FORWARD - YOUTUBE
In the First
Chapter of our Essays on Reputation, Thomas Friedman warned
that today's technology forced all of us to be more careful
than at any other time in history lest we inadvertently send
our Reputation down the Tubes, uh, down the YouTubes.
As you will see, this story will illustrate Mr. Friedman's
CASE HISTORY TWO:
This is the story of how the Reputation of an
SSQQ assistant got badly tarnished when a very nasty trick was
played on him.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Written by Rick Archer, July 2007
Here at SSQQ, we have three levels of teachers: Instructors,
Assistants and Volunteers. To make a long story short, we
train our future Instructors via the Apprentice System.
Many students like to help us with our classes. So we make
them Volunteers. The Volunteers serve a valuable role. Often when the
beginning students dance with the more experienced Volunteers, the
student gets to feel how the move is supposed to work. Plus a
simple hint on a lead can make all the difference in the world.
In addition, a Volunteer can help struggling students with extra
attention which allows the Instructor to concentrate on keeping the
group moving. A good Volunteer is a marvelous asset
At some point, we promote our best Volunteers to Assistants.
Although they are not paid, they do become Staff Members.
Each Volunteer understands that when
they become Assistants, they are next in line to become
Instructors if an opening happens to occur. By helping
the Instructor conduct the class, they are getting
on-the-job training how to conduct their own classes when
the time comes.
The Apprentice System works like a
charm. Whenever we need a new instructor, there are
often several excellent candidates to choose from.
Once a Volunteer gets promoted to an Assistant, I
ask them to teach a Beginning Crash Course to get more
teaching experience. A Crash Course is a two-hour
class that meets one time on a Saturday night. It is
the perfect opportunity for a future instructor to gain
invaluable experience towards the day when he or she will be
running their own ship.
With that in mind, I asked a young man named Alex to teach a
Beginning Salsa Crash Course on April 28, 2007. Alex took
his first opportunity seriously. He even went to the
trouble of recruiting and training a woman to help him teach
Afterwards, I asked one of our Instructors how Alex did at
his Crash Course. The instructor smiled and said she
had heard several good things about the class. I
nodded and filed the information away.
Alex himself was encouraged by the experience. Shortly
after, Alex emailed me to ask permission to teach a Crash
Course of his own design, "Timing and Body Movement", at the
next Salsa Party in June. I raised an eyebrow. Not
very many of my instructors approach me about teaching a new
crash course of their own design. In fact, it had been over a year since
anyone suggested a new crash course to me. So I was
impressed by his initiative. Alex seemed highly
At the same time, the thought crossed my mind that this was
a tough course to teach. Teaching body motion
is one of the toughest tasks a dance instructor can tackle.
Just ask anyone who has ever taught Latin Motion to a
beginning student and they will quickly agree that for every
two people who catch on immediately, there is a third person
who struggles mightily. I remember my own ordeals from
30 years earlier trying to learn the hip motion of Merengue.
Cursed by my over-analytical mind, I made a fool
of myself trying to figure out which knee was supposed to lock at
the same time as the other knee was supposed to bend. Just
like the cartoon, afterwards I could barely walk.
Although I doubted Alex knew what he
was getting into,
I decided to let him teach the crash course anyway. One nice
thing about teaching dance is the consequences of a teaching
mistake are usually quite minimal. If we teach a move
wrong, generally the worst consequence is impatience or
frustration on the part of the student. Yes, arms get
twisted, feet get stepped on and there is the occasional
bruise, but major accidents
are few and far between. In other words, although Alex was clearly an inexperienced
instructor, how much trouble could he get into?
Besides, the experience would do him good...
At first, it looked like Alex pulled
off his class just fine. Here is an innocuous email
Alex sent me two days after he taught his body movement class.
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2007 1:17 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: your instructor Alex
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to teach
the timing and movement class. It wasn't a large class
(I suspect the rain and a popular SSQQ student's
birthday party had something to do with that), but
everybody enjoyed it and they all said that they found
the information very useful.
I hope if the opportunity arises again, the class will
be even more of a success.
However, soon after that, in the
following week events
developed that turned very nasty. It turned out that Alex
had allowed someone to videotape part of his dance class. This
was in direct violation of SSQQ rules.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 11:22 AM
To: SSQQ Staff
Subject: memo 12 - use of videotape cameras prohibited
during, before, and after group classes
Videotaping dance patterns demonstrated in SSQQ Group
Classes is strictly prohibited. Taking pictures in group
classes is prohibited.
This includes Staff Members, Assistants, Volunteers, etc
as well as Students.
Here is a simple reason… why should someone bother
repeating a class if all they have to do is look at the
I have other reasons as well that are deeper and darker.
I have personal experience that videotaping group
lessons can be exploited for personal use. The
moment I permit videotape, I give away control of my
studio's curriculum. There is no benefit to the studio,
but great potential for damage. This is one issue where
I am not going to wait till something bad happens, and
then make the policy. I can already foresee plenty
99 people out of 100 can be trusted not to hurt the
studio in any way, but with 1300 people a month, at that
rate we are pretty vulnerable. Remember, it
only takes ONE PERSON to cause a problem. If I
give permission to one person, I must give permission to
In addition to potential piracy issues, there are also
privacy issues as well. Other students who are
inadvertently photographed in the video may raise
serious objections to being included.
Don't do it and don't let someone talk you into letting
them do it. Do not get into any discussion or argument
with a student or another instructor about videotaping.
You are not expected to defend this policy, simply to
Make me the "Bad Guy". Tell them to talk to Rick about
it and walk away.
Report any problems to the Hall Monitor or to me, Linda
Cook, Marla Archer, or Jack Benard. I consider failure
to cooperate with my wishes to be serious and I will
take actions accordingly.
That said, Videotaping during private lessons is
completely okay. Here you have control of the
content, so I do not mind.
I understand that videotaping is a great convenience,
but dance moves can also be written down.
Gravity is said to be one of Life's great teachers.
Babies learn about Gravity from the moment they begin to
walk. Another one of Life's great teachers is "The
Hard Way". Almost all of Life's great lessons are
learned "The Hard Way".
Using "The Hard Way", Alex was faced with the real reason
behind my No Videotape Rule.
Phil, the person who videotaped his class, gave the tape to
a man named John. John turned around and posted two
short video clips on YouTube.
In addition, John created an account titled "ssqq houston".
In other words, this video became living, breathing
testimony to the quality of SSQQ instruction to anyone
typing in the letters "ssqq". Alex had inadvertently
become the YouTube Poster Boy for SSQQ.
And then the fun started. Links to the videos were
sent flying around Houston.
It didn't take long for the link to end up in my In-Box.
Curious, I clicked on it and took a look. That's when
I was treated to a grainy, poorly filmed six-minute video
featuring Alex teaching his Body Motion class.
Then I noticed that people had been leaving comments
underneath the video. As of June 27, here is what was
01. jw152466 (1 week ago)
Wow, do you have to pay to learn this? If you are
doing shoulder isolation, why does your hips move as
well? If this is a real class, people should get their
money back! Not cool!
02. SmartAlx (5 days ago)
Did you get YOUR money back?
03. jw152466 (5 days ago)
Just a nickel. . . but hey you can have it, it seems
like you need it - maybe get a better looking hat "dude"
04. cgutierrez00 (1 week ago)
OMG! "alex has been dancing for over 3 years and
instructing at ssqq for over a year" Really???
05. SmartAlx (5 days ago)
Where exactly am I doing shoulder isolation in this
video? Phil didn't film the strict shoulder isolation.
All you see in this video is me combining the upper body
with the lower body. Get your facts straight.
06. jw152466 (5 days ago)
On minute 4:10. It says Shoulder rolls. . . Maybe you
got bored of seeing yourself. Your "shoulder rolls"
pulls your hips. Here, check this video, you might be
able to learn a thing or two
07. SmartAlx (5 days ago)
Say Phil, who is that in the mirror at about 1:30 and
again at 4:15 filming this video? Kinda looks like you!
Wow. Did you actually create a special account called
SSQQ Houston specifically to post this video? Are you
too ashamed to put the video on your own account, or are
you trying to make me look bad? Classy. Verry Classy.
Phil put the "Shoulder rolls" in the video, not me.
He got it wrong. As I said, Phil didn't film the
shoulder isolation. He only filmed the parts where we
were combining different groups.
08. philltx (5 days ago)
I will be happy to put this video on my own account
to promote you as an instructor.
09. jw152466 (5 days ago)
10. SmartAlx (5 days ago)
Did you create this account just to abuse me JW? Care
to reveal your identity? Or do you not want me to meet
my accuser? Maybe you won't want the Houston salsa
community to know what kind of a rude salsa snob you
11. jw152466 (1 hour ago)
I'm promoting you as in instructor. The regular
dancers at Tropicana and Skybar know you now. You are
famous my friend!
12. jw152466 (1 hour ago)
This movie should be "flagged as inappropriate" for
13. nmarquez13 (13 minutes ago)
Poor Babies!!! I can't believe people are paying to
get injured this way!! You must have time, knowledge and
YEARS of experience in order to teach a class of this
type and you have neither of those.
To the people on this video, PLEASE choose your
instructors wisely, don't waste any more money, seek
PROFESSIONALS!!! and to you SmartAlx, sorry but you
don't have the tools nor the skill to teach this class.
14. jw152466 (44 minutes ago)
I could not agree with you more! Sad that this is the
material that they teach at SSQQ. I have never taken
lessons there and i probably won't if the instructors
are like this.
15. jw152466 (48 minutes ago)
This is the root of the very problem. There are
people out there that think they can dance or sing
because they have been doing this for a while, but in
reality they dont - or are not born with that gift. Then
they go about trying to teach things beyond their actual
skills and in the end you produce mediocre dancers.
Funds should be invested in the proper way with a
trained, certified dancer.
Here is a perfect example of the expression Adding Insult to
Injury. John (jw152466) was having so much fun
writing comments at
Alex's expense, he decided to send me an email on June 27.
I can only assume John hoped at the least I would chew Alex
out and demote him or - even better - fire him.
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 4:10 PM
Subject: Classes and Instructor Quality
My name is John and I'm an active Salsa Dancer here
in the Houston Area. I do not know if you are aware
of this, but one of your "instructors' " classes is
available via YouTube. I think his name is Alex and
his is teaching Salsa Movement and Timing. Although
the initiative is nobel (as to
workshops like this should be offered on all dance
studios), the technique and execution observed
throughout the class is below average to mediocre.
As the owner of the SSQQ it should be in your
interest to review the agenda of the class, and
foremost the ability, experience, training, and
certification of your instructors before offering
special topics workshops such as this. This will
prevent misguiding people into developing bad
habits, or just plainly wasting their monies.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 5:43 PM
Subject: RE: Classes and Instructor Quality
I see you are busy having fun at Alex's expense,
John. And now you wish to cut him off at the
cajones by running to the Boss and turning him in.
It seems clear you are looking for every possible
avenue that you might be able find to embarrass him
However, I already read your responses at youtube. It stopped being funny after the fourth or fifth
time you slammed the guy.
At this point, it is obvious you are simply being
By the way, "nobel" is a peace price. The word you
are looking for is "noble". But then I doubt
seriously you have even a clue what the word means,
much less how to spell it.
A day later
I went back to YouTube for another look. As of June 28, the videos were gone and so were the
comments. This picture shows what I found instead.
I do not know the facts behind the
removal of the videos. If the videos had been removed
voluntarily, I doubt this comment would be posted. My
guess is that Alex was forced to contact YouTube himself and
lodged a complaint. If so, good for him in cleaning up the
written by Rick Archer
The story of Alex
and the video goes
straight to the heart of our discourse on
QUOTE ONE (from the
Thomas Friedman article):
"When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry,
everyone becomes a potential publisher. When everyone has a
cell phone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo.
When everyone can upload video on
YouTube, everyone is a
When everyone is publisher, paparazzo
or filmmaker, everyone else becomes a potential public
figure. We must get accustomed to the thought that we are
all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global
discussion so much richer - and each of us so much more
By coincidence, the Friedman article appeared in the
Chronicle the very same day Alex was being roasted
on the Internet. The timing was so perfect it
was eerie. I had just read the article at
breakfast, then walked over to my computer to begin the
day. Ten minutes later, I opened the email
with the link to the video. As I watched the
video on the Internet, the exact words posted above
echoed through my mind...
"When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is a
This embarrassing moment is the perfect illustration
of what Mr. Friedman was trying to warn us about.
TWO (from Rick Archer's memo on videotape):
"I have other reasons
as well that are deeper and darker. I have
personal experience that videotaping group lessons
can be exploited for personal use. The moment
I permit videotape, I give away control of my
studio's curriculum. There is no benefit to the
studio, but great potential for damage. This is
one issue where I am not going to wait till
something bad happens, and then make the policy. I
can already foresee plenty of danger.
99 people out of 100 can be trusted not to hurt the
studio in any way, but with 1300 people a month, at
that rate we are pretty vulnerable.
Remember, it only takes ONE PERSON to cause a
problem. If I give permission to one
person, I must give permission to all."
As it turned out, my memo nine months earlier was
prophetic. By ignoring my warning, Alex got himself
in a pickle. Obviously some people have to learn things "The Hard
One of my favorite sayings is "Experience is a
comb that Life throws you after you have lost your
During his class, Alex
actually saw the man videotaping. Rather than
follow my orders, he
allowed it to continue. Alex has no one to blame
but himself for the trap he fell into.
As you have read for yourself, various Salsa
dancers in the community began to amuse themselves by insulting Alex's class
and his teaching ability. What a nasty little trick they
Alex didn't help matters any by responding, but some of those
statements were very harsh and I am sure he felt compelled to defend
And now I have to ask the question:
Was the criticism justified?
watched the video several times. So did my
wife. We both came to the same conclusion -
the entire video was boring. It showed six
minutes of Alex showing different movements while the
students stood behind him copying the motions in Simon Says fashion.
There in the corner of the video, in the mirror you
could actually see the reflection of Phil, the man
making the videotape. It was obvious what
Phil. He clearly wasn't dancing. Instead
he stood still while he taped
In my opinion, there was absolutely nothing in the
video that would prove that Alex was a poor
instructor. Yes, the video dragged on, but in
his defense, the material Alex covered was very dry stuff.
Lift a shoulder, move a hip, work a knee, do a head
roll. Alex was not trying to be entertaining.
This information was important only to the people who
wished to learn more about Salsa styling.
There was nothing wrong with his class.
That said, I will agree
that the video was easily lampooned. You know the old saying,
like no one is watching? In fact, when
people are learning to dance, they often look like klutzes.
you can make fun of anyone who is trying to dance or
trying to teach. As a result, Alex is practically helpless to
defend himself from criticism.
Even very good dancers can look awkward in slo mo.
For that matter, if someone is determined to take a shot, any dance instructor could be
teased or criticized. People simply do
not always look graceful in dance class. That's why I
insist that dance classes should be private. No kids, no
guests, no watching and definitely no videotape.
The mistake was allowing the class to be
videotaped by a person who meant to do Alex harm.
Alex made the mistake because he
thought the person genuinely wished to videotape the
pattern he was teaching for practice purposes later
on. As they say, No
good deed goes unpunished.
THERE BUT FOR THE
GRACE OF GOD GO I
studied the dance tape carefully. Despite all
the mean things said about him, Alex did just fine
in his dance class. His only mistake was
getting caught in the headlights.
Gee, if you want see what a lousy dance instructor
really looks like, you should have watched some of
my first dance classes back in the Seventies.
You would have definitely asked for your money back!
You see, early in
my career, I was an incredibly mediocre Disco dance
Let me share a couple of excerpts with you.
Surge hit Houston like a tidal wave. I was one busy boy! From
two one-hour classes in October, by February 1978 I was teaching 18
group classes a week (three classes, six nights a week), 20
private lessons a week, plus I went out dancing after
practically every class to boot.
However I was faced with a problem. I didn't really know
very much about dancing when I started in October 1977.
I lived in constant fear that a student would show up who knew
more about dancing than I did. With the pace Disco was developing here in Houston, there
were nights when I was learning a move at 6 pm that I was going
to teach at 7... and there weren't any other patterns in the
cookie jar in case I got stuck.
When Saturday Night Fever hit, all I knew how to
teach were line dances. I didn't have a clue how to partner
dance. But my students insisted on learning how to Partner
Dance. How was I supposed to teach them something I didn't know
how to do myself? I had to make stuff up from what I saw
out on the dance floor. For several months,
I stayed barely one step ahead of my students. It was so bad that I
turned to a recent invention - the VCR. Each Thursday, a new
show called "Dance Fever" came on. After class, I would race
home to see if there were any new moves I could steal to use in
my next Advanced Disco class!!
In the middle of 1978 when Disco Partner Dancing became the
rage, my weaknesses were in great danger of being exposed. I was constantly worried that
my inexperience would prove fatal some night. No, let's change
that. I was scared out of my wits!!
History of SSQQ)
and a half later, my mad scramble to stay one step
ahead of my Disco students was repeated a second
time. As the Disco Era ended, Western Dancing
came on the scene like a stampede of buffaloes.
In a situation that smacked eerily of
I accepted an
opportunity to teach people how to Western Dance
without ever having Western danced in my entire
I heard the phone ring. The
woman on the phone said she was from the Meyerland Club. I
recalled teaching a Disco class there a year or so earlier.
Now with Urban Cowboy looming on the horizon, she
was looking for a Western dance instructor.
"You do know how to teach Country Dancing, don’t you?"
If I hesitated I was dead. "Of
course I do." I
had just lied through my teeth. I had never danced Western once
in my entire life.
"That's good. A couple ladies in my group asked around but
couldn't find anyone. That's when I suggested you."
Not only did I not have a clue, I hated
Western music. Just as I was thinking of turning her down, Sandy's next words
froze me. She said, "Would the price be the same?"
MONEY!? I couldn't resist; I had to ask!!
"Refresh my memory. What was our previous
"The last time you were here you charged $5 an hour per
person which I thought was reasonable. Would that be okay?"
Now I hesitated. Disco classes weren't as big as they used to
be... but on the other hand, I could turn down a hundred bucks
or so just to avoid the aggravation of fooling with Western
She responded to my pause by continuing, "This would mean
$40 a person. I forgot to tell you, we want you to come out once
a week for eight weeks!"
EIGHT WEEKS!! FORTY DOLLARS A PERSON!!
I could not help myself. I had to ask. I HAD TO KNOW.
"Uh, how many people do you expect?"
"Maybe 40, 50 people. Here at the Meyerland Club it is
being billed as the thing to do! All the ladies want to wear
their new Western outfits!"
I felt my knees go weak. The math was inescapable. $200 an hour
was a lot of money. Would I have the strength to resist
The thought that crossed my mind was maybe I could start
learning how to Western dance. I said yes.
That's when she added, "By the way, the first class is
I gasped as she said it started this coming Sunday. The job was
only five days away!
She felt my pause. She said, "Is this too short a notice?"
Then she added there was one other person on her list she had
heard might teach if I couldn't help....
"Uh no, Sunday evening
will be fine. See you then!!"
What had I gotten myself into? I did not
know how to Twostep. I did not know how to Polka. If you put on a
Country song, I would not be able to tell
you which dance to use.
I had never been dancing in a Western Club in my life.
I basically knew no more
about Western Dancing than the people I was about to teach.
That makes it interesting, doesn't it?
Risky Business, Chapter One
THE FINAL WORD
In case you
the reader did not follow my narrative
closely, let me repeat: I
committed myself to teach an eight-week
Western dance class
starting in 5 days, yet I had never danced Western
in my entire life.
When you combine my Disco
struggles with my Western struggles for the first three
years of my dance career, you see why I say I lived by the motto
Fake It Till You Make It.
Do you suppose my students ever noticed my
shortcomings? I am sure some of them did.
They simply lacked the technology to do me any real
Any bootleg video of my classes vintage 1978-1980
could have ended my dance career on the
That's a major point of the Friedman article:
today's mistakes are magnified and it is much more
difficult to repair one's reputation from mistakes.
My generation got to write its resume without
today's spotlight. In the beginning, yes, I
fudged my credentials till I was able to figure
Fortunately for me, I didn't get caught.
So what was Alex's mistake? Alex was
guilty of poor judgment. He knew videotaping was
forbidden, but he didn't quite understand 'why'.
He figured, 'what can it hurt?' And that's
when he learned his lesson the Hard Way.
Life has thrown Alex a
is correct that Alex is a rookie instructor.
Yet in every way possible, Alex is far superior in
training to me at a similar stage. This young man is
more than qualified to teach his Salsa class.
But unlike me, Alex lives in a new and different world, a
world where the slightest mistake can come back to
haunt you. And thanks to a dumb mistake, now Alex's
reputation as a dance instructor has been called
would help if I presented another side of the story.
For starters, Alex has been assisting with dance
classes here at SSQQ for three years. Not only does he
personally share his music for our Thursday Night
Salsa Practice, Alex stays to the end of practice
each week dancing with the students. He
frequently spends his time helping the
ones that are struggling.
His efforts have paid
off. Although his Salsa peers may treat him
poorly, other people have a better opinion. Let me share a couple of unsolicited
emails that people have sent me regarding Alex.
From: A J A
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 1:42 PM
Subject: Your instructor Alex
To the SSQQ Studio:
As I am sure you know, your instructor, Alex
(Salsa), is always very sweet to everyone.
Taking advantage of his good nature, I asked him
last night to do me a favor. I asked him to
dance with my 17 year old daughter in beginning
Salsa. I warned him that she was very unhappy
about being in the class but that his assistance
might change her mind some as she thought he was
gorgeous. Alex went out of his way to look for
her and comply with my request as soon as class
was over. I am very appreciative of him making
my request a priority, and wanted to let you
From: S S
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 10:35 PM
Subject: The hat snatch salsa dance
Just had to tell you about the salsa party on
Saturday and the enjoyable entertainment by Alex
and Jamie with Alex's little hat. Jamie snatched
it while they were dancing a hot salsa, then the
fun began... Back and forth they went after that
hat, all the while dancing a mean salsa without
missing a beat.
Everyone roared with applause at the end of the
song - I think Alex got it back but I'm not
compare those two letters with these words from John, the
hatchet man who illegally posted the video of Alex's
initiative is nobel (as to
workshops like this should be offered on all
dance studios), the technique and execution
observed throughout Alex's class is below
average to mediocre."
asked Alex to teach that course. Alex asked to
teach it himself with the idea that he had something
to share with our students. Rather than simply
gain some experience as a teacher with the idea of
improving the class for the next time, instead Alex
was subjected to vicious criticism far out of
proportion to his actual performance.
As I said, No good deed goes unpunished. Now
he gets to live with the label 'mediocre'.
give the kid a chance. I hope he has the guts
to live this down and try again. Hopefully Alex's
pride will heal. He will realize that sticks
and stones can break your bones, but words will
never hurt you... unless you let them. That
which doesn't break you will make you stronger.
I will conclude this story with this quote.
"It is not the critic who
counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or
where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose
face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly;
who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not
effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive
to do the deed...
Who at the best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the
worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly...
So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who
know neither victory nor defeat."
26th President of the United
In July 2004, a woman named Cheryl ask
for permission to teach Samba here at the studio.
Despite a world of talent and many good intentions, for a variety
of reasons Cheryl could not find a way to find a niche
within the framework of SSQQ schedules and traditions.
We will study how this incident reflects on the theories
brought forth in the Thomas Friedman article.