Note From Rick Archer:
If I have one regret regarding Heartbeat, it is
that their story was never told completely. The competitions were
held in other towns. If I was get a story, someone would have to
write it for me so I could put it in the Newsletter.
I begged, threatened, and pleaded with Susie and some of the team
members to write me a story. The truth was, these people were so
busy training all the time and handling their day jobs that free time
was non-existent. By the time they caught up with all the things
they had neglected, their latest accomplishment was so far in the rear
view mirror that writing a story about it seemed silly.
As a result the news clips about this remarkable group of people were
sporadic and incomplete.
What is contained on this page are various stories and postings about
Heartbeat during their climb to the Championship.
Scroll down a bit and you will find an excellent story written by Susie
Merrill back in 1999 about the early days of Heartbeat.
Susie Merrill page
Update from Coach Susie:
SSQQ's Heartbeat exhibition dance team performed in November
2000 at the Dallas Dance Festival where they received their first STANDING OVATION from the crowd.
After their performance, Virginia Rainey, the Director of the Texas Hoe Down in Fort Worth personally invited them to attend her event.
Since the Texas Hoe Down is a qualifying event for the Fun Country National Championships this year, Heartbeat decided to do the event. The team competition was part of the evening entertainment on Saturday night.
To our delight, we were asked to be the closing act!!
Once again, we got a standing ovation from the crowd, and Hearbeat took first place OVERALL, beating 4 other teams.
Members of the winning team:
Mascot: Cole Liles
A Letter from Susie Merrill, Dec. 18, 2000, regarding
openings on the dance team.
SSQQ’s Heartbeat Exhibition Team
was formed several years ago basically as a group to exhibit new dances
at the studio and perform at some of SSQQ’s parties.
Out of that humble beginning, HEARTBEAT has become a competition
and performing team. The
initial members of the team wanted to grow in their dancing.
Several of them wanted to improve their technique and their
styling. A number of them wanted to grow as individuals who were less
“afraid” of getting up in front of a group and performing. All of us enjoyed the comaraderie that has developed in the
group over the years.
I have had a number of inquiries
lately about Heartbeat and what it takes to be a member of the
exhibition team. Basically,
we need 5 things:
You need to be an advanced C&W dancer at the studio.
Ladies should be confident in their turns. Men should be confident in memorizing choreography.
3-4 months of Ghost Town would be a minimum level.
Whip/West Coast Swing training is
required—at least Beginning through Lunar.
We also do East Coast Swing in the routine, so training in that
is a plus. Waltz and
Cha-Cha—western style are also pluses, but not required.
You must be willing to devote time to our practice schedule which is every Thursday from 6-7pm and every other Saturday
from 8:30-10:30am. I also
work with new members on Thursday and Friday evenings at the 9:00
You must be willing to commit to costume expenses for materials
and a seamstress. Boots are required for the women and hats and boots for the
men. I strongly recommend
Jill and Mo’s dance boots. Plan
on around $150 for costume expense for the ladies—not counting boots. Men can plan on around $100--not counting their hat.
Additional costume expense will be around $40 for the team shirts
that we have made.
We do two C&W competitions each year.
The first is the Texas Classic here in Houston in May. The second is the Dallas Dance Festival the first week in
November. These two events are mandatory at this time.
Dallas, of course, involves some travel expense.
In addition, there is an entry fee for the team into the
competitions, the cost of a tape of the performance (used by us to
critique our performances), and your registration fee for the event.
These expenses run around $50-$75 per event per person—not
counting the travel to Dallas or the hotel room for the weekend.
Above all else, you have to WANT to PERFORM.
Social dancing is fun, but exhibition dancing is performing.
Probably our biggest obstacle has been to learn to perform for an
audience instead of just dance around the floor to the music. We work at it during every practice session.
I have learned the hard way that excellent social dancers do not
always make the best performers. Ladies may be great spinners, but if they can’t travel in a
team formation while doing it, the routine won’t work.
Men may be great social dancers, but if they are too inhibited to
learn to act and play with an audience, they won’t enjoy the
Although many of you have probably
seen our routine a number of times, and it may begin to look the same to
you, it is actually a continual “work in progress”.
We started out with a two-step/Charleston routine to Charlie
Daniels “My Baby Plays Me Just Like a Fiddle”.
We added a triple two step/jitterbug entrance to Huey Lewis
“Heartbeat of Rock and Roll”. Next,
we added a lip sync/line dance spoof to The Smokin Armadillos, “I’m
a Cowboy.” Our last
addition was a “comeback” for the ladies with a lip sync/line dance
to Shania Twain’s, “Feel Like a Woman”.
We regularly change our two step to make it more interesting and
more challenging. It takes
me over an hour to get to work in the morning.
The team periodically threatens to take the music away from me so
that I will not make choreography changes in my head during my long
drive each day. Currently
we are re-working the last 1/3rd of our two step, and after
the first of the year, we will be adding a West Coast Swing segment to
finish “Feel Like a Woman.”
Periodically we invite guest
choreographers and coaches to work with us.
We have had help from Sharon Crawford, Pat Steerman, Carmen
Scarbrough and Red Draper. When
these coaches come in, there is an additional expense for practice
time—usually $5-10 per person.
In addition to the required
competitions, the team performs regularly at SSQQ during the C&W and
lip sync parties. We have
also done TIRR Christmas parties, the Lynx Rodeo party, the Seabrook
Music Festival, the Houston International Festival parade, and this year
the Bank United Thanksgiving Day parade.
Our next event will be Jan 25th where we have been
asked to dance at a private party for an international group of Art
Museum directors to the music of Brian Black and his band.
Currently, we have 12 veteran
members on the team, and we are training three new couples.
If you are interested in joining Heartbeat, feel
free to talk to any of the team members, or email Susie Merrill
On the weekend of November 6 and 7, Susie Merrill's dance team, the Heartbeats,
won a big dance contest in Dallas. I hear they are pretty good, but it is all rumor
since none of them will tell me what happened. Actually I am not sure their name is
the Heartbeats. It might be the Heartthrobs.
I would add the names of the Heartthrobs, but I forget who they are since they are too
busy to take the time to email me. They train at SSQQ, but when I asked them to send
me the story, they all said they would send me something when they had the time. Hmmm.
That was nearly two weeks ago.
But here's a picture. One of them is Jill Banta. I heard a rumor she won
something, but I don't know. She wouldn't email me back either.
This team needs a publicity agent bad !!!
Oh, by the way, the Heartbeats will be appearing at the SSQQ Lip Sync Show on Saturday,
November 20th. They are great to see... or that's the rumor, anyway.
They sure are cute. Too bad none of them can type.
Aha!!! My cattiness has paid off. I have been rewarded
with information by Janet Wukman. Voila !
Janet writes :
The team members in the picture
above from left to right are :
Marty Shea, Jill Banta, Chris Henderson, Mo Hendrix, Ray Meyer, Janet Wukman, Karen
Day, Tony Catalano, Diana Liles, Dan Carr, Ben Liles, with Anita Williams, Randy Goshorn,
and Kelly Baehr kneeling in front.
Not pictured : Margi Tufts,
Suzanne Hegemier, Martin Anderson, and Coach Susie Merrill.
Jill Banta won First Place
Overall Female Pro Am Newcomer Division. She danced six dances. Congrats to Jill !!!
Janet didn't bother to tell me what the Heartthrobs won,
but geez, we are making progress here ! Thank you, Janet !
Oh my Goodness, I just received an email from Susie Merrill, the Head Honcho herself !!
That makes two people who have responded to my meanness. If they aren't careful, I
might conclude that being a jerk is more effective than being sweet.
Susie writes :
Here is the (1999) story of Heartbeat.
About 2 years ago, I decided that I wanted to put together a group to perform at the
studio for parties. I really wanted to show off triple two step which was my favorite
dance at the time.
After the initial group was formed, a number of the team members wanted to move forward
and begin doing exhibitions outside the studio. Some of the members, however, were ready
to "retire". As you know, it is very difficult to keep a volunteer dance group
together. I was ready to call it quits, if we couldn't get a group together that wanted to
stay together and work together. I put up signs around the studio, but got very little
response. Most people did not have the time to practice. Several members of the team;
however, were determined to help me keep the group together. They actively recruited
several of our current members. What we found out was that most people just didn't think
they were good enough to try out!! I will never forget the look on Randy's face when I
asked him to join our group. He just never thought he would be considered. Actually, there
are many good dancers at SSQQ who are qualified to dance with the group.
My next challenge was to come up with a theme and a name for our new group. Ben, Marty,
Martin, Tony, Randy, Chris, Dan and Ray were no help. They kept coming up with names like
The Over The Hill Gang, The Prozac Dance Troup, and The Vertical Solution to a Horizontal
Problem!! My suggestion--The Carousel Dancers, was greeted with much laughter and NO
support. In desperation, I went to my husband, Bill, who is very good at this sort of
thing. We spent almost 8 hours over two weekends at music stores listening to songs and
trying to decide on entrance music, a theme, and a name. We picked Huey Lewis'
"Heartbeat of Rock and Roll" as our entrance song, and out of it came our
theme--"SSQQ and Houston--the Heartbeat of Texas Country Music." We shortened
the team name to Heartbeat.
We used the heartbeats at the first of the song, and Bill did a voice over that we use
to introduce the team. "SHHHHH, Listen, it's the Heartbeat of Texas County Music.
Ladies and Gentlemen, from the SSQQ Dance Studio in Houston, Texas, please welcome,
The team really liked the new entrance, and now they wanted T-SHIRTS!! The
T-shirts were another project that I could not have done without Bill. He helped with the
logo, and stood by the man at the t-shirt shop to supervise all the colors and the exact
formation of the logo on the front and the back of the shirt. Ray, Randy and Chris call
them their "chick magnets". They say that the women at Longhorn actually come up
and ask THEM to dance when they wear them. Unfortunately, this also means that they must
really be able to dance up to the expectations of all of these women!! Fortunately for me,
it meant that they became even more dedicated to practicing!!
Nine months has now passed and the entrance and the two step routine have been
completed and the team has increased from 14 to 16 members. After several exhibitions for
convention and rodeo groups, the team had really begun to bond together. They had all
become friends, and now they wanted to take their "show" on the road. They had
progressed into wanting to compete!! That meant new costumes, and many additional
practices. Since last April, the team has practiced every Thursday evening and every
Saturday morning. We began going to competitions in September. We did an exhibition in
Austin at the Fundango, and here in Houston at Waltz Across Texas. After our Austin
exhibition, we were invited to attend the Dallas Dance Festival, the Fort Worth Ho-Down,
and the New Orleans Dance Festivals!!
As you know, the Dallas Dance Festival is a national event sponsored by the United
Country Western Dance Council. It was held in Dallas the first weekend in November.
Heartbeat registered for its first competition. All of our hard work paid off with a FIRST
PLACE IN COMBO CABARET TEAMS DIVISION. We are all proud of our trophy, but I think the
thing that pleased us the most was that the crowd really enjoyed our performance. They
laughed, applauded, & clapped to the music. The entrance was a big success. When the
team came on and formed their 16 person pinwheel, the crowd broke out in applause. The
line was perfectly straight! The Charleston segments in the Two Step were a hit.
One of the judges even wrote in her notes that she loved watching Ben (Liles) do his
lip sync!! Another judge was so taken by Randy during his solo Charleston piece that she
could not stop smiling. When the ladies began their Shania Twain "Feel Like A
Woman", the men in the crowd simply sighed loudly. We had more audience involvement
than any other team there.
It has taken us over a year to get here, and a lot of hard work as well, but I think we
would all agree that it has been worth it. We have learned a lot about dancing and made a
number of life long friends. We intend to continue performing in
Houston, and we have a number of competitions in mind--including the
world championships in Calgary, Canada next January!
The members of the Heartbeat team are:
Ben and Diana Liles
Tony Catalano and Karen Day
Marty Shea and Jill Banta
Martin Anderson and Mo Hendrix
Dan Carr and Janet Wukman
Ray Meyer and Margi Tufts
Chris Henderson and Suzanne Hegemier
Randy Goshorn and Anita Williams
Coach/Choreographer: Susie Merrill
Team Groupie: Bill Merrill
The members of HEARTBEAT would also like to say that we are VERY
PROUD of one of our members--Jill (the Thrill) Banta took FIRST
PLACE in the Newcomer Pro-Am Division.
These results mean that
Jill will have to move up to the next level in the UCWDC rankings. This was her first national competition, so winning
it all is quite an accomplishment!!
Goodness Gracious!! Thank you, Susie!
Now I know quite a bit more about the team. First I have
discovered they are not the Heartthrobs. They are not even the
Heartbeats. The team is the HEARTBEAT.
We still do not know much about the competition the team won in Dallas,
but the rumor is they beat out a team from Waco, perhaps a team from Ft Worth (??), and
definitely a team from Texas A&M who were reported to be pretty hot.
All in all, not bad !! Nice going, guys and gals.
Other pearls in Susie's writeup : so the tee-shirts are a
"chick magnet", eh ? Susie has revealed to the world that Randy, Ray, and
Chris have a magic tee-shirt. Hmm.
Correct me if I am wrong, but Susie also seems to be
hinting there is room for more members. Well, I know for a fact I have
been getting emails from dancers outside the studio requesting
information on how to join the team. If you are interested, let me
know and I will get you in touch with Susie Merrill, da Coach with da
to Susie Merrill page