Chandelier Ballroom
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Chandelier Ballroom

Rick Archer's Dance Class Schedule Chapelwood  

This picture of our Ballroom Dance Group was taken in September 2011.  We generally fill three to four tables every visit.

This picture of our Western Dance Group was taken in November 2011 at BR Kunze's Birthday Party.

 

April 2014

Sat 05 Moonglow Orchestra (Big Band) $15.
Sat 12 River Road Boys (Western Swing) $10.
Sat 19 No Dance
Fri 25 Grateful Geezers (50's, 60's, soul & blues) $10.
Sat 26 No Dance
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Friday and Saturday Dances  are held 8 pm - 11:30 pm (Sunday times vary)
Dress Code required for all Big Band and Ballroom dances
On Country Western and Polka nights, wear whatever you wish.
SPJST 88 Website


Chandelier Ballroom

1435 Beall Street Houston, TX 77008
713-869-5767 (9-3 pm office hours)
email to:  spjstlodge88@comcast.net

Chandelier Ballroom
Story Written by Rick Archer in January 2012
Last Update May 2012

The Chandelier Ballroom is a enormous yet nondescript building hidden well off the beaten path.  It is located on a tree-lined street named 'Beall' in the Heights.

Don't let the modest exterior fool you.  Inside, the Chandelier happens to possess the largest wood dance floor in Houston that I know of.  Better yet, once you finally figure out where the place is located, the Chandelier is not only easy to reach, it has plenty of accessible parking space as well.

SSQQ Ballroom dancers have been beating a path to the Chandelier for years on a random basis.  Starting last August, our Ballroom group began visiting the Chandelier once a month.  

Our group varied from 20 people to 70 people.  On two visits - September and November - we were the largest group in the entire club.

Chandelier Ballroom, also known as SPJST Lodge 88, is a Czech Fraternal Lodge.   The place is run by some extremely nice people who are unfailingly polite. 

SPJST stands for Slovanska Podporujici Jednota Statu Texas, the Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas.  I dare anyone to say it fast. 

Back in the 1800s in a period that stretched from 1834 - 1900, about 200,000 people from Czechoslovakia in Eastern Europe emigrated to the United States.  A good many of these people settled into an untamed Wild West territory named Texas about the time of the Texas Independence (1836) and eventual entrance into the United States (1845).

Naturally the emigrants banded together for safety as well as to maintain their heritage.  This need to stay in touch with their cultural roots provided the impetus to create a "Lodge" to meet at.  By 1897, there were 27 lodges spread out across Texas. 

After all these years of visiting the Chandelier, I will confess the place still holds several mysteries for me. 

The biggest mystery is that they only have a schedule of activities that includes two a nights a week. From what I gather, they have at most two or three events a week.  There is Thursday Night Bingo, an occasional Friday Night dance plus regular dances every Saturday Night.

I wonder what goes on at the Chandelier during the day.   And what goes on at the Chandelier during the evenings on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays?   Do they hold secret Czech meetings? 

Another mystery is that I can't figure out how the owners can afford the property taxes on this place.  It is a giant, well-maintained facility occupying several acres of prime real estate in the Heights.  There is a quiet city park in back, so the building has trees on three sides and no immediate neighbors.  What a choice location!  The taxes must cost them a fortune and yet the parking lot is usually deserted whenever I drive by the building.

Since the place doesn't seem to be very busy, I cannot for the life of me figure out their finances.  On the other hand, as they say, "it is none of my business".   All I know is that the people who run the place keep a very low profile and run a first-class operation.

A quick look at the schedule reveals that the Friday Night Polka Band Dances have apparently been discontinued.  In addition, it seems like there are fewer Ballroom Dances on Saturday night than I remember.  The Czech Polka Dances appear to have migrated from Fridays over to share the Saturdays with Ballroom Dancing and occasional Western dances. 

Whatever the answer to the mysteries, Chandelier is a fun place to visit.

The building and its grounds are well-lit.  There is plenty of parking and the area feels extremely safe.

Furthermore, there is a sense of the "hidden" to the Chandelier Ballroom.

Recessed on a back street in a residential area well off Shepherd, I doubt any criminal can even find the place.  Heck, even our own students can't find it and they have maps!!

Inside the dance floor is spacious, the room is well-lit and the tables allow large groups to mingle and chat easily.   As I said earlier, the Ballroom Dance floor is enormous.  I don't think the floor is quite the size of a football field, but it sure feels like it.  The floor seems well-maintained.  I have never had trouble dancing on this attractive wood floor.

Thanks to the spacious room, there are plenty of tables to sit at.   They say each table sits 12 people, but I suspect there is room for more.  The only time seating ever becomes a problem for our group is when the Band sits down. 

Unfortunately they don't play any DJ music during the Break, so the massive floor empties rapidly the moment people realize the Band is sitting down.  Chairs are now a premium item.

Band Breaks are one of my favorite times of the evening.  I always get a kick out of watching these well-dressed,  "mannerly" adults make a mad 'musical chairs'-style scramble for the few remaining chairs.  Despite their suits and lovely dresses, for a brief moment these models of decorum lose all semblance of proper behavior as they scratch and claw their way to grab the last remaining chair.  Then the moment they are seated, they put their polite smiley face back on and pretend nothing just happened.

A nice feature about these tables is that they act as 'beehives'.   The tables permit large groups of people to socialize during Breaks and whenever someone chooses to sit out a song. There are always people buzzing around in the general area of their table.  We take turns sharing the seats. A table of twelve can more or less accommodate a group of 20 because many people are usually standing around to chat.  People don't usually need (or want) to sit all night long.  They just want an area to call their own for the evening. 

The tables have practical purposes as well. They act as places to store purses, shoe bags and food items.  Stick them under the table or lay them on top.  The large tables allow people to bring food, beverage and wine bottles galore to each event.  The Chandelier has a concession stand which sells soft drinks and bottled water.  I was informed recently that they sell beer as well. 

 

The Chandelier people don't seem to mind letting people bring in whatever they wish (except maybe water, soft drinks and beer since they sell it).  Although the food is usually the typical chips and dips munchies, I have seen veritable feasts at some tables.  Any guest is welcome to bring food.  I also see wine bottles aplenty. 

Wine appears to be the preferred beverage.  Wine is a major component of an evening at the Chandelier.  One man confided he has the exact amount measured out.  Two glasses gives him enough confidence to get out there in front of all those people, but three glasses makes him forget everything he knows.

Some people bring some very expensive bottles.  I hate them.  One night I confiscated an empty "expensive" bottle.  Ever since, each night I simply put my own cheap wine in that bottle and take it with me.  Works like a charm; I get lots of compliments on my excellent taste in wine.  People think I am a high roller except for the lady who keeps asking why I always bring a bottle already uncorked.  Mind your own business.

Another value of the tables is to make it easy to identify who is in your group.  Of course the fear among singles is there will be no one to dance with.  Thanks to the tables, it is fairly easy to identify the newcomers and make them feel welcome.  The nice thing about going to the Chandelier as a group is that everyone takes turns asking each other to dance.  And when you do have to sit out a song, there is usually someone to chat with.  The single women like joining our group because they know they will be safe from strangers and have friends to socialize with.  Hopefully all the gentlemen will make a point to ask several women to dance throughout the evening.

Personally, back when I started, I thought it was great to dance with several different women.  I remember the first time I went Ballroom Dancing with my Ballroom class.  I could only remember four Foxtrot patterns.  If I had danced those same patterns with the same woman all night, I would have been ashamed of myself.  However I was able to spread my boring repertoire over six or seven women, so I didn't feel too guilty.  Little did I know the other guys could only remember four patterns as well.  Those poor women. 

The Moonglow Orchestra and the Jack Melick Orchestra currently take turns playing at the Chandelier.  I have heard that the Moonglow Orchestra plays a preponderance of Foxtrot and Swing music.  With that in mind, be sure to dance to a Rumba, Chacha, Waltz, and Tango song whenever you hear one.  Usually they play at least two of each during the evening, but if you came in late and hear a Rumba, this could be your one big chance. 

So how good is the dancing? 

It is to be expected that there are many good Ballroom dancers at the Chandelier.  However, without meaning to step on toes, there are quite a few "average" dancers there as well.   There are a lot of people there who are perfectly happy just dancing for the fun of it. 

People assume that all Ballroom dancers must be pros.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Just like a night of Western dancing at a club, there are some exceptional dancers, but the vast majority are average dancers who are there strictly to socialize, not to show off.

In my opinion, the really serious Ballroom dancers stick to events hosted by their own dance studio.  Since the Chandelier Ballroom is neutral territory, the dance elite seem to go elsewhere on Saturday night. 

The exception are the 4 or 5 extremely talented male Ballroom instructors who treat the Chandelier as their personal fishing hole for new students.  They go from table to table asking unescorted ladies to dance.  Sure enough, at the end of dance, out comes their business card.

Here in Houston, Ballroom Dancing has been forced to take a distant back seat to Country-Western and Salsa Dancing for as long as I can remember.  Even the impressive popularity and staying power of "Dancing with the Stars" doesn't seem to have budged the pecking order here in Houston one bit.  People enjoy watching the theatrics of the professional dancers and their celebrity partners, but have a hard time visualizing themselves doing the same thing.  Ballroom Dancing is for "other people".

Many people fail to realize that there is a vast difference between the gifted dancers appearing on national TV and "social Ballroom dancing".  Yes, Ballroom Dancing can be very glamorous.  However Social Ballroom dancing is far less complicated.  When you go to the Chandelier, yes, there will be a couple Ballroom instructors who will shine, but the vast majority of dancers will be using their Box Steps, Twinkles, and Back Steps all night long. 

If you are a Beginner, you will certainly feel overwhelmed.  The hardest part is forcing yourself to show up in the first place.  But don't let that stop you.  You don't have to be an excellent dancer to participate.  Everyone in our group understands full well that everyone has to start somewhere.  So rather than turn their noses at Beginners, most people in our group are more than happy to "encourage" rather than "discourage".  Once you get out on the floor, you begin to improve automatically. 

The main point of Social Ballroom is not necessarily to be a perfectionist or an exhibitionist, but rather to have fun dancing with friends to romantic music in a comfortable, relaxed setting.  I have noticed that the people at the Chandelier are by and large good Ballroom dancers, but certainly not intimidating.  There are usually 200-300 people out there.  If you are beginner, just dance in the middle and don't worry about it.

Slow Dance and Romance at Sea

As many people in the SSQQ Ballroom Club are well aware, Ballroom Dancing is especially popular on cruise trips.

Ballroom Dancing can be glamorous and romantic... exactly the ambience a cruise ship aspires to.  All the way back to the days of the Titanic, Ballroom Dancing and Cruise trips have gone hand in hand.  We may be 80 years past the height of Big Band Era, long considered the Golden Age of Ballroom.  Nevertheless, aboard a cruise ship, those days are still alive.  People are consistently surprised at the emphasis on Ballroom Dancing aboard their ship.

It turns out that Cruise trips feature many opportunities for people to dance.  We are fortunate for this indeed. One of the real treats in life is dancing in a luxurious setting to romantic music complete with band and vocalist.

Slow Dance and Romance go hand in hand at sea in a powerful way. Nothing quite compares to the pleasure of dancing in each other's arms to a love song. For some reason, most of us don't take the time to seek out special moments like these back on land.

Thank goodness we have the magic of the sea to give us these enchanted evenings.

Now it is true that any cruise ship leaving out of Galveston will have many passengers who prefer Western dancing.  And it is true that any cruise ship leaving Miami will have many passengers who prefer Salsa.  \

But when you look at the big picture around the world, Ballroom Dancing is the most popular form of dancing internationally. 

This explains why every cruise ship has a Ballroom singer who heads a group of two or three musicians.  These Ballroom combos are very popular with our SSQQ dancers. 

Here is a picture our dance group Ballroom Dancing at sea.  This picture is exactly the same thing you will see at the Chandelier - couples and singles all mixed together like one big happy family.  

The point of going to the Chandelier is to have this same kind of experience on a monthly basis, not just once a year on a cruise trip.

Slow Dance is the Path to Romance

To me, the greatest obstacle to expanding our Chandelier Ballroom Club is the willingness of the men to be patient enough to see a Ballroom project through to fruition.  Men have some pretty serious hurdles to cross to become good Ballroom dancers.  I estimate they need to put in at least six months of classes just to cover the Intermediate level of each dance.  Then they need to make it a point to practice. 

As a teacher, I can have my men brave enough to go dancing Western or Salsa at a club within three or four lessons.  When a man takes a Salsa class, he only has to learn Salsa.   When he takes a Western class, he only has to learn two dances (Twostep and Polka).   However, at the Chandelier, he will face a vast array of 7 different dances, eight if they play a Samba. Consequently men who are Beginners are forced to sit out many of the songs.

That can be pretty daunting for a man.  Unlike a woman who can fake her way through many of these dances with a good lead, the guys have no choice but to start at the bottom and learn everything one step at a time.  The men quickly realize that learning to dance Ballroom is going to be quite a challenge. 

Let me just say this to the guys.  Hang in there.  There is paradise waiting for you at the end of tunnel.  Better yet, you don't even have to go to Heaven to collect your reward.

The ladies are already sold on Ballroom Dancing.  They like wearing pretty dresses.  They like being held in your arms.  They like the elegant dancing, they like the vibrant live music of the Orchestra, and they like seeing everyone all dressed up.  Unlike faster forms of dancing like Salsa, the ladies like the smooth feel of Ballroom Dancing because they don't worry about their hair or their dresses.  They also like the challenge of following the tricky patterns.  If a man thinks leading is difficult, trust me, following is a real skill.  Women enjoy doing their best to read a man's leads and making him look good.   Ballroom Dancing is all about good teamwork.

Ballroom Dancing  is a unique hobby because it can and should be enjoyed throughout the duration of one's life.  A person's Ballroom days will typically last way beyond his or her days of tennis.  Yes, there's always bingo, bridge, and bowling, but I doubt any of these pastimes offer anywhere near the glamour of a night of dancing.  Bingo is fun, but isn't exactly romantic. 

Nothing beats the chance to challenge the mind, exercise the body, and make friends in the process quite like Dancing.  I simply cannot think of another activity that offers a more elegant way to socialize with a loved one and with many friends all at the same time.


Most guys think dancing is just a convenient way to meet women and seal the deal.  A lot of men have the attitude that once they get married, they can put their feet up and stop working at Romance.  I am speaking of the insidious "Marriage is Death of Dance" syndrome.  It is a common occurrence that two people who dance all the way to the Altar seem to toss their Dance Hobby to the side once the ring is on.

Slow Dance and Romance should be an on-going project throughout the year. Yes, going out to dinner alone once a week is a good way to keep the smiles coming, but to really touch a woman's heart, nothing keeps the Romance alive throughout the mundane pressures of daily living like a serious evening of dancing together.  And don't think for a moment a once-a-year cruise will do the trick. 

If a guy can take his lady dancing to a place like the Chandelier where she can see her friends too, that makes things all the better.  Now the lady has her man, her pretty dress, her friends, and dancing all wrapped into one big evening.  When the ladies leave the Chandelier at night, I watch their faces as they walk out.  More often than not I see a big smile on their faces.  A night of Ballroom Dancing is perfect for a woman's spirits. 

That is why I say that any man who takes the time to learn to dance Ballroom will be set for life.  His wife or girlfriend will love him for taking the time to do something special with her.  Dancing is a form of teamwork.   Good Ballroom dancing requires communication, cooperation, and thoughtfulness.  When a couple clicks on the floor, it means they are working together.  No wonder a good night of dancing makes the ladies feel closer to their men.  They are indeed partners.

I completely understand men learn to dance mostly to please women.  Long ago I realized that women like to dance so much that even a social klutz like me could get some very pretty women to pay attention to me if I could just figure out what I was doing.  I was so certain of this that I refused to give up even though dancing never came easily to me.  I had all kinds of mishaps learning to dance Ballroom.  But I would not quit. I always knew the investment would be rewarded many times over.  Now 30 years later I can report I was right all along.

Women love to dance.  Men enjoy making women happy.  And for any guy with an enlightened sense of self-interest, that should be all I need to say.  Make Ballroom Dancing a hobby and the smiles are sure to follow.

Over the years, I have said the same thing about Western Dancing, Swing Dancing, and Salsa.  So why not just stick to those three?  Why add Ballroom Dancing to the list?   Because when you reach a certain age, Ballroom music and dancing have an air of elegance and sophistication that is appealing.  When you reach the point that dancing fast doesn't have quite the same appeal as dancing gracefully, you realize it is time to add Ballroom to the list.

Ballroom Dancing keeps the mind sharp, the body fit, and the romantic heart beating as well.  Dancing gracefully helps us age gracefully as well.  Even better, dancing within a group of friends keeps the laughter coming as well.  The sense of community is important.  Therefore when I speak of Dancing the night away, the Chandelier Ballroom is one of the first places in Houston that comes to mind.


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