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THE SSQQ POLICY ON WATCHING DANCE CLASS AND GUESTS. 

April 4, 2002
written by Rick Archer

SSQQ is a School, not a Zoo.
Many students do not appreciate the distraction of being watched.
Some instructors do not appreciate the disruption of having outsiders who are not part of the class in their room.  Out of respect for them, watching classes for people coming in off the street is prohibited.

Guests are permitted under certain circumstances.
They need to be from out of town (e.g. relatives coming to visit, out of town guests)
You need to email in advance to get permission (dance@ssqq.com )
We will charge you your once a year Exception. 


SSQQ has a "ONCE A YEAR EXCEPTION" policy for all students.  If you wish to use your Exception to bring a Guest to the studio, we will be happy to accommodate you.  Simply email dance@ssqq.com and we will send you written permission that you will present to the Hall Monitor.

Example:

-----Original Message-----
From: Cher Longoria
Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 7:50 AM
To: Rick
Subject: Permission

Rick,
My mother is coming in from Dallas on Thursday. If my sister has to work I would like permission to bring her to class.

Cher

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2005 9:45 AM
To: Cher Longoria
Subject: Exception: Permission to bring guest

Sure. I would love to meet your mom. Print this out and bring it with you.

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
Houston Texas

Our Registrars and Hall Monitors are paid to enforce our rules. We thoroughly dislike it when students show up at the studio with unexpected Guests and then ask our Staff to bend the rules. Without written permission, it is their job to say "no". 

Please have the respect for these Staff people by not putting them in this position in the first place.  If you want an Exception, just email first and ask for permission the right way. Thanks!


Why We Prefer NOT to Allow Visitors and Guests to Watch Classes.
Written by Rick Archer
April 4, 2002

Over the years we have found that many students do not like being watched while they learn to dance. 

Not everyone minds, but some people do. Furthermore classrooms are for students, not visitors. SSQQ does permit an occasional out-of-town guest to observe a class, but only if permission is asked ahead of time. Please do not ever "show up" with a guest without asking first.

Even though our rule which prohibits guests/children/watching is posted on every receipt slip as well as in several other places as well, many times a week someone shows up with a guest. Immediately after claiming they have never seen nor heard of this rule, they then proceed to see if perhaps we couldn't make a "little exception just this once". We suppose they think it is easier to get forgiveness than ask for permission in advance.

We are not totally unsympathetic to guests and to people who are curious to watch. We also realize that many people are indeed not aware of our policy ahead of time.

However, the problem is our students just don't like to be watched. 

Let me give an example. On Saturday, March 23, 2002, we had our first-ever Pajama Party. Many people came to the Crash Courses before the party already dressed in pajamas. Did we look ridiculous?  Of course we did. That was the whole idea.

In Room 2, Anita Williams was teaching a West Coast Swing 'Flirting With Your Feet' workshop. There were 10 women in the class all dressed in pajamas. One woman was in curlers while another woman had her hair spiked in little tuffs using rubber bands. I was taking the workshop too. 

Anita made a reference that a certain movement resembled carrying a baby in the womb. All the women seemed to get it, but I clearly didn't and I was teased. In retaliation I decided to make a fool of myself. I put a big pillow inside my bathrobe to resemble being pregnant. As I hoped, I got some laughs so I left the pillow in there as I continued to dance. 

About 20 minutes into the class some man walked in with his girlfriend. He saw the ridiculous sight of 10 women dancing in their pajamas. Even more ridiculous was the sight of a man prancing around in pajamas trying to dance sexy. He laughed. He guffawed. He pointed. And he decided to stay and watch a while. He talked to his girlfriend while the class continued. They decided to get comfortable and sit down on the couch. I could see the women were obviously uncomfortable at his presence. 

Finally I realized he wasn't going to leave gracefully of his own accord so I intervened and asked him leave. As he and his girlfriend departed, he even had the nerve to say he didn't remember me looking quite so heavy as he pointed to my hidden pillow. What a charmer. 

Obviously the odd situation combined with this man's rudeness is the extreme, but the point is that he made everyone feel extremely self-conscious. 

How does making an exception for an individual benefit the students who belong there?

And furthermore, if we make an exception for one person, how are all those people in the room going to feel when they recall the time they wanted to bring someone to the studio, but didn't do so because they showed respect for our rule? 

We view our dance classes the same way as a therapist feels about a request to observe group therapy, or a 3rd Grade teacher about a request to watch her class of young, easily-distracted students, or how the director of a nudist colony might feel about requests to "watch" the nude volleyball games. These are three situations where it is obviously inappropriate to allow "Watching".

Although Dance Students as a group are probably less sensitive about being watched than people in the above situations, nevertheless our classes involve many people who are typically self-conscious about their dancing. These people, especially the Beginners, don't particularly want people staring at them while they are learning. Furthermore our teachers don't enjoy the distractions of outsiders coming into their rooms. 

Nevertheless, despite our stated policy on watching, people continue to test our resolve to say "NO". 


The Incident

Things came to a head one day in February of 2001 when a student who brought along a guest complained loudly about our refusal to let his friend watch. He refused to take "no" for an answer. He demanded to see the manager. In frustration the Hall Monitor came and got me. 

Now I had the privilege of dealing with this customer. As I listened, the gentleman listed several excellent reasons why we should allow his guest to stay. If memory serves, this is what he said:

1. I didn't know about your policy till now.
2. We have come all this way. You will force me to miss my class if my friend cannot stay.
3. Can't you make an exception this one time?
4. After all, one person watching will not make much of a difference.
5. Why don't you ask the students in the class if they would mind?

I replied that I did not intend to publicly ask the students to give permission. I have found that the individuals who object to the watching are usually also too shy to speak up as well. To my reply, the gentleman asked me, "Did you just make this up or do you have actual evidence to this effect?"

I replied that up till now I had based my decision on my instincts. However since he was so insistent, I decided I would indeed pose this gentleman's question to my Staff and Students alike using our March 2001 Email Newsletter. 


I Pose the Question

In March 2001, first I stated the studio's position in the SSQQ Newsletter, and then I added this request: 

"Maybe some of our readers would like to explain the reasons why SSQQ should allow "Watching". Or maybe some of our readers would like to agree that "Watching" is not a very good idea. In other words, if you like or don't like the policy, please say something because at the moment one or two people are trying to bring guests to the studio almost every night. They are openly questioning the intelligence of our rule. So what do you think SSQQ should do?"


The Students and Staff Respond

Quite a few people responded to my query. Here you may read for yourself EVERY RESPONSE I received. You have my word of honor I have not edited anyone's words nor have I omitted any messages that did not support my position. 

1. I agree 100% with your policy of "no watching." I have been taking Judy's Lindy classes 6:00 to 7:00 on Monday nights. People come in for the 7:00 classes as our class is winding down and have a habit of parking themselves on the couches and chairs while our class is still in session. Even when the doors are closed, they still wander in. Now, I'm a fairly good dancer and I still don't appreciate being the "entertainment" while I'm still learning the moves. It's a good policy; stick with it!

S.S.


2. My opinion is ABSOLUTELY NO WATCHING!!! You are right about people being self-conscious. 

L.S.

Rick Archer's Response: Thank you! A few more votes like yours and we can base our policy on numbers, not just my gut instincts.


3. I do NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT like being watched in class. Don't want any parents, kids or pets in there. 
Warm regards, C.U.

Rick Archer's Response: Good for you! I am glad to see my instincts are supported by flesh and blood words. It is much easier to enforce the rules if I know the rules are representative of the majority opinion. 


4. In reply to question about visitors watching as lessons are going on: I am having so much fun during the lesson that I know it would not bother me in the least if other people were watching. More than likely, if they are friends from out of town, they know even less than I do! So why worry about it? Let them in.
Thanks, K. G.



5. Hi Rick! You asked about guests watching classes:

In answer to your question about people watching dance classes... when I started learning to dance, I was really uncomfortable with the whole notion of ANYONE watching. That would have included other class people, guests, or really anyone watching me stumble through the steps.
At some point pretty early on, I stopped really worrying about that-and stuck with being petrified with what my dance partners thought. 

Now, after some months in classes, I really don't care if people watch or not-but when I was a beginner, I was REALLY self-conscious about it all, and I think I was happy that I was there with a class of people all in the same position, and not with observers.

Also, I think that even if you ask the class as a whole "do you mind if so-and-so stays today?" that nobody will object because they don't want to seem rude, even if it really makes them uncomfortable. 

A flip side: an occasional observer is good practice- it was really scary to realize there was an "audience" the first time I tried to take my Swing Dancing out to a bar: suddenly it's loud, crowded, concrete-floored, and people are watching... (well, probably just watching the band, but it didn't seem that way). Maybe if I'd gotten used to it earlier, it would have been different? Naw...

I vote for no guests, but if there's someone you get stuck with from outta town, and you can't just park them at Starbucks for 2 hours, well, I appreciate it when people bend the rules for me once in a while, so I don't mind if the rules get bent for others now and then). 

(Whew! That's way too long for basically saying I generally like the way you run your studio and think it's well suited to both beginner and more advanced dancers).
K. U.


6. I've given some thought to the issue of "guests" at dance classes - After watching the Martian Whippers face the video camera and seeing how downright terrified some were, I came to realize that many of these people are extremely self-conscious about their dancing and mistakes (even though everyone makes them). I think sensitivity is the real issue here, and your vast experience with teaching dance for many years clearly shines through. Your approach to dealing with this matter is the appropriate solution for the majority of students. That's what counts in making good business decisions. You are right. Stick to your guns. By the way, I'm glad you stressed that people should "ask" for permission. Whatever happened to good manners anyway? 
M. S.



7. I have just returned from a Big Bank Cruise on the Norway. I am interested in dance lessons BUT......is everyone there very young? I was in college during the big band era so you know I am not a youngster. I just love music and dancing so what I am asking is this -- would I be the only lady with gray hair there?
I will hope to hear from you soon. M. S.
P.S. Would it be OK to drop in and take a look at the different classes?

Rick Archer's Response: The average age at SSQQ is 35, but the spread is 16 to 66. I don't know how old you are, but the Big Band era puts you in your 60s or 70s. My guess is you at the far end of the studio's age range. You might feel out of place. I can't predict.

You may observe a class in Room 6 for 10 minutes. Your desire to take a look ahead of time is of course a natural one, but unfortunately we discourage "watching" on an extended basis because the students object to it. It is sort of like a movie... you can't go in to "watch" for a little while. 
The best solution is to sign up for a class you are interested in and participate. You can get your money back at break time or the end of class if you decide our studio is not for you. But at least while you are here, you are participating in the class. You should be able to make an informed decision in this manner.



8. Is it possible to come in and watch a class before signing up (as in watch a salsa class in April; sign up for May lessons)? 
J.G

Rick Archer's Response: The problem with watching classes is not every person in the class is comfortable with being watched. Many people take classes because they are very self-conscious to begin with. Having a stranger watching turns them into performers (often against their will). Obviously not everyone minds, but quite a few people do. 

Furthermore it isn't fair to ask the class if they mind - if they are self-conscious to begin with, they aren't likely to be assertive enough to speak up.

There are three simple compromises. You can come to a Salsa Practice night on a Tuesday or Thursday at 9:15 pm and see what our studio is like. Or you can come and watch a class in Room 6 for 10 minutes. Or you can take a class; if you are not happy, we give your money back anytime the first night with no fuss. 



9. I say no guests, period. If people are "stuck" with out of town guests or baby-sitter problems, then they are stuck, a whole class should not have to suffer for it. Even if you make asking ahead of time a stipulation, people will catch on, and they will use and abuse that too.
M.H.


10. I don't want anyone watching in my classes.
M.B.


11. In my opinion, watching can be okay but there must be guidelines.

The guest must be from out of town. It must be approved ahead of time. It must not be disruptive to the class.
A.B.


12. I am in total agreement with your no watching policy. I think the "rule breakers" probably don't know the rules.
T.K.


13. No guests with the exception of an out-of-towner with prior permission.
J. P.


14. I think the "No Guests" rule is a good one. However, if somebody has a situation where there is a guest/relative from out of town visiting with them, if the class is alright with them watching, it probably would be ok once in a while. The "no kids" rule is a definite one to stick with. I noticed that Saturdays are the worst day where parents are bringing their kids to class with them (that is probably because you and Judy aren't there as well as the weekend). I don't know what can be done about it. 
D. T. 



15. As for visitors and watching, I am favor of a no-visitors rule - I don't like to feel like we're on display at the zoo. Next thing you know, the visitors will start throwing peanuts at us. Of course, if they threw chocolate, that would be different...
S. T.


Our Current Policy on Watching

Well, they say an Authority is a person who will tell you more about something than you really care to know, but there you have it. 14 people responded in favor of the rule, 1 person responded in favor of watching. 

We might add 4,000 people said nothing. As Plato was once quoted, one of the penalties for not voting is that you often end up being governed by people you may not agree with. Well, tough. The ballot is cast and the results are clear: NO WATCHING

However, this study gave us the opportunity to review our thinking. As a result we did modified our policy somewhat. In future, we will however permit the following things: 

  1. If you know you will have an out-of-town guest such as a parent or close friend, etc, you may receive permission to let them watch by emailing Rick Archer in advance at dance@ssqq.com.
    We will be happy to send a reply message for you to bring to the Hall Monitor to grant access. 
  2. If you bring a guest and have not received permission in advance, your guest is welcome to sit on the Visitors Couch while you take your dance class. (However, this offer does not include children. We cannot be expected to act as baby sitters).
  3. If you show up out of nowhere and you simply want to view a dance class, you are welcome to sit at the Visitors Couch for 10 minutes and view the class that participates in Room 6. This should give you an excellent idea how our classes are structured without having to disturb the classes in any other room. 
  4. However, no one without a class receipt or a written permission slip is to be allowed past the Hall Monitor station. We hope you understand and will accept our position gracefully.

Thank you, 
Rick Archer

2000 - Request to Let a Parent Watch Dance Class

-----Original Message-----
From: Stacey Graham and Tristan Quick
Sent: Monday, November 13, 2000 3:17 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Can my husband's mother watch our dance class?

Hello Rick, next week my mother-in-law, Maria Quick, is visiting us from Boston.  She will be staying with us for several days including the Thanksgiving Weekend.

I would dearly appreciate it if you would let her come watch our Swing dance class next Monday. Mrs. Quick grew up dancing to the Big Bands and is tickled pink that I finally talked Tristan into taking class. It is my secret hope he will get brave enough to dance with his mother during Practice Night.

Stacey

Reply:

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: T
uesday, November 14, 2000 10:19 AM
To:
Stacey Graham and Tristan Quick
Subject: RE:
Can my husband's mother watch our dance class?

Of course this is okay. The "No Watching" Rule was meant to discourage people coming in off the street who want to watch.  Then we discovered people starting bringing their dates to class and their Happy Hour friends to watch till it seemed like SSQQ was beginning to rival the Zoo as a nature attraction.

However I bend this rule when the situation calls for it.  Your mother-in-law is most welcome.


2002 - Another Incident  (from the April 2002 Newsletter)

We have a strict rule against watching classes. We had an odd incident last Saturday that
re-emphasized the reasons behind this policy. 

On Saturday, March 23, 2002, we had our first-ever Pajama Party. In Room 2, Anita Williams was teaching a West Coast Swing 'Flirting With Your Feet' workshop. There were 10 women in the class all dressed in pajamas. One woman had her hair in curlers while another woman had her hair spiked in little tuffs using rubber bands. I was taking the workshop too. We were all acting silly - that was the whole point of the party. 

Anita made a reference that a certain movement resembled carrying a baby in the womb. All the women seemed to get it, but I clearly didn't and I was teased. In retaliation I decided to make a fool of myself. I put a big pillow inside my bathrobe to resemble being pregnant. As I hoped, I got some laughs so I left the pillow in there as I continued to dance. 

About 20 minutes into the class some man walked in with his girlfriend. He saw the ridiculous sight of 10 women and a man prancing around in pajamas trying to dance sexy. He laughed. He guffawed. He pointed. And he decided to stay and watch a while. The two of them actually sat down on the couch and started to watch. We must have been wonderful entertainment.

Not only did they laugh at us, we had to listen to them
talk out loud together as if we didn't even exist. The women were obviously uncomfortable at his presence. 

Finally I realized he wasn't going to leave gracefully of his own accord so I intervened and made him leave. He even mentioned he didn't remember me being quite so heavy. What a charmer. 

Obviously the odd situation combined with this man's rudeness is the extreme, but the point is that he made everyone feel extremely self-conscious. 

Dance class is not like the Zoo. While some people don't mind being watched, there are many who do. The animals don't get much of a choice in the matter, but SSQQ students do.

Watching is not appreciated. 


COMPLAINT OF THE MONTH - WATCHING CLASSES

Wed 07/31/2002 12:59 PM

"I came by the studio to see what the place was like and to see how your classes are taught before deciding to register for a class at your facility. Instead of being greeted with courtesy as I expected, I was informed by some door Gestapo that I would not be permitted to see a class without your permission.

Well, I don't need your permission because I am pretty sure I can find a better place to learn to dance than the hostile environment you have created. You need to learn to be nice to people, not to push them around.

Name Withheld"


Rick Archer's response:

"Sir, I see your point of view clearly. Yes, it would be nice to sit and watch a class. I agree. However not everyone enjoys having people sit there and watch.

For example, this past Monday some man sat down in Room 2 about 30 minutes before class started. He spread his laptop out so far over the couch that no one could sit next to him without asking him to move his computer. In order to sit and watch the TV, I had to get a chair.

After class was ready to start, to my surprise the man was still there. I had assumed he had come early from work and would go to his class at 7 pm like everyone else. When he didn't move, I decided to ask him what he was doing there. He said he was waiting for his daughter to finish her class.

I mistakenly assumed she was in the 6-7 pm Hip Hop class and was changing clothes in the lady's room. I decided to let him sit there and began my class.

At 7:30 pm I was annoyed to notice him again because his legs stuck out so far that a student actually tripped trying to switch to another partner. I wondered what he was still doing there.

This man eventually put his laptop away. Since he had nothing else to do, he sat and watched my class. We have a very firm 'no watching' policy, but I decided there was no reason to embarrass the man by confronting him in front of all the students. I made a conscious decision to let him stay.

I wish I hadn't. He stared at the women. He smiled to himself at various times and I wondered what he found amusing. Personally speaking, I don't know if any of my students cared whether he was in the room or not because I minded his presence. He was a distraction to me. He was an alien presence. What was he doing there??

Class ended and he still sat there. I reminded myself to look for the alleged daughter. Unfortunately as always someone asked me a question and I got distracted. The next time I looked he was gone.

Although there might be a logical explanation, I found it curious that a man showed up 30 minutes before class to wait 2 hours for his daughter. Where was his daughter before class? Obviously they didn't come together. My point is this: I found myself wondering what he was up to the entire evening. His story didn't make any sense at all. I didn't appreciate being watched one bit. His presence bothered me. I doubt he would appreciate it if I came to his office and watched him work for 2 hours.

We are a teaching institution. People pay to learn. They don't need to be observed by outsiders. The distractions need to be minimized in their room so they can concentrate. In my case, the instructor doesn't need to be distracted either. SSQQ is not the Houston Zoo.

I respect your desire to watch, but in this situation your individual needs are superceded by the needs of the group.

If I have not made myself clear enough on this sensitive topic, visit our Policy Page on Watching:
http://ssqq.com/information/watching.htm

I am sorry you got upset. However the Hall Monitor was just doing their job. There is no reason for you to single them out for your wrath by insulting them.

Rick Archer


2005 - Another Incident (From the February 2005 Newsletter)

On Sunday, January 23rd, 2005, I was forced once more to choose between enforcing the rule or bending it to make three people happy. Here is what happened:

I was 10 minutes late to class yesterday. I knew my co-teacher was covering for me, so I didn't mind taking my time. At 4:40 pm as I walked the sidewalk past Radio Shack, I was puzzled to see three adults standing outside the door to the studio in conference with one another.

They stopped me and said I was just the man they wanted to talk to.  A gentleman proceeded to explain that he was already enrolled in a class and that he had brought two friends to start classes this week (this was the fourth week of class).  The Hall Monitor had already turned these three people away. She had told the three people that students could not start in the third week or fourth week without permission and that watching was not permitted.

So now this group asked me to give them permission. The student immediately gave me the ancient story (shades of deja vu; I know it by heart!!):

1. I didn't know about your policy till now.
2. We have come all this way (Pearland).
3. You will force me to miss my class if my friend cannot stay.
4. Can't you make an exception this one time?
5. After all, one person watching will not make much of a difference.

I asked to see the man's registration slip.  I expected it to say "No Watching Permitted" since all of our Walk-in Registration Receipts have the most important rules listed.

Instead he pulled out an "Online Receipt". This is when I found out the hard way that Online Receipts do not have the rules listed. Uh oh. I had never realized before that the Online Receipts do not have the SSQQ rules listed. I had been ready to use that written document to prove that he should have known the rules ahead of time.  Now I was in a bind.

Now I had no way of knowing whether the man was breaking a rule he already knew about or whether he had made a mistake through ignorance of the rules.  As the owner and the person who makes the rules, I did not want to alienate the current customer or the potential customers.  At the same time I also wanted to support the "No Watching" rule in the worst way.

I realize the police say, "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse". The difference is they could care less about keeping a student's goodwill. This student had made me sincerely believe he did not know about the rule ahead of time. Therefore, because the Online Receipt did not forbid "watching" as I expected it to, I gave in. 

I immediately regretted what I had done. When I gave the Hall Monitor instructions to let them in, you should have seen the look of disgust on her face. She told me she had argued with these people for ten minutes!! She said they had made her absolutely miserable with their refusal to respect her decision. Now I had turned around and made her look like a fool.

Oh, great. They say a man's wife has more power over him than the State does.
Well, add "Hall Monitor" to the list.

 
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