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Rick Archer

Rick Archer is the owner of SSQQ Dance Studio.

In addition to teaching dance, during the day Rick is the guy who writes the SSQQ Newsletter, responds to all the studio emails, and edits the SSQQ Web Site.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1949, he moved to Houston in 1955 when his father, an electrical engineer, was transferred.

A 1968 graduate of Saint Johns School here in Houston, Rick received a BA in Social Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1972.  After college, Rick intended to become a clinical therapist and did graduate work at Colorado State University (73-74).   Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view) he was told his personality was a bit too aggressive to make it as a therapist... so he was sent packing after one year.

Rick then spent the next four years working for Harris County Child Welfare (1974-1978) investigating child abuse and neglect.

After getting tossed from grad school, Rick was not doing very well in the summer of 1974.  A $1 used paperback book on how to meet women suggested "dance" as a good way to break the ice.   Ready to try anything at this point, several nights a week Rick took dance classes after work to learn how to social dance. After four years of pursuing social dance as a hobby (1974-77), Rick's dance project led to a part-time job as a Disco Dance Instructor at Houston's Jewish Community Center on Braeswood in June 1977.  This opportunity was followed in rapid succession by another offer to teach at first the Memorial JCC that fall and then Stevens of Hollywood Dance Studio in October this same year.

Obviously the hobby panned out a lot better than Rick could ever have anticipated.  Once Saturday Night Fever hit town in November 1977, those part-time jobs expanded quite a bit.  After literally working two jobs day and night for all of 1978, in January 1979 Rick quit his day job and began to teach disco dance for a living.  Suddenly Disco disappeared faster than the dinosaurs.  But thanks to Urban Cowboy, another Travolta hit, after a quick fashion change, Rick was back in business as a western instructor in the latter part of 1979. In October 1980 Rick moved out on his own.  He sublet a couple of back rooms at 4803 Bissonnet from a jazz dance school known as 'Dance Arts Unlimited'.  After Dance Arts moved to another spot in 1987, SSQQ took over the entire studio. 

Rick has one daughter, Samantha, born in 1991.  Rick and Samantha's mother Judy parted in 2001. 

After his divorce, Rick found himself at a crossroads.  Looking to take the studio in a new direction, he organized a summer cruise for August 2001.  This decision paid quick dividends as he met Marla Gorzynski on that trip.  Marla and Rick have never been apart since.  Marla not only became involved at the studio, she took Rick's cruise project to an entire new level.  Bringing their cruise theme full circle, Rick and Marla were married in 2004 on board the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship.

Rick's hobbies include Crossword Puzzles, Jigsaw Puzzles, Sudoku, Chess, Bridge, Basketball, and Volleyball. 

As you might gather, Rick also enjoys writing stories about the crazy things that have happened along the way during his dance career. 
If you are curious, Rick has written extensively about his career in the dance business. See "Adventures of a Dance Teacher.

Sharon Shaw

I was born in the small East Texas town of Kilgore.  I graduated from Kilgore College in 19__ where my twin sister and I were Rangerettes.  I married very young and my husband and I moved to Houston where he was enrolled at the University of Houston.  After he finished school, I went back and received my undergraduate degree in Business Education from UH.  My husband was a musician and we spent the next 3 years traveling with his band all over the U.S.  After we returned to Houston, I decided I wanted to go to law school.  I entered UH law school in the Fall of 1983 and spent the next 4 Ĺ years doing absolutely nothing but working days and going to school at night.  As so often happens with young marriages, my husband and I divorced during my first year of law school.

You may wonder what all of this has to do with my teaching at SSQQ.  Well, after I graduated from law school, I found that I had absolutely no extracurricular activities because all of my time had been spent studying.  One of my neighbors told me she had signed up for a jitterbug class and asked me to go with her.  From that day on, I was hooked. 

I know that my story is not much different from many of yours.  The year was 1987 and I had been hired as a first year associate at a downtown law firm, so initially I could take classes only on Friday nights.  Soon, thereafter, I was taking 4 nights a week. 
I was fascinated by Whip and would stick my head in the door to watch, hoping they needed girls so Rick would ask me to come in and dance, even though I didnít have a clue what I was doing.

I admit I am a pretty natural dancer.  My parents danced all their lives and my 3 sisters and I grew up watching and learning from them.  I attribute my rhythm and love of music to my Dad.  I guess I also have to attribute my ability to teach to him as well.  My Dad taught square dancing all over the country for over 50 years and I could square dance before I was in the first grade.

Back to the studio.  About a year after I started taking lessons, Rick asked me to teach a Beginning Western Swing class.  One of his instructors had resigned and he felt sure I could do it.  I wasnít so certain.  I was so nervous and quiet the poor class could barely hear me.  I managed to bumble through, and then Rick asked me to teach swing/jitterbug, then whip, then death valley.  Before I new it, I was teaching 5 to 6 classes a week.

By the way, did you know it was my idea to have popcorn at the studio?

By 1991 I had the itch to start competing.  I talked one of my male students, Mike Flowers, into competing with me at the first Texas Classic held in Houston in 1991.  I donít remember how we placed, but I remember the thrill of being on the floor.  You see, Iím a pretty competitive person and I love performing, so competing in dance was just the epitome of fun to me.

In 1992, Pat Steerman and I started competing.  We typically went to about 6 competitions a year, including Worlds.  We were fortunate to place many times and the whole experience was wonderful, but very expensive (donít get me started on how many costumes I had made).  We also competed on country/western and swing dance teams.  The friendships we made during those years are life-long.

Pat started helping me teach my classes in about 1993.  By 2000, when Pat moved from Texas, we were teaching a 12-month Martian Whip series and a 12-month Death Valley series.  I loved it because there were no parallel classes and I could teach whatever I wanted.

After Pat moved, I asked John Jones to help me teach my waltz and cha cha classes.  John and Mary Jones had worked very hard mastering the waltz, and John, although he would never admit it, really wanted to teach.  He would never say a word in my class unless I made him, but he was a very strong role model for the men dances in class.  John passed away in 2007 and he is still sorely missed in my waltz and cha cha classes.

I donít really remember how it came about that I began teaching the waltz and cha cha classes, but as all of you can tell, I love to teach.  I have threatened to quit for the last 3 years, but I just canít seem to do it.  I love my students.  Many of the students in my must be the same way.  They know all the moves, they donít really learn that much, but they come back year after year because itís become a network of friends.

Ok Ė now about my personal life.  I was single for 20 years.  From the time I finished my first year in law school until 2005 when I married the love of my life, Bill Shaw.  If youíre in my classes, you know Bill.  What you probably donít know is that he was one of my whip students back in 1992.  It seems we all have to be in the right place at the right time for love to strike.  Well, it struck us in 2003.

There you have it, thatís my story and Iím sticking to it.  Although, if really pressed, I could tell you some stories about Rick.

Ben Liles

I have been teaching at SSQQ for more than 10 years. I have taught, at various times, Whip/West Coats, Swing/Jitterbug, All Levels of Western, Dirty Dancing, Lambada, and several other things that for what ever reason I can't think of right now. 

During the day I work for Spring Branch ISD as a Technology Specialist. That means that I keep over 800 computers and 250 peripherals and network equipment working. I was born in 1956 in North Carolina where I stayed until 1982. From 1974 -1982 I went to NC State Univ. and got a BA in Geology.  In 1982 I moved to Houston.  It took me a little less than 10 years to find the studio.

I met my wife Diana here at the studio.  We now have a son Cole who, like Rick & Judy's daughter is growing up in the studio.  My hobbies when I have time for them, include doing family Geneology, gardening, and a little running (although I haven't had time for that since Cole was born, and boy does it show).

Linda Cook

I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. Been here all my life. My brother died and I decided to do something he and I had said we would do together and that was learn to dance. I walked into SSQQ and literally never left. I am full time employee and teach CW, Latin in group classes and Swing, Waltz, etc, in privates.

I have two teenage kids, Benjamin and Samantha. Not in a relationship but if the right man walks through the door I'll be all over him. I spend lots of time at the studio or with people from the studio.

Bought a house in 2005 and that keeps me busy. I discovered I love gardening and building things to go in my yard. This past year friends and I built a deck, this will eventually be party central for my friends from SSQQ. They will all have to bring Margaritas and yes, it is large enough to dance on.

Let's see if goofing off is an option - I love to read, quilt and do puzzles. Love computers, Hate computers, would like to improve my skills on these darn machines so there's the goal for the rest of my life! Anyone willing to teach me stuff just call or email me, I will be your biggest challenge!

Jack Benard

I was born in Oregon.  As I was growing up I moved about every two years to a different city.  Eventually ended up in Clovis, NM where I attended Eastern New Mexico University and got a degree in Chemistry (double major, biology and chemistry with a minor in math).  Couldnít find work so I joined the army and was stationed at Ft. Lee Virginia for three years teaching chemistry and doing lab testing to make sure the petroleum products met specifications for the Army.  

Since I now had petroleum experience under my belt and at that time Houston was the petroleum capital of the world, I decided to come to Houston and look for work.  After sending out 200 resumes I got an offer from Getty Oil Company and Exxon.  Getty offered $10,000 more than I was expecting so of course I took the job.  I did research on finding better ways to get the oil out of the ground.  Never did any chemistry.  Texaco took over Getty and I stayed with them for 18 years, always working in a lab (and loved it).

I never danced in my life, I thought dancing was for sissies.  My girlfriend showed me a brochure from SSQQ and suggested we take some lessons.  I said no way.  A year later I saw a brochure from SSQQ and jokingly said, ďDo you want to take a dance lesson?Ē  She immediately said yes before I could backtrack my question.  What did I get myself into? 

My first lesson was East Coast Swing at SSQQ and I must admit I fell in love with it the first lesson I took.  So much so that I stayed for practice every chance I could.  But I had some major problems, people told me I was too stiff, I couldnít keep to the beat, and I was very shy.  Then one day I heard West Coast music and heard the strong beat in the music.  I thought to myself, I can hear that beat.

I was hooked with dancing; started taking West Coast Swing classes and really liked this dance.  So much so I took lessons seven nights a week, all West Coast Swing.  Six months later in 1993 Rick asked me if I wanted to start teaching dance.  I said yes, I would like that.  Been teaching ever since.  Got so good at it I didnít have to ask the ladies to dance, the ladies asked me!  My shyness quickly dissipated.

I was hooked with dancing; started taking West Coast Swing classes and really liked this dance.  So much so I took lessons seven nights a week, all West Coast Swing.  Six months later in 1993 Rick asked me if I wanted to start teaching dance.  I said yes, I would like that.  Been teaching ever since.  Got so good at it I didnít have to ask the ladies to dance, the ladies asked me!  My shyness quickly dissipated.

Then one day I happened to pick up a book called ďAwaken the Giant WithinĒ.  I found it fascinating.  I wanted to take a course in it so I wrote them a letter.  A week later the letter returned because the address no longer existed.  I was puzzled, it was a major author and I know he is still giving courses.  The next day my brother called me up and asked me to take a course.  He never asked anything like this before.  What kind of coincidence was this?  So I took the course, loved it (although I donít recommend it now from what I have learned).  Signed up for all their courses.  One was in Los Angeles so I went there for a week.  It was a hypnotist.

I saw things this hypnotist did that couldnít be explained scientifically and I was curious as to how this could be.  So when I got back to Houston I began taking hypnosis classes.  I was never really convinced hypnosis works; some people are great at it, and for others it just didnít work.  Why?  Hypnotists claim that the person is scared, it is their typical excuse.  But I wasnít scared and I couldnít be hypnotized.  Something was not quite right.  Not only that, the explanations to explain hypnosis were different everywhere you went.  No one knew how the mind actually worked.  But I liked working with people; it was better than being alone in a lab all day.

In 1999 I quit Texaco and started up my weight loss center using hypnosis.  I employed 4 hypnotists, two sales people, a manager, and two administrative staff.  A big difference from the lab environment to managing a business and people.  This is where I learned about nutrition; I could talk forever on this subject.  All the bad foods out there we are eating.  It was the nutrition that was helping people lose weight more than the hypnosis.

Then in 2002 I picked up a book called ďDianetics, The Modern Science of Mental HealthĒ and couldnít put the book down.  It was fascinating.  In this book was an explanation of how the mind works and every answer a hypnotist wanted.  So I started experimenting with it.  Sure enough, people started to make changes in their lives, their diseases got cured and they felt better, they were happier.  I had to learn more, so I went to the Dianetics Center and started to take some courses.  Wow, these were great.  For once, I took a course and could use the information in my life to make my life better.  I felt great!  That is when I became a Scientologist, the best thing I ever did.

But there was one problem.  Dianetics says over and over that hypnosis is harmful.  How can this be?  I am helping people, or was I?  I was in turmoil.  It took two years before I had enough proof it was harmful.  After that the business went downhill fast.  Ended up going into bankruptcy.

I didnít want to work for anyone any more and I was dead broke.  What was I to do?  My house was ready to go into foreclosure, I was getting desperate.  A friend called me up and asked if I would work for her as a hypnotist and nutritionist.  I had to do something so I reluctantly said OK.  I sold everything I had in a gigantic garage sale and headed off to Beverly Hills in California.  Worked there for six months, the whole time being pulled apart because I knew deep inside hypnosis was harmful.  In August I quit, couldnít take it any longer. 

Didnít want to do anything with hypnosis, didnít want to hang around these people anymore.  I was taking more Scientology classes and liked it so much I decided to go full time and learn everything I could about it.  I went to Celebrity Center International in Hollywood and bought a package of classes. My life improved more and more.  Scientology not only explained how the mind works but also has every answer one needs to function better in life.  It literally means, ďThe Study of Life.Ē  You experience it personally, no believing, you know!  If anything, remember this, never give up, something can be done about it.

I missed the dancing and I needed income so I started looking around for work.  Found out that XXX was looking for instructors so I applied.  They wanted me to take six months of training; free of charge, but I wouldnít make any income during this time.  Heck, learn to dance for nothing, that was a no brainer.  After five months I realized that what they were going to pay me after the training was not enough to survive on very well.  Thatís when Rick gave me an offer to return to Houston, I jumped on it.

Came back to Houston and once again started teaching at SSQQ.  It is a great place.  I teach West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Hustle, Tango, Cha Cha, Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Two Step, Polka, and Slow Dance.  Shortly after arriving at the Studio I met Jackie and we are now engaged.  She is the best thing that has happened to me.  We will be married June 20, 2009.  Life is getting better and better!

Daryl Armstrong

Started enjoying SSQQ in 1995 after ten years in Hawaii (Rick bought my car in 1985 when I left town).  Met my lovely & talented wife, JoAnne, at SSQQ and we hosted our wedding reception there in 1998.  My son, Austin, was born in 2000; my other fine dancer in the family is my daughter, Ali, born in 2003.

Graduated from Baylor (where I bartended and taught dancing) and then a Master's Degree from the University of Wisconsin.  Went to High School at Bellaire (graduated without any special honors in 1977).

Interests include motorcycles, sailing, margaritas, Astros; and I have every woodworking tool known to man.  JoAnne and I regularly host very fun gatherings (you should try and get on the list) at our house or the Saint Arnold Brewery.  I try to keep some balance in my life by attending a Baptist Church, yet can't be a deacon because I teach Country Western Dancing every Wednesday instead of attending Vespers.

It is a great joy and privilege to be a part of SSQQ and a huge pleasure to go out and never fail to meet someone who I helped get started in two-step dancing.

Anita Williams

I began dancing at SSQQ in 1995 and I hung out so much at the studio that Rick hired me in the fall of 1996.   Since then, I have been teaching C&W dances and West Coast Swing.  I love teaching something that I'm so passionate about.  Late 1997 I joined the SSQQ dance team "Heartbeat" and was exposed to competition dancing. I was hooked! In 2001 I hired a dance coach and joined the competition ranks; I even won a World Championship in West Coast Swing.  In 2004 I began dancing with students as their pro. Lots of hard work has paid off!  My students have racked up 4 UCWDC World Championship titles, one second place title and one UCWDC National Championship title.  These days I continue to compete with students as well as compete myself in various line dance divisions.

I work full time as a Trust Administrator and I'm also a volunteer for the Central Texas Dachshund rescue group.  Currently six doxies live with me; two of them are foster kids looking for forever homes!

Paul Foltyn

Maureen Brunetti

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and spent summers on the Jersey shore. I moved here to work in the Texas Medical Center to run the Pain Medicine Clinic (it was an easy decision when itís January and thereís eight inches of snow on the ground and itís fifteen degrees outside.) I attended Gwynedd-Mercy College in Pennsylvania and have degrees in English Literature and Nursing. Iíve done every kind of nursing there is: Iíve been a nurse liaison for post-acute care specialty hospitals and hospice for a long time. Currently, Iím in the marketing department of Spring Branch Medical Center. I have a lot of fun Ė itís a great place with great people.

I started dancing at age 5 with my Dad. I love music and love to move Ė itís hard for me to keep still. I dance all the time; a beat and a little space is all I need to get going. Dancing is a wonderful way to express yourself. And, itís true what they sayĒ
Move it or lost it.Ē Dancing gets the endorphins flowing and has been clinically shown to stave off Alzheimerís disease. Iíve taught or assisted in every kind of class the studio offers. These past few years Iíve done mostly East Coast Swing, Charleston, Lindy Hop, and Salsa. I LOVE it all!

I began working at the studio when Rick needed Swing help and asked me to teach. I was scared to death but I stepped up and have been doing it ever since. I found SSQQ in 1997, two weeks after I moved here. Itís been my dance home ever since.

In addition to my day job and job at the studio, I do ex-racing Greyhound and Italian Greyhound rescue. Iíll babysit your dogs, but not your kids. Four legs is the minimum limb requirement. Iím training my IG, Flash, in canine agility. Reliant Stadium dog showÖ here we come! As far as hobbies go, I love to make my own jewelry. Also, I make soap and chocolate candy; though, I try to not do that on the same day, and not in the same molds. :) I have no musical talent; the only instrument I play is the radio.

ďLife may not be the party we hoped for, but while weíre here, we might as well dance.Ē

Martin Anderson

Jill Banta

After approximately 20 years in the accounting/consulting/management rat-race, with the long work hours and weekends, Jill finally came to her senses and quit working full time. 

She currently teaches lessons three nights a week at SSQQ and teaches PE classes at Rice University in social dancing.  She is a certified Ballroom instructor and is continuing to work on higher levels of certification.  She has competed on the Western, West Coast Swing, and Salsa circuits.

She received a BS degree from the University of Alabama in 1979, an MBA from University of Houston in 1984, continued taking graduate level courses toward a MS Acc'y & Taxation until 1993 when she finally decided she was tired of school and accounting. She began taking dance lessons at SSQQ in 1998, started teaching in 1999. She teaches Salsa, Two Left Feet, and Ballroom.  You can reach her for private lessons at
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