it
is likely he had several
tee-shirts to choose from.
Thank you for your generous offer to improve my studio's teaching curriculum with these kind words - "I was originally thinking that somehow we could somehow patch things up by maybe helping to improve your instructors."
What a noble offer!!
Before we accept, I have a question for you, Stephen. If you are indeed the ambassador of good will from HSDS as you have postulated yourself to be, why in the world would we want to work with a foul-mouthed know-it-all who sends emails addressed to "Dear Whoever the Hell You Think You Are"?
Did you acquire your diplomatic skills via an Internet learn-at-home course?
As for my "ugly answer" to quote your words, I repeat, what gives you the right to tell me the revised history of the bad blood between Carnell Pipkin and my organization?
Are you his biographer?
I am telling you I watched the story unfold with my own eyes. I have witnesses.
Therefore, I repeat, how presumptuous of you to tell me the history of Carnell. You weren't even there. I was.
My reply may be ugly in your opinion, but tough, it is still the truth. Sometimes the truth is unpleasant, Stephen. And just because you don't like it doesn't give you the right to be so rude to me.
For that matter, Stephen, you never did answer my first question, "Who rattled your cage"?
SSQQ Dance Studio
Stephen Jean Replies
Thu 05/03/2001 7:04 PM
First of all, badmouthing Rowena Young and Brian Olson rattled my cage.
Then badmouthing HSDS, Carnell, Rowena, and Buddy's creation, that didn't help either.
Your absurd policy of limiting a teacher to teach a certain dance exclusively at your studio, tell me is that not selfish?
Were you trying to monopolize swing dancing in Houston? And, why are you answers so snappy?
My first email came in peace, as i said. Its not as if HSDS is out to close your business. And,
Brian was not out to get you either when he was emailing you. He just wanted the answers to a few simple questions. I think saying that he was spying on you is a
little presumptuous, don't you? My reply about Carnell's teaching at different studios, well, that answer is just as valid as yours. He has taught at numerous places around Houston and numerous places around the country to spread the gospel of swing.
May I add he has taught a number of those classes for free. For example, he was teaching at the popular Banbury School of Dance for free. We recently had a workshop where we commended Carnell, who has currently taken a break from dancing for his and his brothers health reasons, for all that he has done for the national swing scene. We even asked for a show of hands to see how many people have had in one way or another taken a class with Carnell. Over half the hundreds of people, which
included many many people from out of town, raised there hands. I think that you and your studio are probably the only people in the US who despise Carnell, Rowena, Buddy, and Brian for the achievements they have accomplished for the national swing scene.
I'm sure Frankie would commend the HSDS Hepcats routines and performances. Carnell has been a choreographer for the Hepcats, who have recently done performance at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the group Neoswing, who went Sydney Australia to represent the US in swing dancers. And about the T-shirts, we can also boast about that too.
Frankie has 3 of our T-shirts and wears them to other workshops, plus other excellent instructors who have come to Houston.
I apologize if my second email offended you. I was somewhat surprised by your abrupt, rude answer. But, a suggestion for the future: We are not out to get you and neither are any other studios in Houston, so lighten up. Good Luck in your dancing endeavors, and this time I mean it.
Rick Archer Replies
Fri 05/04/2001 6:03 PM
Stephen, what part of the western civilization are you from?
Your words: "First of all, badmouthing Rowena Young and Brian Olson rattled my cage. Then badmouthing HSDS, Carnell, Rowena, and Buddy's creation, that didn't help either.
Your absurd policy of limiting a teacher to teach a certain dance exclusively at your studio, tell me is that not
As I have said previously, Stephen, sometimes the truth is ugly.
Rowena Young was one of the most treacherous personalities I have ever come across. While my wife Judy was sick and
incapacitated with what became a failed pregnancy, Rowena did everything in her power to systematically recruit
members of Judy's Swing/Lindy team (including Carnell) to come join her team instead. This was hardly necessary. We were prepared to help HSDS be formed, but Rowena felt it was better to act behind our backs instead. This is the truth, Stephen, whether you like it or not.
Carnell Pipkin was specifically asked by Judy to choose one camp or the other. Instead he two-timed SSQQ, learning from Judy and taking the material to Rowena. You call this "bad-mouthing", Stephen. Well, tough, it is still true whether you like it or not.
Now as for Buddy Young, Judy reports he was always a gentleman to her and that she has nothing but respect for him. I don't say bad things about everyone, just the people who deserve it. You
are inaccurate to say I have been disrespectful to Mr. Young.
It is sweet of you to wish to defend Carnell and it is sweet of you to defend Rowena, Stephen. However it is just pathetic that you claim to know what happened when it
is obvious you are completely clueless.
And you claim it is absurd that I limit an instructor to work for my studio and not another?
What world are you from, Stephen, Pluto, Uranus?
So if I understand you correctly, you expect us to invest our time to train an instructor, then blithely say, "la di da, now go teach anywhere you want to, Carnell.
You just go right ahead!"
For your information, Stephen, it is quite common for businesses to protect themselves from exploitation. Welcome to Planet Earth.
Your words, Stephen, "I think that you and your studio are probably the only people in the US who despise Carnell, Rowena, Buddy, and Brian for the achievements they have accomplished for the national swing
Again, Stephen, you are guilty of overstepping the bounds of credulity.
My studio includes a thousand people a week who enter our building. None of them could care less about the nasty business practices of Rowena and Carnell 4 long years ago. You are completely off base here.
For the record, the only people with any strong sentiments are
Judy and myself.
It is true that I personally dislike Rowena Young and Carnell Pipkin for their unethical behavior 4 years ago, but I might
add that until you brought up the issue again, it was water under the bridge and I was minding my own business. But thank you for
giving me the opportunity to express my opinion again.
And finally, I do not despise Brian Olson.
I am sure he appreciates your attempt
to Martyr him, but he didn't misbehave enough to merit that kind
of fame. Two years ago I found his behavior silly just like I find your behavior now.
Furthermore, for the record, I have no axe to grind nor any grudge with anyone at HSDS except the two specific individuals I have cited. I am impressed by the accomplishments of HSDS and I wish your organization well.
I can't tell you how impressed I am that
Frankie Manning has three of your tee-shirts. That's awesome!
I only wish your founding fathers had been nicer people, but I don't really care any more.
Now please leave me alone. And spare me your half-baked history lessons.
SSQQ Dance Studio
Stephen Jean Replies
Sun 05/06/2001 12:29 PM
Can I still come dance at SSQQ?
Rick Archer Replies
Su 05/06/2001 6:03 PM
Of course you can, Stephen, as long as you promise not to solicit
emails or in any way promote HSDS while you are at my studio.
SSQQ Dance Studio
to the Editor regarding the Stephen Jean
As I said, I didn't have to do
this Judy's way anymore. Mr. Jean had addressed his
letters to me. Now it was my fight. Instead of
sticking my head in the sand, I not only answered Mr. Jean as
directly as I possibly could, I also published the letters in
the SSQQ Newsletter. I received three interesting replies.
One to Stephen Jean's Letters
Wednesday, June 06, 2001, 7:21 pm
Concerning the letters written by Stephen Jean, who the hell is this guy? I dance at both SSQQ and HSDS and I know some people (the ones I choose to
know) but the Stephen I am familiar with to my knowledge I have not seen at SSQQ.
I do not think he should talk about things he does not know one thing about. I remember when Carnell taught at SSQQ.
He would walk into the intermediate swing classes and sometimes watch or dance. I am a HSDS member too,
but I thought it was disrespectful for Carnell to wear his HSDS
shirt at your studio. So what if they think it is the biggest thing since sliced bread like they are some sort of Swing Kings.
Whether Carnell's intention was to lure people away from your business or not it was his decision to leave. You had a policy and they should respect that.
As to the comments about the swing classes being inaccurate, he just does not understand about the workings of SSQQ. Everyone has their own way of teaching. It does not mean that it is right or wrong. I get so mad at people telling me I have to do a step a certain way and if I do not do it that way it is wrong. Hell,
back in Harlem they did not have a handbook telling them to rock step. They made it up. They moved a certain way and if it looked great and felt great they kept on moving that way. So I back out of a lindy basic rather than another way big deal.
I say see what both worlds are trying to teach and then do it your own way. What he does not understand is that you are a business that focuses on many kinds of dance not just swing. As for HSDS they just do all kinds of swing. It is a big difference. In one comment he goes on about teaching a more recognizable swing in exchange for using the oh so good floor. Now a couple of months ago some of the HSDS people did come out. Now my question is what happened to them?
It can't be the people who dance at SSQQ because they dance with only each other anyways at the Melody Club. As for the music I guess that would have to be it because they would not know a good swing tune if it bit them in the ass. I hardly go to the Melody
Club because they are either play Memphis blues or swing music you can only Balboa to. But that is a another tirade that I will spare you.
But Carnell, and Rowena are not the demi gods that HSDS keeps setting them up
as. And this makes me sick.
Sorry I had to get that off my chest. They make me so mad sometimes. just ignore any wrong ideas on my part. I had to put in my 2 cents.
(Editor's Note: I withheld the name to
avoid reprisals. But I will print the name gladly if the writer
of this letter asks me to.)
Letters to the Editor - Response Number
Two to Stephen Jean's Letters
June 21, 2001 9:07 AM
places to swing dance in houston
help! Rick. you may remember me. I took swing lessons at ssqq a couple months ago. I was the lady who always stood by the pole and you teased me I hid from you because I didn't want to demonstrate. I enjoyed the classes, but then my work schedule changed and I couldn't come on mondays anymore.
advanced lady in class I went to on saturday told me about a place called numbers as a good place to practice.
she said this is where i would see how people
really could dance the swing. I went there last week and it was the worst experience of my life.
first of all numbers is in a neighborhood that is scary. I had to sit in my car with the engine running till some winos walked on past. then I worked up all my courage and went in. this place was even scarier than the parking lot! it had to be the ugliest, most run-down joint I have ever been in. there was no place to sit. some people sat on some sort of carpet, but it smelled of spilled beer and cigarette smoke. I stood near the bar instead.
it was so dark I didn't want to touch anything!
two men asked me to dance. the first was a tall asian guy with a bad complexion who proceeded to spend the entire song telling me what I was doing wrong. what fun! twenty minutes later another guy young enough to be my son came up. he was more fun to dance with, but then he followed me back to the bar and I assumed he wanted to talk, but I wasn't expecting a twenty minute discussion on why I needed to take dance lessons at a place called hsds. he said I had lerned to dance incorrectly and that I should go where the real dancers were. by the way, are you sure you taught me right? just kidding.
after the second lecture, I decided I had enough and left. at any rate, I am not going back to that place for all the money in china. I was just wondering if maybe there wasn't someplace else to go swing dancing that might be a little nicer. somebody told me about longhorn, but I heard it was country. please let me know if there are other places to swing dance in houston that might be a little nicer.
(Editor's Note: I withheld the name to
avoid embarrassment. However the email exists if there are any
doubts. I suppose the thing that bothers me about these two
letters is why people at HSDS seem to go out of their way to
argue with SSQQ. I am not quite sure why they feel they must
continually put our studio down.
And isn't it curious that an Advanced dancer
is signed up for our Saturday beginner class and just happens to
refer people to the HSDS hangout known as Numbers. Sounds
like more HSDS espionage. )
Letters to the Editor - Response Number
Three to Stephen Jean's Letters
Wednesday, May 30, 2001 4:29 PM
Subject: Re: June SSQQ Newsletter/ HSDS SSQQ FEUD
Rick, I don't
just "like" your newsletter- I love it!
You are most probably in the top ten of
the wittiest newsletter writers in the universe-not that I know
who the other nine are-I'm just guessing.
you published this present letter just a couple of weeks earlier
you would have saved me some discomfort resulting because I
responded to an invitation placed on my windshield while my car
was parked outside your studio door.
(What a horrendously long sentence!)
The invitation resulted in an unpleasant experience.
I was kicked a couple of times and hit in the ear so hard
that I heard bells for eight hours.
Yep! You've guessed it, I betcha.
I was not involved in a pro boxing match. I did, indeed, go to one of those Houston Swing Club dances
sponsored by the Houston Swing Dance Society (HSDS).
the people there are never cautioned about the danger they present
on the dance floor when they behave in a heedless, reckless manner
or else the beverages served-water and R.C. Cola-incited
wild, abandoned behavior. Their
Lindy hopping was redundant with wildly flinging hands, arms, feet
and bodies. (When the
people involved are quite large in size, one literally puts one's
own life in "their" hands, arms, feet and bodies.)
injury was unexpected because the dance floor was not very crowded
and my partner and I kept moving away from the other dancers.
Alas! We were
to say, I've learned my lesson and unlike McArthur, I shall not
return. I'll stay where people have, at the least, been cautioned
about hurling themselves around on the dance floor to the extent
that others are injured-where every effort is made to curtail
accidents. In short,
it's SSQQ for me.
(Editor's Note: Name withheld
by request. However the email exists if there are any doubts.)
WORD (FOR NOW)
retrospect, I think
it did a lot
of good publishing Mr. Jean's letters
and my replies on the SSQQ Web Site in May 2001. Immediately
several letters from SSQQ students and members of the Swing
community came to me in response to my article about Stephen
In these letters it came to
light that HSDS had been up to some of their old tricks.
Was it possible that still another generation of
HSDS members had been repeating the ethical
lapses of their predecessors by recruiting business for HSDS over here at our studio?
In my mind at this point in 2001, HSDS
simply another business competitor.
At this point SSQQ and HSDS "shared" quite a few members. It was common to take lessons at both places.
I was under the assumption that we had all put down our weapons and
decided to get along.
2001 Era two-way dancers knew first-hand all this talk about how SSQQ hates HSDS
was in the past.
As I told Mr. Jean, every HSDS member who has ever danced at SSQQ knows they are perfectly welcome
as long as they are just here to dance and not to preach.
And anyone from HSDS who has taken a class here knows we never say
anything bad about HSDS at our studio.
Something very interesting happened. Soon after the
Newsletter replies were posted, a woman came to me at the
studio. She said she was a representative of HSDS.
She said that the people who currently were the leaders over at
HSDS were very upset with Stephen Jean. She described him
as a young man with a big mouth.
The representative said these same people were sick over
the renewal of hostilities. They had pulled Stephen Jean
aside to give him an explanation of the meaning of the phrase
"Let Sleeping Dogs Lie."
This woman went on to say she had been watching me for
some time and had come to the conclusion that I never said a
word about HSDS unless I was provoked. With that in mind,
she asked if I still had a grudge against HSDS.
I responded truthfully, "I dislike what Rowena and
Carnell did to my ex-wife. Other than those two, I have no
axe to grind with any other member of HSDS."
The woman nodded and said the new generation of leaders
at HSDS would like to put these matters quietly to rest.
I told her it was my style to
defend myself, not to attack.
2001 talk with the mysterious representative, there has not been one
further incident to speak of. Rowena and Carnell have long
since left the scene. Her quiet peace overture put the matter
to rest. I trust that the current generation of HSDS leaders
would prefer to continue to keep it this way.
I am available to answer questions about this article or clarify
points at all time. I stand by what I have said as the truth.
You can always reach me at
If you wish
to have your name withheld, I will be more than happy to do so.
SSQQ Dance Studio
Believe it or Not,
an interesting New Chapter Was written in 2005.