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Rick's Gabfest with Gertrude
Written by Rick Archer, March 2006

Chapter Two:

"Why do you think the studio is so effective at creating relationships?"

"There are so many reasons, I think I will limit myself to two, maybe three reasons.

For starters, Slow Dance leads to Romance.  Dancing opens the door!   How do think I met my wife?   I saw Marla standing in the doorway to the Disco on a cruise.  Her body language said she was getting ready to leave.  I moved as fast as I humanly could without hinting what a hurry I was in to get to her before she could leave.

And when I got to her, I said, "Hi Marla!  Want to dance?"   She smiled at me, handed me her room key because she didn't have a pocket, and to the dance floor we went.  The utter simplicity of that moment should speak volumes to anyone reading this story.

If you are a man or a woman and you see an attractive person across the room, DANCING gives a man or a women total permission to approach that person and ask them to dance.

En Garde!  The Game is on!

That person might say no, that person might say yes.  That person may frown, that person may smile.  You never know.  That is what makes it a Risk. 

But darn it, at SSQQ the Risk Factor is lower than any other place in the world! 

People are so at ease at this studio, that nonsense about turning people down is so negligible that if you do get shot down, forget it about it.  Just bounce off and ask someone else.  If they turn you down at my studio, that's their problem, not yours. 

The second reason SSQQ is effective is the people we attract. 
For a variety of reasons, SSQQ has always seemed to be most appealing to intelligent, educated, down-to-earth people.  The 'Life in the Fast Lane' types don't hang out here. 

As I said, Dancing opens the doors.  Then you have to speak with the person.  Many people find the art of conversation deeply threatening, especially with someone you are attracted to.  But you have to talk!!   That's is all there is to it.

The easiest way to start a conversation is to have something in common.  Talk about that.

People dance, then they go back to their spot.  If they want to talk, they can talk about how well they danced together, offer a compliment perhaps.  They can ask what class the other person is taking, how did they hear about the studio, have they ever read any of Rick's stupid stories, WHATEVER!

If the smiles are still there and the body language is good, you can enter Stage Two.... What do you for a living, where do you work, how long have you lived in Houston.  Blah blah blah.  Maybe you even make it to Stage Three - what do you like to do with your free time?  What are your hobbies? 

With such a large group of talented people here at the studio, it is easy to find any number of people who have a lot of things in common with you besides dancing.

Maybe that's when you break it off, but you KNOW WHERE TO FIND THE SAME PERSON NEXT WEEK - right here at SSQQ.  Same time, same place. 

At a bar, you don't have this advantage.  Frequently you go for broke and ask for the person's phone number and come across too aggressive.  Plus you are always fighting the 'Mr. Goodbar Syndrome'.  Is this guy an axe murderer?  A rapist?  A player?

If you were to meet the exact same person in a club, it would be much more difficult to start a conversation.

Dancing turns out to be a simple, graceful way to get to know people with their guard down in a relaxed setting.

At SSQQ, you can take a class with someone, dance with them at Practice Night, and strike up a conversation at various points every evening.  Talking to strangers is always difficult, but it is much easier when you have a common reference point like dancing to start with.

At SSQQ, nothing is forced, the pace is relaxed. Plus it is a level playing field.  Of course, people who are physically attractive will always have an advantage in any walk of life and that includes our dance studio.

But nowhere on earth does a person who is intelligent, kind, and highly perceptive have a better chance to shine than here at the studio.  SSQQ gives everyone a level playing field.... you learn to dance, this place is your TURF!! 

"What do you mean by TURF?"

The concept of 'Turf' is a simple one.  Take a look at some of the Rock Stars who are legendary womanizers.  Mick Jagger is an obvious example. Mick Jagger isn't your classic beauty.  Put his face in a high school yearbook and every girl goes 'Yuck' while scanning across the page.  Put Mick Jagger on a beach in Tahiti where no one has ever heard of him and that pale, scrawny white body and that jagged face won't get him a second look.  The beach is not his turf. 

But you put him on the stage at the Super Bowl during halftime, let him sing and strut, then take a casual look at the kind of women who are screaming their brains out with lust and desire for this guy!!   The stage is his Turf. 

This is why Mick Jagger is the poster boy of hope for every pimple-faced, lonely nerd sitting at home with no girlfriend in sight.  One day the kid takes a look in the mirror and says, 'heck, if Mick Jagger can do it, so can I!'.  So he gets a guitar and pours his loneliness into writing some love songs. 

If you are female, then substitute Alanis Morrissette and the story is the same.

But the Rock Star scenario is pretty inaccessible for the vast majority of the human race.

On the other hand, the Dance Star scenario is accessible for anyone who has comprehended one/hundredth of what I have been writing in this article.  

You don't even have to be a Great Dancer!  You just have to be good enough to PARTICIPATE. 

And maybe keep the beat... that always helps."


SSQQ Turf in Action: The Waltz Kings!

"Do you have any good Turf stories involving the studio?"

Gosh Gertrude, if I didn't know better, I would swear you were reading my mind!  I happen to have four examples right off the top of my head.

In my article "
Advice to Men", I wrote about two very ordinary-looking guys, Jim Garrison and Bill Stumph, who became the "Waltz Kings" back in the very early 1980s.  

These two men became consummate Waltz dancers.  Women would literally beg them early in the evening to include them on their dance card.  The women who got left off the dance card would turn around and beg me to play another Waltz because they were in line to get "the next Waltz Rick plays". 

Now that I think of it, I should have charged the women for each Waltz I played.  They would have paid, believe me. That's how desperate they were.

As you can see, neither Jim Garrison on the left with Debbie Oswald nor Bill Stumph with Jann Fonteno on the right was a sharp-dressed man. Nor were they especially handsome.

That said, both men were very bright.  In fact, since I knew them both well to tease some, I will say they were nerds.  One did computer systems, the other did biology research.

In addition to being 'bright', they also had common sense.  They realized the power of the Waltz!!  Once Bill and Jim were on the dance floor, they became God's Gift to Women.  They never sat down unless it was by choice.  This is the concept of "Turf" in action.  See the picture for yourself. 

And believe what I say -
Dancing is the premier skill of all time for meeting women.

Let me add that Bill Stumph met his wife Diane here at the studio (1985).  Another SSQQ Romance!  That Waltz stuff really paid off big in his case.

SSQQ Turf in Action:
Jack Benard

My second example would be my dearly missed friend Jack Benard.  Jack left the studio staff in the spring of 2004 to pursue his destiny out in California  (Note: Jack returned in 2006).  Of all the people we have lost over the years, I can't think of anyone I would rather have back more than Jack.

Like the Waltz Kings above, Jack was a man who would not have turned heads on a beach other than the fact that he was 6' 7".  The fact is, Jack was tall, awkward, and not especially handsome.  Jack was a human stork along the lines of Abe Lincoln-ungainly.  Nor was Jack witty and clever.  He had limited conversational skills.  Jack was quite simply the world's tallest nerd.   But Jack overcame all of that to become the single most popular man to dance with in the history of the studio. Jack Benard was the closest thing to a one-man Practice Night I have ever seen.

It was ridiculous to be in the same room with him.  I would ask women to dance and they would politely turn me down because 'Jack promised me the next song'.  One night two women got in a huge cat fight over whose turn it was to dance with Jack next.

This man drove the women nuts with frenzy.  Don't ask me what his charms were. I never danced with him.  All I know is the guy was a classic geek when he started, but he practiced so long and so hard he became the most sought-after dancer in the history of SSQQ.  There has never been anyone even remotely his equal in popularity.

SSQQ Turf in Action: Jerald Anthony

But for some reason, the man whose story most clearly illustrates the spirit of SSQQ would have to be Jerald Anthony.  He is an inspiration to every man about the growth and rewards that come from concentrated effort at the social skill of partner dancing

Jerald Anthony was in the same boat as Jack.  Their stories closely parallel each other. The only difference is that Jack never confided in me whereas  I actually got to know Jerald on a personal level.

Jerald had no sense of rhythm and was challenged even when it came to basic Polka and Twostep.  Nothing came easy for him.  Add to that a total lack of self-confidence and you have a guy behind the eight ball when it comes to romance.  Jerald was shy and terribly lonely when I met him early in 2001.  To make matters worse, Jerald had the Social IQ of a rock when it came to women.

One evening I actually had to sit him down to give him some much-needed advice about women.  Jerald had been following a very cute lady around the studio all night long with a bad case of Cow-Eye Disease. 

If I didn't know any better, I would swear she had a leash around his neck.  Meanwhile the woman's body language clearly signaled unhappiness about the presence of her human puppy dog.  Knowing from personal experience (the hard way, of course), I knew she was giving Jerald the cold shoulder because he was smothering he

Finally in disgust the woman came over to me to ask me to cover for her while she made her escape from the studio. Then she said, "Can't you talk to him, Rick?  He is driving me crazy!"

I was deeply reluctant to say anything because I knew what I had to say was going to hurt Jerald's feelings. How did I know?  Well, a therapist had given me the same lecture 17 years ago and it still stung like it was yesterday. I really did not want to relive this ancient embarrassment.

I debated for a while, then finally I decided to do the right thing.  For some reason - probably because Jerald reminded me so much of myself - I felt a rapport with this man who was twenty years younger than me.  So I sat Jerald down on the couch. From there I explained the dynamics of Puppy Dog behavior.

As expected, my words did sting.  Jerald frowned.  Then a light bulb went on. Jerald exclaimed, "Maybe that's why she keeps disappearing the moment I take my eyes off of her!" 

Maybe??  What an insight!

Fortunately Jerald handled my words with quiet dignity as I hoped he would.  My words had to hurt, but if they did, he hid his pain well.

Jerald was a really nice guy!  I had always sensed a kind, very decent man behind his quiet exterior.   Even better, the way he reacted to my words proved he was no dummy.

Things never worked out with the girl he had his crush on. So instead he turned his attention to dancing.  Jerald was not a natural dancer.  This is another thing that made me think he trusted me.  He accepted my dance suggestions on faith and tried very hard to follow my instruction.   Best of all, even though he realized he was a  very weak dancer, he would not quit. Jerald worked hard at his dancing. He practiced constantly.

His hard work played off in a big way. Over the next six months, Jerald consistently improved.  He became a great dancer and his body language reflected it!  

Meanwhile he touched my heart in an unusual way.  One night I watched as he danced with one Beginning Twostep girl after another.  Finally I asked him about it.  Jerald blushed.  "I remember how hard it was for me to get up the courage to ask someone to dance with me when I was learning.  One night in particular I just stood still the whole evening paralyzed with the fear of getting turned down.  Then out of nowhere a woman came over and told me she was sick of watching me just stand there.  We danced two songs and I was grateful out of my mind.  So tonight I thought I would be a nice guy and return the favor to these women."

Don't tell anyone, but I almost hugged him. 

One day in 2001, my travel agent called to tell me about I had two free openings on the upcoming cruise trip.  We had 101 people signed up on the trip!  Since we had so many people signed up, this qualified us for a couple of bonus spots.  Since the boy-girl ratio was so out of whack, I decided to recruit some men to fill the spots.  Immediately I thought of Jerald.

Jerald did not disappoint.  He was so honored to be asked to help he would have danced till he dropped if they hadn't turned off the music each evening.  He was a very kind man.  

Jerald's self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds.  As I said, Jerald was more than just a little bit on the shy side.  But when he stood up straight and smiled, Jerald was a very handsome guy!  He just didn't know it.

See for yourself at how confident he had become six months later when this 2001 Halloween Party picture was taken.   Isn't that a great picture!  Do you see the same gleam in his eye that I do??  Sort of like Rocky in his first picture when he was 'feeling strong now, gonna fly now'.  Notice Jerald isn't slouching in this picture. In fact, he looks kind of dangerous if I may say so.

Jerald had become the man in demand and he did it himself. You don't suppose I was proud of him, do you?  Nah. Not at all.

Not surprisingly, soon after that 2001 Halloween Party, a vivacious young lady named Stacey put Jerald directly in her bull's eye.

One night Stacey asked me what the inside scoop was about Jerald.  I said he was shy.   Stacey mulled this over.  So what if he was shy?  No problem, Stacey figured she was outgoing enough for the two of them.  That's for sure!  Stacey was Ms. Personality-Plus!

Then I told her Jerald was one of my favorite people. That was good enough for Stacey - she made a beeline for Jerald and immediately asked him to dance!!

Dancing was not a problem any more.  The dance floor was his Turf.  Jerald drove Stacey around the floor like a teenager with his first car. Spins, turns, fancy patterns, perfect rhythm. Jerald was the master.   He had been training for this moment for nearly a year.

They hit it off immediately. It was love at first sight. Jerald and Stacey got married in 2003.

I don't have a son, but if I did, I would want him to have guts and determination like Jerald did.  Nothing came easy to him, but he wasn't going to let that stop him.   He worked and worked at dancing and it paid off.  Dancing opened the door to wonderful opportunities. 

This story has a great ending.   Jerald and Stacey were scheduled to go on the 2003 Cruise with us, but they had to cancel.  The reason?  Stacey was pregnant.  I guess that's what happens when you get married, huh? 

I am so happy for both of them!"

"It sounds to me like you miss Jerald."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?  I grew close to Jerald because he reminded me so much of my own struggle.  I was a mediocre dancer from the start.  I only improved through absolute persistence just like Jerald and Jack Benard.  All three of us were cut out of the same cloth in that sense. 

After I helped him get over his 'cow eye disease', I took Jerald under my wing and I would constantly encourage him the same way a coach works with one of his athletes.  The only difference is, the athlete gets a scholarship to college while my protégé used his skills to land a great wife! 

So Jerald is probably my best example of a time where I was truly a Matchmaker.  I took a lot of pride in his success."

SSQQ Turf in Action:
Leo Skiba

"Any other stories like that?"

"Let me think. Yeah, by coincidence there was another young man at the studio about the same time as Jerald named Leo Skiba. 

Leo traveled a different path than Jerald.  For starters, Leo was a much better dancer. He never encountered the same problems that Jerald did.  Nor did I get to know Leo as well as I did Jerald.  Leo definitely did not need any help from me.

Leo was probably the perfect example of a person who fits the studio like a glove.  He was handsome, but not conceited about it.  He was a good dancer, but not terribly interested in becoming a championship dancer.  He wanted to meet women and quickly realized that dancing was the easiest way on earth to do just that.

Leo made it a habit to stay for SSQQ Practice Night.  Similar to Jack Benard, Leo was very good at asking many different ladies to dance each night.  He was a natural social worker in this sense without any prompting on my part. 

Leo was so good about dancing with every woman regardless of age or talent that one of the instructors named Wil Coulbourn spotted him and asked him to become a volunteer.  They were both ice hockey players and became friends at the studio.

Due to his helpfulness at Practice Night, Leo was the other man I recruited for the two bonus spots on the 2001 Vera Cruz Cruise .  I knew Leo would be a huge asset during the evening dancing. 

Both men were naturally very flattered to be asked and accepted on the spot.  And of course both men were wonderful assistants to me throughout the trip.  They both helped me out on that trip every way they could. 

As a humorous aside, it turned out it was a good thing I brought Leo and Jerald along.  This was the trip where I met my future wife Marla. 

Once I donned my 'Only Have Eyes for You' glasses, I was useless for the rest of the trip.  Leo and Jerald practically ran the trip in my absence.

"So what happened to Leo after the cruise?"

"Leo continued as a Volunteer and of course stayed active at Practice Night.  A year later after the cruise I hired Leo to join the staff as Wil's paid assistant in August 2002.   Wil and Leo worked as a team for over a year.  But during 2003, Wil decided to get married. Believe it or not, Wil had the nerve to marry some girl he met outside of SSQQ!!   The nerve...

Then one thing led to another and, boom, Wil was going to be a daddy.  So Wil handed off his Friday Western class to Leo starting in December 2003. 

And so there you have the SSQQ Career Ladder diagrammed in a nutshell:
Practice Night > Volunteer > Assistant > Instructor!

Like I said, Leo fit the studio like a glove.
Now that he was an Instructor, Leo was very helpful with his students. He constantly encouraged them to dance after class at Practice Night.  He told them the only way they were going to improve as dancers was to practice.  And he hinted from time to time that if they practiced, their social life had a way of improving.  How Leo knew this is beyond me.

One day, Leo met a pretty brunette in his class named Rebecca.  They began to date, probably some time in 2004, but possibly in early 2005.  Mind you, I watch this stuff from a distance, not close up.

As things progressed, Leo asked Rebecca to help him with his dance class on Fridays.  That's when I noticed a change in Leo.  He didn't participate much in Practice Night any more.  Uh oh.  That's a good sign for Leo... 'Leo' is a good sign, right?... but a bad sign for SSQQ.

It means Leo was in great danger of being permanently lost to the studio due an ancient curse known as 'Marriage is the Death of Dance'.

Unbeknownst to Leo, I quietly tipped over the hourglass I keep in the back of my mind. The Curse Countdown had begun.

"What on earth do you mean by 'Marriage is the Death of Dance'?"

Back in the 1980s, there was a period at the studio where a group of people became unbelievably close to one another.  At first it was all buddy-buddy.  But as time went by, the birds and the bees began to kick in.  As well they should!   After all, these people were all single. 

This group was the SSQQ version of 'St. Elmo's Fire', the 80s flick where a group of buddies start to pair off. A modern example might be 'Friends', the TV show where in the later seasons the same thing began to happen. 

Suddenly all these relationships began to catch fire.  The next thing I knew people were getting married right and left.  Then came a phenomenon I did not anticipate - some quickly left the studio, others made a gradual departure, but the results were still the same: Once a couple got married, the sands of time began a countdown till when they would leave my life.

Of course I was happy for these couples.
I was very happy!  But that was before I realized I was going to lose them!! 

One couple left.  Then another. And another.  This was no longer a coincidence. It was a 'phenomenon' that definitely got my attention.
I quickly became bitter about the phenomenon because these people usually departed the dance scene immediately after they connected. 

When people first started to leave, I was shocked to see them go.  Then I was even more shocked to realize how badly it hurt to lose them.  I literally missed them!   Nor did I understand it.   I took it personally.  These people left me; how could they??   Why?

Sad to say, a
fter the same thing happened several times, I began to get disappointed when I thought my students were falling in love.  It was the first sign when I knew I was about to lose them. 

One dear friend after another departed the studio, oops, change that to Noah's Ark - obviously they left two at a time. These were people who had been among my Best Friends for one year, two years, three years, some four years!  Now they were gone. 

It was like the end of Senior Year in high school or college all over again where everyone signs the yearbooks and cries because they are all leaving soon.  It was actually very sad for me because I got so attached to my students back in those days.  Now you know one of the reasons why in later years I found it easier just to stay in the background a la Leo and Rebecca and all the dozens of other couples at SSQQ who are moving in that direction.

I coined a phrase for it - 'Marriage is the Death of Dance'.

No, I didn't handle it very well.  It took me a long time to come to grips with the problem.  What I had to learn the hard way is when two people fall in love at the studio, an entire new set of priorities begin to kick in.  Dance swiftly loses its importance.

Whether I like it or not, sooner or later, once a couple falls in love, someday they will disappear.  

Leo and Rebecca signed up for our October 2005 Rhapsody Dance Cruise.   Every Friday night that summer leading up the cruise, when class was over, the couple would either leave the studio or just sit on the couch and hold hands if it was Leo's night to stay.  Leo could not have cared less about dancing with all the girls in his class at Practice Night. 

That stage of his life was over.

Then in an amusing twist of fate, during the Rita Rhapsody Cruise, I barely saw either person the entire trip.  Like I said, dancing with everyone in the group loses its importance. 

Does that sound vaguely familiar?

If you think of Rick and Marla on that 2001 Cruise when I deserted my entire group to chase Marla and let Leo carry the ball, you would be correct.  It turns out I am no more immune to the phenomenon than anyone else.

Sure enough, they avoided the camera like the plague.  I only got that one shot above.  They didn't eat dinner with us on several nights.  They didn't come to dance class.  They avoided the Hot Tub.  I didn't see them at our special cocktail party.  They were missing in action for perhaps the entire trip. But when I saw Leo on the last day, he thanked me for a great trip!  

My point is that I could see Leo and Rebecca had entered the phase of their relationship where they were separating from a Group identity and were concentrating on forming a union.

A couple weeks after the trip, Leo resigned from the staff. He said he and Rebecca were buying a house in Clear Lake and were heading down a different road.  Their departure was just another case of 'Marriage is the Death of Dance."

Let me share some of his parting words.


After several months of struggling with what I wanted to do I finally made a decision. Basically for a few months I've been torn between my love for teaching and what seemed should have been a dislike for dancing. I am certain now that I don't dislike dancing, I just dislike that it now feels too much like an obligation, a job. Its not fair to those who are waiting for a teaching position or even to the students for me to not be whole hearted into teaching. With that thought I'm afraid I'm going to have to put in my notice. I will be available for as long as you need me, but I would prefer this to be my last month.

I also want to convey my gratitude for providing me a place to have the experiences I have had in the past 3 years of teaching. Not only have I helped people through rough times in their life by teaching them to dance, I have helped a man recover from a stroke, I have helped couples prepare for their "first dance" as a married couple and not to mention the hundreds of wonderful people I've had the chance to meet. For that I have you to thank for building a place that attracts so many people. Thank you.

As for my future plans... Rebecca and I are getting pretty serious, as of this weekend we're moving into a house on Clear Lake. If anything more progresses I'll be sure to let you know to add to the biggest statistic of SSQQ.

(2009 Update Leo and Rebecca were married on the ski slopes in January 2009)

Gertrude asked, "So how do you feel about students and staff leaving at this point?"

"The nice thing about a thirty-year career is that I don't take things so personally any more. This phenomenon really stung early in my career.  I absolutely hated parting with all these people who had come to be so important in our community.  But after it had happened a dozen or so times, I began to understand that what was going on was natural.  I learned to accept that 'Marriage is the Death of Dance' is going to happen.  Not only did I learn to accept it, I also learned to be gracious about it. 

Plus I also had the sense to use my studio's volunteer and assistant program to create spare parts for those terrible moments when people have to move on.  In Wil's case, Wil left and his assistant Leo stepped in.  In Leo's case, his friend and assistant Abbie stepped in and hit the ground running.  Abbie's great!  That takes some of the sting out of it.

It never crossed my mind to ask Leo to reconsider because I was used to the phenomenon by now.  In fact, I had seen it coming. So I told Leo I completely understood and that I was very happy for him.  These days I just feel happy for both of them which is of course the mature response rather than my more selfish feelings back in the beginning.  But it wasn't always this way."

"So Leo and Jerald came along at the same time.  Leo didn't need any help, Jerald needed some help.  Do you ever get people who need a lot of help??

"SSQQ is the perfect place for the 'Walking Wounded'.  Dancing has marvelous therapeutic powers.  Later on I will tell a story that is full testament to the healing powers of social dancing. 

Based on my background as a social worker, I actually keep an eye on my 'playground' the same way a third-grade teacher keeps a watch out for bullies.

It is my understanding that SSQQ actually has developed a reputation among therapists as a safe place to refer their clients to when the therapist thinks the time has come for them to begin dating again.  For lack of a better term, the therapists use the dance studio is a sort of 'halfway house' for people recovering from a broken heart.

Let me share a recent story with you.  Last year a woman was treated very badly by a man she met at my studio.  She lost all of her confidence and became a recluse. Her story is hardly original.  Dating is often a brutal process and people do get their feelings hurt.  That's all part of the game. 

But this woman instinctively knew the studio would help her bounce back.  So she reached out to me to help bring her back.  I will share several emails to illustrate my point.


Thanks again for letting me come last night to class.  You were right - it was good therapy for me!!  I didn't realize how much I miss being there until I get there!   But I don't think I have the guts to continue right now.  Maybe in a month or two.

You should NOT be taking this month off!! 
I believe that dance is the best thing you can do to mend your hurt feelings and damaged self-esteem.

You need to be out on floor this week.  No excuses.  Just do it.

Just letting you know - I will definitely be there this Sat for the Swing Crash Course.
Looking Forward To Getting Back Into Dancing - YEAH!!

However I am a little scared of running into the Jerk.

I haven’t seen the Jerk this year. Quit worrying about him and rejoin the land of the living.

While I am truly excited about coming on Sat for the crash class - I have some anxiety.
I don't believe the Jerk would show up - like I told you he wasn't fond of you either.
I still worry what to do.  Should I just leave if he ends up there Sat? 

 I am concerned - I'm not trying to put you in this - Please advise.

In the 2% chance that he is there, if you are that afraid of him, then leave.
Why are you so intimidated??  The studio is an ultra-safe place.

I don't hate him - I don't like him either - I don't want to be where he is.

Let me see:  He's a liar, a user, a cheater, a game player and accuses me of many false untruths to make himself look better.
Funny though - he said you were a control person that was why he didn't like you - hummm - seems to me he is a control person
I don't want to be around this -
Rick - tell me am I wrong here?

I don’t know the man well enough to comment on his character.  I know he bristled quickly at any attempt on my part to help him improve his dancing.  He and I probably have some similar characteristics. He is right about one thing – I do like to be in control. Who doesn’t?

My point to you is that you are backing down from a bully.  You cannot avoid the studio or other public places and keep your self-esteem intact. You have pride.  Don’t let your fear of running into him prevent you from going about your business. That is simply the wrong approach.

If he shows up, that’s OK.  Just ignore him. You have a RIGHT to be at the studio. 

If he bothers you, go stand next to other people, especially some big guy who looks like a decent person. Then your ex will leave you alone.

As my wife Marla says, living well is the best revenge.

Come to the studio – YOUR studio – and enjoy yourself.  That puts him where he belongs… in the recycle bin.  Any other response gives him what he wants… control over you.  Stand up and begin to enjoy your life.

Just to let you know -   I did come to the Swing crash class on Sat - (yes I was a little scared but came anyway)

Gosh I had such a good time! - I met some new people there who are taking the jitterbug classes so I will see them on Monday when I start my new classes with you.  They even convinced me to stay for the party, which I had not planned to do. 

Now I am looking forward to the new month!

You took a chance and it paid off.  As I said, Dancing has remarkable healing powers.  
You must force yourself to PARTICIPATE.  Once you do that, Dancing will do the rest.

Trust me. I know this from personal experience.


"What do you suppose are some of the reasons your studio is successful at creating relationships?"

"The Dancing does most of the work. 

They say that one in eight marriages these days are matches created by the Internet.  I don't see any reason why an educated person should not use the Internet in the search for a relationship, but there is no question in my mind that Dance is a direct path to Romance.

In the early days of the studio, I would match people up for the entire night.  But these days our group lessons are more sophisticated.  Now we line people up in a circle, dance a pattern, switch partners, dance a pattern, switch partners.  

Men are able to dance with one attractive woman after another just minutes after entering the studio for the first time.  They get to hold the women, see them smile and laugh, look into their eyes, and get to know them first as friends.  The men are in awe of the power of dance!

One guy in a Beginning Twostep class told me laughing that he danced with more women in the first five minutes than he had danced with in his whole life. 

Sometimes dancing can definitely get the blood racing and I am not talking simply about working up a sweat.  For example, I think Salsa music is the sexiest music there is.  It reminds me so much of the Disco music from my youth.   Sometimes when I watch all the Salsa dancers hitting the beat to the pulsing, throbbing music, there is a rhythm to this dance that is very sensual.  People move their bodies, women gyrate and move their hips in ways men deeply appreciate. Frankly Salsa dancing is provocative. (I just wish I could figure out why Salsa dancing stayed so far in the background for so long, but that's a subject I will save for another story.)  My point is that Salsa dancing is popular because men and women have such a great time in each other's arms!

When dancing is involved, you would be amazed at how quickly the women let down their guard!!  Take a move like 'Cuddles'.  Men will be reaching all over a woman's body fumbling to figure out the correct arm to grab to get the lady in the right position.  The woman can tell by the perplexed look on the guy's face that he is oblivious to the fact that his hands are everywhere in his frantic search!   Don't get me wrong.  The men aren't touching in places they shouldn't be... but the process looks like the silly old party game 'Twister'. 

The women laugh, the men get embarrassed, and it is funny.  Then I tell everyone two margaritas at a singles bar wouldn't guarantee them this much action. ha ha.  This is a stale joke to be sure, but if I time it right, the suggestion elicits a roar. 

And it's true.  A guy gets closer to a woman in a dance class than he ever would in the same amount of time at a club. The simple reason is that the women feel safe.  Tango is the same way - the women give the men permission to be ridiculously close for certain patterns because they understand that is the nature of the dance.  They know the patterns do not work unless the man can get close enough to lead the moves correctly.  The normal distance for proper body space goes out the door.  The men and the women have to let down their guard or the dancing simply won't work.  So people develop a rapport at a rapid clip.

People laugh. People flirt. People tell jokes.  Now that they know each other, these same people can get to know each other even better over time as friends.  Then one day maybe they take things past the friends stage."

"So is SSQQ a bar or a church singles group?"

"Interesting question. Since we have dancing and music, most people would assume we are closer to being a bar.

But I disagree. I think SSQQ is much closer to being a church singles group than a bar.  People are so friendly and at ease here, you would have to go to a church singles group to find a more clean cut group of people.  But we have an advantage over the church groups because we have dancing.  Plus we sanction innocent misbehavior.  Frisky Business is not frowned at.  Actually it is encouraged.

Therefore it is no surprise that church singles groups love SSQQ.  We average one singles group a month taking classes via the group discount route.  Nor do they want to have a class by themselves.  They would much rather just get thrown into the huge melting pot and have fun.  Just like a cruise, they can hang with their friends or risk an adventure with an outsider."

"Is SSQQ a dating service?"

"Absolutely not.  If we charged for what we do, I believe the magic would go away.  People wouldn't trust us any more.  They would become cynical and assume we do it for the money."

"You got involved with Jerald.  Is this something you do very often?"

"No, not at all. Jerald was a huge exception.  If that woman had not directly asked me to help her escape from Jerald's puppy eyes, I probably would not have gotten involved. 

The studio is huge.  There are many students, few of me.  Just keeping up with the demands of daily email threatens to cripple me with exhaustion, much less taking on the responsibility for counseling people.

I prefer to watch from a distance and enjoy the energy.  For example, not long ago a man brought his sister to the studio to take lessons. She and I hit it off and became friends.  We talked all the time at the studio and exchanged emails.  She had a ton of energy and she was fun to listen to.  Then about two months after she started at the studio, she connected with a gentleman she met in one of her dance classes.

Not long after that I saw them smooching by the car one night as I left the studio.  She waved to me and I waved back, but ordinarily I would have just walked by and left them to enjoy their evening uninterrupted.  I miss our chats of course, but most of all I was very happy for both people.

The lady had an interesting relationship with that man.  However it only lasted about four months.  In the meantime, she kept up her lessons and met another man she was even more interested in.  She began a relationship with him that has lasted more than a year and is still going strong as I write.  I always keep an eye on her because she became a friend.

But I only watch.  I don't think it is my place to interfere. "

"So you didn't have anything to do with her new romance?"

"Not a thing.  I take complete credit for it of course, but like any good playground director all I usually do is roll out the basketball and let the kids play.  Then I keep an eye to make sure everyone follows the rules."

"Do people ever seek you for advice?"

"Not very often.  Truth be told, my studio is so big with 1,300 customers a week that I simply don't have the time to get to know most people much more beyond the most superficial of levels.  Furthermore my social work background taught me what heavy karma it is to interfere with people's lives without being asked. 

If I give advice, it is usually by email like for example the lady worried about running into her ex-boyfriend."

"I notice you gave Stacey the run-down on Jerald. Do people often ask you for your opinion on so-and-so?"

"Not that often.  Once in a while, a woman like Stacey will ask me what I know about a guy they have their eye on.  I will give the guy a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The advantage I have is that I play center field at the studio. I am here five or six nights a week watching the Mix and Mingle Dance. I know which guys are 'Players' and which guys are down to earth. I occasionally share this information when asked.

I remember on one of our cruises a really neat lady got her feelings badly hurt.  She had fallen for one of the guys on the cruise and thought they had something special that would cross over onto land.  One night as I was chatting with people at their dinner table, I asked for anecdotes I could write about in the Trip Summary. This guy blurted out right in front of everyone at the table, 'What happens on the cruise stays on the cruise.'   I will never forget how crushed the woman looked after that remark.  She reacted as if she had been slapped in the face.  Needless to say, he never got a thumbs up from me after that."

"So one of your roles is that of Sheriff Rick?"

"That is correct. If I see a guy is hurting women when he dances with them, I keep an eye on him.  If I see a guy is hitting on a different woman every night of the week, I keep an eye on him.  If I hear a guy has been fondling women while dancing with them, I give him a warning.  If I see a guy abusing alcohol, I give him a talk.  I feel it is my job to police the playground.

One of the most bizarre incidents involved a very shy girl.  For some reason, a guy about my age took a shine to her and asked her to dance every Friday night.  I thought it was unusual because of the age difference, but the young lady was smiling so I assumed he was just being nice.

A month later some friends of the girl asked me what I thought of the man.  I told them that I didn't know him very well, but he had always seemed like a poacher, a guy who looks for the loneliest girl at the party and strikes while she is vulnerable.

They didn't like that answer very much since they were already suspicious to begin with.  So they started an Internet search.  They discovered this man who claimed to be 36  (she was 24) was in actuality 55 years old.  Not only that he appeared to be married.  Not only that, he had once married a 15 year old girl. 

The young woman was quickly alerted to the truth.  Although she was devastated, once she got over her disappointment, she realized she had been given a valuable lesson - there are men that lie.   Immediately her instincts were sharpened and she was better prepared for the future."

"What did you learn from this experience?"

"I learned that not everyone who comes to this studio is a decent person.  So in that sense I was disappointed.  

However I also learned that unlike a bar where there is danger everywhere, here at SSQQ, people watch each other's back.  His interest in the girl had seemed odd from the start and had drawn suspicion.  After an initial search of the Internet brought up some fishy items, at one point five different people began to join the research.  This guy was nailed before he could hurt her much worse.

So in this sense I was proud of my studio.

Had I realized these two were dating, I would have said something too.  This guy was too weird for a girl this innocent."

"Does your protective side include men too?"

"The studio doesn't seem to attract many femme fatales. I can only think of one woman who was pretty dangerous.  She had an affair with a married man she met here at the studio.  He later accused her of ruining his marriage.  Rumor had it she was on the aggressive side, but she departed the studio before I could ask her side of the story.

SSQQ is not completely safe.  Here is an article about adultery (click #15) from the Newsletter than illustrates this point clearly. 

Over the years, I know of at least dozen adulterous affairs that began through people who met through the studio and practically every one of them was started by a man who lied about being married.   Men seem to be far more predatory than women so I don't usually worry about them too much.

What I would like to say is that once we discover a predator, they are no longer welcome here.

In addition, I think these same problems occur everywhere.  For that matter, I think the Internet is a far more dangerous place for treachery in the affairs of the heart.  I wrote a very serious story on this exact problem: Internet Deceit  

We are probably not the right place for gold diggers to operate either.  Dance studios are usually not where the rich and famous hang out.

Women are far more likely to be the victims. One poor woman actually went on an SSQQ cruise with a man she had met at the studio who claimed he was divorced.  Then the Mrs. found out and gave the woman hell. 

I spoke with the woman personally after the truth came out.  She was devastated and deeply regretful.  I am convinced the woman from the cruise was completely deceived.

I have never heard of a woman pulling a trick of this magnitude on a man.

 I suppose we have our share of evil women, but I don't know who they are because they are always on good behavior when I am around.  My guess is there are hurtful women at the studio, but the men won't tell me about it due to their embarrassment.  Or maybe they worry I will print the story in the Newsletter.  I would never do that by the way if someone specifically asked me not to."

"Speaking of your Newsletter and articles like this 'Matchmaker' story, aren't you afraid someone is going to steal your ideas?"

"First of all, nothing I have written about is original.  Many people have come to the same conclusions I have long before I did and will continue to do so without my help.   Besides, copying is the sincerest form of flattery.

Back in 1988, Sharon Crawford and I cooked up a goofy dance party called the "Sleazy Bar Whip Party".  We throw the party once a year in April.  It has always been a popular party.  In fact it is such a clever idea that Southwest Whip Club now throws a similar party and so do the Push people up in Dallas. 

Since my party came first, I assume these organizations copied my idea.  For that matter, so did my friend Daryl Armstrong with his 'Tattoo, Leather, and Lace Party'.  It doesn't matter.  SSQQ doesn't make any money off of social events.  We put them on so our dancers can have fun.  It is all about fun. Let them copy us.

For that matter, sometimes people do a better job at our own game than we do.  For example, Daryl's off-campus 'Leather and Lace' parties were a lot wilder than the SSQQ version.  Then he lost his venue and brought the party over to SSQQ for a couple years.

Having the party at SSQQ nearly killed it!  SSQQ is simply too clean-cut to let its hair down to that extent.  Heck, we don't even lose control at our Halloween parties and they are fabulous!!

Another example of 'copying' involves dance cruises. SSQQ has had very good luck with dance cruises. I discovered this myself during our first trip in 1998.  A couple years later I noticed a dance magazine that wrote an article on dance cruises.  It explained how popular they were and how every month you could probably find another dance cruise if you combed the Internet hard enough.

So did they copy me?  I doubt it.  Did I copy them?  No.  I made the discovery on my own.  My point is the lessons are out there for everyone to discover whether I write about them or not.

It is just like sports and business.  Everyone knows the same plays, the same strategies.  It all boils down to superior talent and/or superior hard work. 

For example, I have a natural talent for this business.  My writing and my eye for social interaction make me the perfect guy for this business.  But some times I don't have the strength to try as hard as I used to.  That's when other dance studios gain on me. 

As you will read if you continue this story, there have been other times when I didn't have another gear and my studio lost a lot of ground.  At least three times in my career when I was coasting, other dance studios came along and stole huge blocks of students who started with me right out from under my nose.  If I am lucky, I get a second wind and put distance between us again. 

The dance business isn't that complicated.  It all boils down to talent and hard work.  There are no secrets to steal."

"If SSQQ is not a bar and it is not a church singles group, then maybe it is a Singles Group?"

"SSQQ is not a Singles Group.  It is a Dance Studio. 

For all the historical success we have had in bringing people together, SSQQ pretty much stays in the background.  We don't do mixers. We don't do speed-dating.  We don't introduce people.

 Like any good playground social director, we basically tell everyone what time the pick-up basketball game starts, sweep the court clean, make sure the ball has air in it, then step back and watch. Once the music is on, the players do the rest.

Dancing turns out to be a simple, graceful way to get to know people with their guard down in a relaxed setting. For a variety of reasons, SSQQ has always seemed to be most attractive to intelligent, educated, down-to-earth people. With such a large group of talented people, it is easy to find any number of people who have a lot of things in common with you besides dancing. If you were to meet the same person in a club, it would be much more difficult to start a conversation.

At SSQQ, you can take a class with someone, dance with them at practice night, or strike up a conversation with them at break or after class. Talking to strangers is always difficult, but it is much easier when you have a common reference point like dancing to start with.

Actually it's easy to do a good job when you've got the right ingredients. For example, although we don't match the dance clubs for their elaborate decorations and have no desire to fool with alcohol, we have things that clubs can't touch- we've got room to dance, we have a smoke-free atmosphere, we've got music that has the right sound and the right speed, and we have a comfortable, attractive place where people feel at ease.

Plus we have a safe place- even though it may be your first practice night, you will sense almost immediately an amazing absence of creeps and, as a result, you will find it easy to relax and enjoy yourself. Granted you may not be able to dance worth flip, but at least there won't be a plethora of obnoxious characters to make things worse.

The only thing SSQQ cannot do for you to get you to participate...that's up to you!

"So is SSQQ a Singles Club in disguise?"

"I think you have figured us out.  If we say we are a Singles Club, then we scare away the Doubles.  Singles and Doubles coexist very nicely in dance classes and cruises.  The Doubles enjoy watching the Singles be crazy and the Singles enjoy the attention!

But the moment SSQQ goes too far in either direction and favors one group over the other, we lose business. 

That said, I will quietly admit that when SSQQ is at its most effective, it functions along the principles of a Singles Club.  In the years when SSQQ has gotten away from being a Singles Club and stuck to business, the energy of the studio has dropped significantly. 

The History of SSQQ has had several Eras known as 'Generations'. 

As you will see, during the 1980s when we concentrated on creating energy for the singles, the studio's business was spectacular.  Then there was a long dry spell in the 1990s where the social side of the studio was stagnant.  In 1995, the studio finished the year with $300 in the bank. 

Since we are obviously still in business, it wouldn't do any good to play cliffhanger and keep you guessing.  Yes, obviously SSQQ made a huge comeback.  So now it is time for an SSQQ History lesson and a look at what the future might hold for the studio.  

NOTE: For a further look at some of the themes covered in this section of the Matchmaker Story, please visit:

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5 Comeback Kids 6 Millennium Madness 7 Love Boat 8 Bon Voyage
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