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Now that we have completed the Reputation Trilogy, it is time to take a look at 2007 criticism that has been leveled at both SSQQ and its owner, Rick Archer. 

As you know from my articles on "Smear Campaigns" - Spin, Harvest Moon, and Vesuvius - any rumor, no matter small, can become a destructive acid if left unchecked. 


-----Original Message-----
From: JW
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 4:10 PM
Subject: Salsa Classes and Instructor Quality

My name is John. I am an active Salsa Dancer here in the Houston Area. I do not know if you are aware of this, but one of your "instructors' " classes is available via YouTube. Although the initiative is nobel (as to workshops like this should be offered on all dance studios), the technique and execution observed throughout the class is below average to mediocre.

As the owner of the SSQQ it should be in your interest to review the agenda of the class, and foremost the ability, experience, training, and certification of your instructors before offering special topics workshops such as this. This will prevent misguiding people into developing bad habits, or just plainly wasting their monies.

Sad that this is the material that they teach at SSQQ. I have never taken lessons there and i probably won't if the instructors are like this.  

Rick Archer Replies:  John is a key player in a future SSQQ Reputation Story titled 'Alex'.  The story of Alex will likely appear in the next Newsletter.

In response to John's criticism, I am going to start by showing two pictures.

Originally, my former wife Judy Archer created the Salsa program here at SSQQ.   Before Judy started her work, there was a near-complete vacuum.   For example, we offered one Salsa class a week as of January 1998.  Throughout 1998, our Salsa classes averaged maybe a dozen students a month.  Nor was there any phenomenal growth... by the year's end, we had added an Intermediate Salsa class, but that was the extent of it.  That's what Salsa looked like in the Nineties.

However Judy sensed a growing interest.  Even before Ricky Martin came along in 2000, Judy had begun to study Salsa carefully.  By mid 1999, Judy had created a series of syllabi for Intermediate and Advanced Salsa classes.  She began to train new teachers.  
'If you build it, they will come' - thanks to Judy's hard work, we had the studio's first Advanced Salsa class by July of that year.  I figured that was where Salsa would crest, but to my surprise throughout 1999 the energy kept growing.  By the end of 1999, we had eight different Salsa classes spread out over two days a week (Tuesday, Saturday).

By the time
living la vida loca turned Salsa into a world-wide phenomenon in 2000, Judy had positioned the studio perfectly as the best Salsa program in Houston.  Because she got us there first, Judy deserves a lot of credit for getting SSQQ off to a great start.  The year 2000 was the craziest in studio history thanks to her.

Salsa was strong at SSQQ every year after that with one exception.  Unfortunately 9/11 put a serious damper on things, but Judy nursed the Salsa program back to health.  By 2003, the numbers were almost back to pre- 9/11.

Unfortunately, in November 2004, without warning, Judy quit the studio. Her sudden action threw us into crisis mode at the time.  Out of respect for her contributions and the fact that we have a daughter, I have to date avoided sharing the gory details. 

But I will reveal one thing.  About the time she left, Judy predicted that her highly successful SSQQ Salsa program would fall into disarray after she was gone.

Three years later, let's revisit that statement.

Judy was still with us in June 2004.  That month our Salsa numbers were phenomenal.  357 Salsa students in one month is an incredible total.  In just five years, Salsa had passed Western to become the backbone of the studio.  Therefore when Judy left a few months later with her parting shot, no question about it, I was pretty worried. 

Fortunately there were other talented people who stepped in to make up for her loss. 

Linda Cook took over the overall leadership of SSQQ Salsa.   During Linda's era, the numbers have increased 37% in three years.  Salsa was supposed to be hitting its peak back in 2004.  Not only did Salsa fail to subside, if anything, Salsa has only grown larger.   Looking at the numbers for June 2007, do you have any idea how incredible a total like 490 Salsa students is? 

In November 2004,
Steve Gekas took over Judy's Advanced Salsa class on Tuesday.  This class was considered one of the toughest Salsa classes in the city.  At the time Judy quit, Steve was Judy's protégé.  Judy left some large shoes to fill and Steve had little experience at the time.  I simply asked him to try.  Steve was brave enough to do that.  To his credit, Steve was not just good, he was terrific!  Over the past three years, Steve's reputation as an excellent Salsa instructor has grown by leaps and bounds.  It is never easy to teach advanced dancers, but Steve had the talent.  Although we miss Steve's former partner Danielle (who moved to Alaska), Steve deserves all the credit for carrying on the tradition of Salsa excellence.

In addition to Steve and Linda,
Jim Coulter, Jill Banta, Maureen Brunetti and Martin Anderson bridge both eras.  In 2004, Maureen was taking a break from teaching Salsa, but agreed to come back and help when Judy suddenly quit.  These four people are solid, veteran dance teachers.  They are a major reason that respect for the SSQQ Salsa program has continued to grow rather than wane.

In addition, one year ago we added several talented newcomers. 
Dakota Wilhelm is best known for his Advanced Ballroom program here at SSQQ on Sunday night, but he teaches a mean Salsa class on Saturdays as well.

Rebeca and Bjorn Bangstein are former competition Salsa dancers who teach a much-praised Advanced Salsa class on Saturday known as Salsa Explosion.   

John had a fine time amusing himself by knocking our program...
"Sad that this is the material that they teach at SSQQ. I have never taken lessons there and I probably won't if the instructors are like this."... but you know what?  John was taking his pot shots at one of our rookies.

Maybe John, the self-proclaimed ombudsman who protects the Salsa community from charlatans, would like to take Steve's class or Rebeca and Bjorn's class.  Then let's see if he makes the same statement.  No charge, John, just let me know when you are ready to take a Salsa class from someone in our starting rotation.  You already have my email address.

I conclude with this information: The SSQQ Salsa Program in June 2007 had nearly 500 students. 

If you want to argue with those numbers, you go right ahead.  Everyone is entitled to their own belief.

Personally, I think the entire Salsa team has done a phenomenal job.  I am incredibly proud of them. 



-----Original Message-----
From: anonymous
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 5:06 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: ssqq instructor situation

To me, nothing is more important in business than my people and their relations with my customers.

I apologize if I sound like I was "accusing you".  It just hurts me when I hear people talking about the people you lose, etc.

Rick Archer Replies:

----- Original Message -----
From: Rick Archer
To: anonymous
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 4:46 PM
Subject: RE: ssqq instructor situation

The Students I lose… well, I didn’t see that as part of your original statement.

Yes, this is a problem.  We lose students all the time.  And if you analyze it, you will understand what the reason is.  SSQQ offers the equivalent of Grade School, High School and College level dance material, but not Masters level.

Our strength is Group Classes.  But Group classes can never train highly advanced dancers. Therefore our system is our strength… and it is our weakness.

When people wish to become good, I mean really good, they need private lessons. That's when higher-level teachers step in to recruit our students away from us.

Our problem is that we don’t specialize at SSQQ.  We are good at everything, but we aren't necessarily "The Best".  So if someone is a good Salsa student or a good Western student, we stand to lose students to the ‘Specialists’.  We lose many of our top students simply because they have become so good they want to get better!  SSQQ keeps a lot of Houston dance professionals in business, believe me.  

But this doesn't necessarily mean there is something "wrong" with SSQQ. 

There is no dishonor in this situation.  We are what we are - a marvelous training center for a large group of people with a philosophy aimed at Community more than Individual Excellence. 

We take more pride in pointing out how many people get married through the help of SSQQ than necessarily how many dance champions we produce (although we have done that too).

I contend that SSQQ is the finest place on the planet for people to get started.  We have trained the dance equivalent of an entire LEGION of students over the years with our system.  Currently Fifteen thousand students take classes at SSQQ per year.

  • Where else are students going to find two or three parallel classes a week?

-----Original Message-----
From: Tiffany E
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 7:41 AM
Subject: Salsa Intermediate

Hello,  I am new to SSQQ and I LOVED it!  Last month's Beg Salsa was the highlight of my week!!!

I just wanted to ask a quick question. I will need to flip flop between Tues and Sat for Intermediate in August but I only signed up for the Tues. Is that ok? I remember being encouraged to come to more classes in Beg Salsa but I wanted to make sure that its ok to just pick what day works best in the week for me as long as its the same class. 

Keep up the great work, and I think your salsa program is great. Hats off to Jill for a job well done in Beg Salsa.   Thank you and have a great day!

(My reply was simple: "
Thank you for the nice words.  Yes, you may rotate btw the three parallel classes.  Your receipt includes all three nights for the price of one."

  • Where else are students going to find two-hour classes for the same price they pay for one-hour classes everywhere else?
  • Where else are students going to find a FREE, built-in Practice Night right after class?
  • Where else are students going to find six different levels of the same dance being offered simultaneously?

Furthermore, we don't just train babies.  We have many Advanced classes.  SSQQ is able to take students all the way from the Beginning level to Super-Advanced in our Salsa, West Coast, and Western Program.  We can take students to Advanced in Ballroom and Swing.

When it comes to dance champions, SSQQ has accomplished this too whenever we have tried.  Have you ever heard the story of Heartbeat?   In 2003, a charismatic SSQQ dance teacher named Susie Merrill took a team of SSQQ dancers to Nashville and won the World Championship for Best Dance Team.  No, not a city championship or state championship or american championship. 

They beat the World.  I remember one comment in particular, "Where did you get all those men who know how to dance?  I've never seen so many men with rhythm in my life!"

I contend if you get a Specialist here at SSQQ, the line of champions produced would be eye-catching.  Currently Scott Ladell is doing this exact thing! 

Now it is true we lose some people to other places when they seek higher training than we have available. 
But if we keep these people here at SSQQ for one, two, even three years before they move on, does that justify calling us a failure?  No, I don't think so.

In addition, the people you speak to at Wild West are not ex-SSQQ.  They are essentially ‘graduates’, i.e. people who learned what they came for and don't need lessons any more.

Let's say I look at the NBA and point out how many ex-Duke players there are.  Some moron might say, "Wow, look at all those Duke players who aren't at Duke anymore!"

And I say, "Wow, look how many fine basketball professionals that Duke is producing!"

I would venture to guess that SSQQ has more EX-students than any other dance studio on earth. 

Now how intelligent is it to have some drunk at Wild West point out all the dancers on the floor who don't go to SSQQ any more and use that to conclude our studio is mediocre?

These people didn't 'dump' SSQQ, they simply graduated.

If anything, the constant presence of one former SSQQ student after another on the Wild West dance floor means we are doing our job. 

Now ask yourself this question - has any dance studio on Earth ever accounted for more weddings?

People get married here because SSQQ is about Community.  Our emphasis has always been on the 'Social' Side of Dancing. We dance at SSQQ for the fun of it.  Friendship.  Romance.  Excitement.

We are here to serve the entire city of Houston without regard for who learned what dance pattern where.  Do you EVER see us putting down another teacher or another studio?   Of course not.  There are excellent professionals throughout the city.

And if one of their students wants to come to our Christmas Party or Halloween Party, this student is more than welcome.  And this teacher can feel comfortable we aren't going to pull that student aside and lecture them on SSQQ greatness.  All we care about is whether they enjoy the party or not.

And if one of their students wants to come on one of our cruises, by all means they are welcome.  If we find out they learned to dance elsewhere, we promise not to leave them at Costa Maya.

We don't care where you learned to dance, what race you are, what religion you are, what color you are, or what planet you are from - if you are a good person, you are welcome here (but if you are rotten, we will ask you to take a hike.)

SSQQ wants to teach people to become an excellent dancer for a reasonable price and we hope each person has fun while they are here.   

And if they end up getting married in process, don't say we didn't warn them.  Slow Dance and Romance go hand in hand at SSQQ. 

The danger of Cupid's Arrow is hidden in every corner of our studio.  You never know what direction Love might come from, so dance at your own risk. 



-----Original Message-----
From: UCSomeoneSpecial
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 1:22 AM
Subject: Re: samba problems

By the way, I went and took a refresher class and then stayed to just practice dancing at a place called Elvia's.  The class instructor was a gentleman by the name of Johnny W. When he found out I was from SSQQ, he said some rather snippy things. I did not dignify them with a response, because I thought it very unprofessional behavior on his part.  However, I would be interested in hearing about the friction between SSQQ and the other studios in town, so I don't get blind-sided like that again.  Gimme the scoop.......

15. John, aka jw152466 (July 27, 2007)

This is the root of the very problem. There are people out there that think they can dance or sing because they have been doing this for a while, but in reality they don't - or are not born with that gift.  Then they go about trying to teach things beyond their actual skills and in the end you produce mediocre dancers. Funds should be invested in the proper way with a trained, certified dancer.

-----Original Message-----
From: anonymous
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 5:06 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: ssqq instructor situation

One of the complaints I hear about SSQQ out in the "real world"
is that they don't really have any real qualified instructors

Rick Archer Replies:  SSQQ is currently celebrating its 30th year of business.  Please contemplate that number for a moment: 30 years. 

How does any business that is mediocre stay in business for 30 years?

Furthermore, our attendance is climbing.  Three years ago in June 2004 we had 1,014 students.  Last month in June 2007, we had 1,245.  This climb is even more impressive when you realize our parking lot has been reduced by 25% while the rest of our parking lot reeks of threats and hostility (e.g., take a look at how many signs threaten to tow). 

Just imagine what our attendance would be like if we had a favorable climate that actually supported our business.

And to be honest, we contribute to the parking problem ourselves.  Fifteen thousand dance students a year means a lot of cars, yes?  We never had a parking problem until we began to grow.

But that doesn't really go to the heart of the issue, does it?  The allegations specifically concern the quality of our instructors.  Just because we have a thriving business doesn't mean our teachers are any good, now does it?  

John said this:
There are people out there that think they can dance or sing because they have been doing this for a while, but in reality they don't - or are not born with that gift.  Then they go about trying to teach things beyond their actual skills and in the end you produce mediocre dancers.

You know what?  You might be surprised to know that I agree with John. When it comes to teaching Social Dance, my industry is totally unregulated.  There are no inspectors for dance teachers.

In truth, any gypsy with a gold-capped tooth can set up shop to teach the Texas Twostep. Plus she can predict your future as well.

The main reason we have an unregulated industry is simple.  Even the most mediocre of dance teachers is unlikely to cause much public damage.  There has never been a major dance plague (except for the macarena), few students end up in hospitals, dance teachers don't typically join gangs, only a few murders here and there, by and large the Mafia has not laundered any funds in the dance business, only a few dance studios peddle dope on the side, and, if you overlook the tattoos, we are a pretty well-scrubbed group.

Indeed, there has never been a public outcry to regulate the dance industry because we are a pretty harmless bunch.

I would say in my 30 years the worst thing I ever heard about dance studios was some guy who took little old ladies for every cent they owned... and went scott free because apparently his victims had so much fun in the process they didn't bother pressing charges. 

Since there are no city dance inspectors, how is the general public to protect itself from mediocre dance teachers? 

I suppose one way is to read what people have to say about each individual.  For example, John was out there protecting the Salsa Community from Alex by posting the six-minute snooze video plus adding every nasty comment he could think of.  However, after we post the Alex article in our next issue, you will discover that John was way off base.  But that can wait a month.

One thing I do know is that if I do not reply to negative allegations, then the word on the street is allowed to multiply unchecked.  

SSQQ Dance Studio has two dozen experienced, excellent instructors. 

I have already listed the
Salsa Staff earlier.  Our Salsa Program, in my opinion, is phenomenal.

I also consider SSQQ to have the finest Western Program in Houston.  Yes, there are many excellent Western professionals out there. 
But there is no finer collection of instructors in the city.  Furthermore, I believe the 'Whole' is greater than the sum of the parts.  Working together, we train countless numbers of excellent Western dancers.

Western instructor we have is strong.   On the Western side, I have Sharon Shaw, Linda Cook, Ben Liles, Rachel Koenig, Daryl Armstrong, Scott Ladell, MG Anseman, Jack Benard... these instructors have been with us from 7 to 20 years.  I get constant praise on each and every one of the them.  In addition we have eight Junior Western instructors who are dynamite in their own right. 

West Coast Swing, thanks to Bryan and Lisa Spivey leaving the Staff unexpectedly, I was forced to come out of semi-retirement.  I had been easing my way into a writing career when Life called.  But I am starting to enjoy myself.  Teaching Martian Whip in July with Cher Longoria was a blast!  By the way, I have 30 years of experience.  I was teaching Martian Whip when Bryan was learning to walk.  Jack Benard has been dancing Whip/West Coast since the Nineties and has three years of teaching under his belt.  Scott Ladell, the new addition to our Staff, has proven to me he is one of the best natural teachers I have ever had on the Staff (read story)

In the
East Coast Swing program, we have Maureen, 20 years, Steve Gabino, 5 years, and myself again.  Marla Archer is the rookie with one year under her belt.  Our Swing teachers are good.  The only problem is that we are thin... we need to rebuild our Swing Assistant program.  If anyone wishes to be a future Swing instructor, let me know.

Ballroom has Dakota Wilhelm, 2 years here and several more at other places, Jack Benard, 1 year, Jill Banta, 3 years, Marla Archer, 2 years, and myself.

If someone wishes to point a finger, Ballroom would be the only program I would agree could use more experience.  That said, please understand that Ballroom at SSQQ is a relatively new program.  Give our Ballroom Program time to mature.  Don't forget that Salsa was a fledgling program once and now it is a raging forest fire.

If you saw how popular our Sunday Ballroom Practice Night is, you would have to agree that our Ballroom Program is off to a very promising start.  In the space of one year, interest in Ballroom has grown so much that we have added a second night (Thursday).  Ballroom Dancing is doing quite well at SSQQ, thank you for asking.

Did I forget to mention
Zydeco?  I sure did.  We have an incredibly talented instructor named  Willie Bushnell who has been packing them in for nearly a decade on Saturdays.  Besides Zydeco, Willie has another popular course called R&B Twosteppin'.  Along with his valuable assistants Ronnie Alexander and Willie Ellis, Mr. Bushnell is a studio legend in his own right.  We are fortunate to have all three men!

As for the SSQQ Staff in general, our instructor program has an entire network of support people.

In addition to the two dozen veterans I listed above, there are Junior Instructors, Assistants and Volunteers that deserve credit too. Besides our Lead Instructor, I would estimate there are two dozen more Junior instructors and Assistants supported by 50 volunteers.  In essence, we don't just have one person out there showing a 100 people how to dance slow slow quick quick.  Behind the Instructor is an entire army of talent to help each individual catch on by quietly working with the person one on one.  We are deeply fortunate to have people like these who unselfishly volunteer their time to assist in the teaching process.

In conclusion, I acknowledge there are many top-flight individual instructors throughout Houston.  But there is no finer
Group of dance teachers in the entire city.  At SSQQ, we know what we are doing, trust me.  I am proud of my Staff. 

I now wish to offer an odd piece of evidence in support of our dance program.


Rick Archer's Note: As I was researching the Internet via Google for information on Sharon Crawford Shaw's Western Waltz class, completely by chance I was taken to a Baytown chat room. 

The first comment was dated 2005, but all the recent communications were dated April 2007.

Please read the chain of correspondence.

Baytown Talk


Sherry Bridges (slbridges4)
July 20, 2005 10:47 PM

ballrom dance lessons for beginner adults

Anybody know if Cheryl's dance studio is offering anything soon? Is ANY place offering it in the fall or spring? Sounds like a lot of fun! Let us hear from you! Thanks!

dancin fool44 (dancinfool44)
March 27, 2007 6:53 PM #2 of 22
Reply | Request staff review


Go to the website for the City of Baytown and in the Parks and Recreation section you will find information about the ballroom dancing classes that are taught here at the Community Center.

As my name implies, I am definitely a dancin' fool! I have taken lessons at a studio in Houston called SSQQ for years, but would love to do some dancing here in Baytown. When I inquired about the ballroom dancing here, I was told that unless you have a partner, it wouldn't be a good idea to come.

Unlike SSQQ, partners here don't switch, so if you are single (as I am) you are pretty much left out. I can understand that some couples don't want to switch partners during the lessons, but it leaves singles such as myself out in the cold completely. Of course that is true for just about anything in Baytown - if you're a single adult, you have to travel to Houston!  There are other studios that are a bit closer, so I've included links to their websites too.

You didn't say in your initial post whether you were single or not, but irregardless I definitely want to encourage you to get out and do some dancing!

Kendall Thompson (TXQueenie)
March 27, 2007 10:02 PM #3 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

Hey there! At last look Cheryl did not have ballroom. My dance studio in Deer Park is starting adult ballroom in the fall. It is called STEPS dance academy, great place! Hope that helps!

dancin fool44 (dancinfool44)
March 27, 2007 11:21 PM #4 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

Awesome and I wish you much success with your ballroom program. Maybe I'll check it out some time!

March 28, 2007 5:55 AM #5 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

SSQQ...its a great way to meet people and loads of fun. I have been going for a long time and its a regular part of life now.

Kendall Thompson (TXQueenie)
March 28, 2007 7:46 PM #6 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

Guess I should clarify, I take dance at STEPS lol I run my own business but its not a dance studio! I dont have time to do that lol! Good luck learning to dance, its so much fun!

Shelby Lou (ShelbyLou)
March 29, 2007 11:39 AM #7 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

Erin Flores: I would love to take dance classes! I have taken them for years but quit when i had my girls, but it is great exercise. Keep us updated about opening up a new studio!

vickey bordeaux (christmasdawn)
March 29, 2007 2:03 PM #8 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

Erin, I would love to take ballroom dance classes. SFW, way over 21.

dancin fool44 (dancinfool44)
April 1, 2007 2:36 PM #9 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

To HoustonMod:

Yes, SSQQ is a great place (I only wish it wasn't so far away!) Not only is it a great place to dance, it's also a wonderful place to meet people. Although there are many singles who take dance lessons, there are also many couples who come to take lessons together.

You said you have been going for a long time - what classes have you taken and who are some of your favorite instructors?

Vickey - if you are a SWF (way over 21 like me), you should definitely check it out (

April 2, 2007 6:11 PM #10 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

I have taken most western swing classes and the swing classes at SSQQ....Ben is my fave instructor and of course I love Fri night practice and free refreshments...

dancin fool44 (dancinfool44)
April 2, 2007 11:02 PM #11 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

I haven't had the pleasure of taking any classes from Ben. I have taken almost all of the Ghost Town as well as Hustle from Scott Ladell and love him. I have taken West Coast/Whip from Dakota Wilhelm and he is awesome. I am currently in his Accelerated Ballroom program and it's a challenge to say the least!

April 4, 2007 5:53 AM #12 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

ya Dakota is really nice....I just took Beg western swing again with my wife that has never been there before...he was the teacher

dancin fool44 (dancinfool44)
April 4, 2007 10:00 AM #13 of 22
Reply | Request staff review

That boy can dance anything! His wife Susie helps him with the West Coast/Whip classes he teaches and she is great too. There was one particular step that for some reason I just couldn't get. I asked everyone I knew to help, but nothing worked for me. Dakota explained it in a way that I immediately understood and after that I had the step. He encourages questions and is really good at using illustrations to get his point across. He also has a great sense of humor and makes the class so much fun. Have you and your wife ever taken any of the ballroom classes? If not, I would encourage you to do so. I have found that the skills and technique I have learned in the ballroom classes have made a big difference in my Western dancing. Dakota is a stickler for technique (the entire first month of the Accelerated class focuses on technique.) Many of the patterns in the classes are the same (as in Western and ballroom Waltz), but with a difference in technique.

Sharon Crawford's Waltz and Chacha classes on Wed. nights are awesome.

Scott Ladell just finished with a series so he probably won't teach it for awhile, but one day you need to take Scott's Nightclub twostep. It is one of my favorite dances and I know your wife would love it.

Also, Baytown now has a Ballroom Dancing club with lessons right here in town (Monday night for beginners and Wednesday night for advanced.) They have a dance one Friday night a month (all at the Baytown Community Center).

Unfortunately they emphasize couples dancing together, so there's not really a place for me (hence I go to SSQQ or other places in Houston).

(Side Note: 
The man who praised Dakota Wilhelm had the nickname '
dancin fool44'. By coincidence, Dakota's email address once read 'dance-n-fool'. I realize it is possible that Dakota was actually praising himself, but I really doubt Dakota would go into a Baytown chat room to pump up his resume. 

Furthermore, the man in the chat room seemed knowledgeable about Baytown dance activities.  Dakota lives in Southwest Houston. 

I combed my database of 14,000 entries.  Dakota was our only 'fool' and I say that with respect. So I have no idea who those people were in the chat room.

By the way, I am always flattered that people will drive from Baytown and all the other far-flung locations of our Metro area to participate at our studio.  Marla, my wife, drove in from Kingwood to take classes when I first met her.  She explained the problem finding a good studio out there.  So I understand how hard it is to find a studio like SSQQ in your neck of the woods.  For all who drive a long way to join us, Thank you for the ultimate compliment of your time, your gas, and your determination.

And thank you also to people who drive only a shorter distance.  We love you too.  Now, quit complaining about how far you drive.  Despite everyone's secret wish, it would be difficult to open a studio across the street from every student's living room.) 


Here is Rick's Point:

One of the complaints I hear about SSQQ out in the "real world" is that they don't really have any real qualified instructors..."

I suppose I can type till I am blue in the face about how good my SSQQ Staff is, but the cynical among you might say "Well, what did you expect him to say?"

After reading these sincere and totally unsolicited compliments, I hope our readers are further persuaded that we really do have excellent instructors.

I have no idea who these people are who participated in the chat room.  You have my word on that. I simply know that they said extremely kind things about SSQQ Instructors Ben Liles, Dakota Wilhelm, Sharon Crawford Shaw, and Scott Ladell as well as about SSQQ in general.

Maybe our Staff Reputation is pretty good after all.



-----Original Message-----
From: anonymous
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 5:06 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: ssqq instructor situation

One of the complaints I hear about SSQQ out in the "real world" is that they don't really have any real qualified instructors, for the most part, and every time they have ever had a good one...they run them off eventually or they quit because they get mad at Rick or Rick gets mad at them.  

This I have heard repeatedly. They are quick to start calling off names of people out there today teaching professionally that used to teach at SSQQ... all of which now pretty much "knock" SSQQ.

I guess I was just not wanting to hear people say "...
well Rick fired another one".  

Rick Archer Replies:  A letter like the one above feels like a fishing expedition.  This person hasn't named one person or one single incident that I can wrap my brain around.  They just throw their line out in the water and see if I will bite.

Open-ended criticism like the letter above invites a general airing of dirty laundry.  For the record, I am willing to write about anything that involves me.  I am not perfect, but I also have little to hide.  I think a cursory review of my web site will show I am basically an open book.

3 people have left the studio under a dark cloud.  I refrain from being specific not for my sake, but out of respect to what they contributed while they were here. 

The reader needs to understand that if any instructor who has left wishes to open the door, I will be more than happy to share my side of their situation.  My conscience is clear.

very time they (SSQQ) have ever had a good one...they run them off eventually or they quit because they get mad at Rick or Rick gets mad at them.

Talk about a shot in the dark! 

know, there aren't many instructors who have left in anger or have been fired here at the studio.  

Is it really that hard to name someone?

I decided to give it some thought.  After a review of all the skeletons in my closet, I came up with 12 people who have left for anything other than harmless reasons over the past 8 years. 

3 people definitely left under a dark cloud.  For legal reasons, I am prevented from telling the true story about one. The other two extracted a promise from me that I would not write about them.

I did ask #4 and #5 to leave to make room for a new full-time instructor (this is the only incident I actually regret.  I wish I had handled it better.  I hope they will forgive me.)  #6 was the Samba Lady (you will read about her next month.)  #7 quit after breaking up with their romantic partner here at the studio (I consider this move a betrayal because I depended on this instructor a lot). I asked #8 to go after not showing up for work for a month.  #9 quit because they ran the All-Studio air-conditioner all day long every Saturday and didn't like getting chewed out about it (they should have only cooled one room).  #10 has already returned to our Staff. #11 and #12 left because they held a dual allegiance to a competing dance program without asking my permission.  Once I found out about it, I asked them to choose. They did... they left.

All this stuff is water under the bridge.
 Except for the Dark Cloud 3, if any of these people want to return, I would welcome each and every one of them back, even #7 who betrayed the me.

90% of the SSQQ Staff members who are no longer with us left on good terms. It is a little known fact that even dance teachers have lives outside of the studio. 

  • Five of the best instructors the studio ever had left to move to another city.  Fortunately one came back (Jack Benard) and I wish the other three would too!
  • A very valuable instructor left because her husband's work schedule changed and she needed to stay home with her young children on the night she taught.
  • Several people left for the simple reason that all their friends had moved on.  No hard feelings.  They are welcome back any time they wish.
  • One highly talented instructor left to go law school. 
  • One highly talented instructor left to open her own dance studio in Austin.
  • But you know what?  The major reason most SSQQ instructors left is because they got married.  It was time for them to move on.  "Marriage the Death of Dance".  For example, looking at one specific month - December 2002 - I counted a dozen people who met their spouses here at SSQQ and eventually left. 

Yes, it is true that over the past eight years several SSQQ instructors have left for angry reasons.  The average is 1.5 per year.

Perhaps after reading what I said above, you will decide this brief synopsis supports rather than disproves the suggestion that I am a hot-head who runs people off. 

I disagree.  I have only fired two people in the past eight years... and one of them came back. 

I don't think the criticism that I run people off is justified.

The vast majority of my instructors leave in friendship, not in anger.  I would take every single one of them back in a heartbeat. 

Furthermore, I want to understand something else.  Only Jack, Linda, Dakota, Marla, and myself actually depend on SSQQ to make a living.  All the rest - 50 some people in all - have jobs elsewhere.  They work or teach at SSQQ for one specific reason - they like to teach and they like being here.

If I was quite the tyrant the allegation suggests I am, every single person on my Staff could afford to walk out the door in protest.  They don't depend on me economically, so the phrase 'take your job and shove it' would not be much of a stretch. 

Instead, they stay.  These people stay for a lot of reasons, but one main reason they stay is because I let them do their job with a minimum of criticism and BS.

I would like to point something out.  If you took the time the read the Baytown Chat article, you may have noticed there was one name missing - Rick Archer.  Go back and review the names - Ben, Sharon, Scott, Dakota. 

And our most successful program - Salsa - does not include my name either. 

The Reputation of SSQQ has been built on the hard work of a lot of people besides me.  And you better believe I am well aware of this fact.  I am GRATEFUL that people of this caliber are willing to work for me.  I do NOT wish to see any of them go, I promise.

Therefore I treat each and every person who works for me with respect.  I pretty much leave my instructors alone and let them do their job.  But that doesn't mean I don't keep an eye on them.  I don't say anything because they are professionals who don't need much direction.

I may not see my instructors every day or offer compliments as often as I should, but I appreciate each person who works at SSQQ for the job they do.  And they know I mean it.



I had just finished saying the criticism that I run people off is not justified when Bryan Spivey resigned.

Just as I was about to publish the story above telling the world how well I treat my instructors, I received a stunning blow - Bryan Spivey, one of my top instructors, resigned without any warning.  So maybe it is true I run people off.  Now isn't that ironic?

Bryan's totally unexpected resignation makes him my Unlucky 13.  Unable to overlook the unpleasant coincidence, I decided to complete the story and publish it on Friday the 13, 2007.

"Every time they (SSQQ) have ever had a good one...they run them off eventually or they quit because they get mad at Rick or Rick gets mad at them.

I did not fire Bryan.  In fact, I asked him to reconsider... several times in fact.

So the question becomes: Did Rick run Bryan off? 

If you have followed the entire five chapters of our Reputation Story including the Trilogy, you will understand that any ambiguous situation like this that is allowed to stand without your side of the story in place is bound to lead to disaster.

Here is a quote from the Harvest Moon Ball Story:

Based on the experience of the events surrounding the Harvest Moon Ball, I reached the unmistakable conclusion that you have to stand up for yourself when you are unfairly accused of something and speak the truth at the top of your lungs.

If you don't, then people will believe the other guy.

Otherwise, your reputation will suffer irreparable damage.

So there you have it.  Please hear my side of the story before you make up your mind.  Please read the story and decide for yourself whether I ran Bryan off or not.

By the way, this story is being published under the threat of legal action by Mr. Spivey.   Therefore we have to play a little game first to make his lawyer happy before we get started. 

"The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly and exclusively those of this writer, and are not to be interpreted as criticism of any other person or institution.

Nor are they intended to malign or to express any infamous view of any such person or institution."  RJA 8-2-2007



On Tuesday, July 10th, I received these two messages:

-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 5:44 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: leave of absence


I am sending you my resignation via this email. Thanks for letting me be a part of your SSQQ Whip program and teaching at your studio for over 5 years. I have enjoyed my time at SSQQ, and I will miss everyone. Lisa and I can finish the month of July if you like.

I confess that Bryan's letter knocked the wind out of me.  As the Instructor Highlight points out, Bryan is Dance Director of the Whip Program at SSQQ Dance Studio.

Now only that, for several years now, I have considered Bryan Spivey to be my protégé. He was the man I was grooming to be my successor at the studio.  I even told him so. For five years now, I have been preparing Bryan for the day that he would take over my studio.

I was completely stunned. I had not seen this coming.

During the week of July 4th, the studio was closed so that we could refinish the floors.  On Sunday, July 8th, we reopened for business.  At 4:30 pm as I was about to begin my Western Swing class in Room 2 at the studio, I could not get my Western CD into the CD player. 

We had been closed for a week. It was empty the last I had been here.  So I hit reject and out came a music CD with Bryan's name on it. That's when I noticed a second laying near by with 'Lisa Palmer' written on it.  Lisa just happens to be the lady Bryan married on April 28, 2007.  I should know.  I was at their wedding.

I smiled.  These two CDs meant that Bryan had been at the studio this morning to conduct private lessons.  I was glad to see he was busy! 

Two days later Bryan resigned. 


Bryan Spivey has been the Prince of SSQQ for several years now.  He has always been special to me. 

Like me, Bryan lost his father at an early age. For a boy, it isn't easy growing up without a Dad.  Bryan was lucky to have a great Mom - Yvonne - but it helps to have a father too.

For this reason I have long felt a kinship.  I won't deny I have favored him over others for this reason.  

For example, Bryan Spivey is the only SSQQ instructor with his own Biography Page.  I have followed his career closely and written down his accomplishments with the same pride a Father would.

In March 2005, I extended to Bryan a favor I have never granted another instructor - Permission to work at another studio in addition to mine.  After a falling out between Mario Robau and the D'Amicos over at Southwest Whip, Bryan came to me to ask for permission to seek one of the openings over at Southwest.  We talked for a couple hours.  It is not the easiest move in the world to allow your top teacher to work for your competition.

At the time, Bryan assured me of two things: One, he would work to form a bridge between the two organizations. Two, he would never put the interests of Southwest Whip ahead of SSQQ.  Since I trusted Bryan completely, I nodded my approval.  Then I turned around and wrote the letter that got him the job.

By coincidence, another SSQQ instructor began to work for a competitor about the same time without bothering to ask me.  When I found out, I asked the instructor to choose.  Although the instructor chose the competition, I admit that I regretted seeing him go because he was a very good man. 

The point is clear - I gave Bryan privileges that no other instructor had as befitted his position as next in line at the studio.


At the same time that Bryan began teaching at Southwest Whip, I decided it was time to promote Bryan to become the Director of the SSQQ Whip (West Coast Swing) program.  Here is a brief letter from Bryan's Biography.

Saturday, April 9,2005

hey rick,

lately, i have had zero time to reflect back, but i am extremely grateful and honored that you have given me the permission to work both places and entrust me as the head of the whip program. i am very excited about this. im honored that you can trust me. i have found that you and lisa and a couple others are people i can really trust and respect.

Thank you, bryan"

That same summer I spoke quite frankly with Bryan about my intention of handing my studio off to him someday. I told his future wife Lisa the same thing when she asked me to confirm what Bryan had related to her. At the time, I couldn't imagine a better choice than this incredibly talented young couple.

We can fast-forward through the next couple years.  Life was very hectic for Bryan and Lisa.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Top Teacher Award, America's Classic (April 2005)
  • Top Teacher Award, Southwest Regional (May 2005)
  • First Place with Lisa Palmer, Pro-Am, Southwest Regionals (May 2005)
  • Two-time First Place with Yvonne Spivey (Bryan's Mom!) Texas Classic (May 2005)
  • Bryan proposed to Lisa in August 2005
  • Top Twelve finish in Classic Division with Valerie Menard at the US Open (November 2006)


2007 has been another busy year for Bryan and Lisa.  Not only did they have an April wedding to plan, but now their first child was due in September.  

Starting with the April Wedding, I will bring the story up to present using email correspondence.

I have not changed one word in these emails.  Please be aware that I have omitted three paragraphs dealing with opinions about our business competition.  Let me add I do not for a moment believe those three paragraphs have anything to do with Bryan's decision to leave.

If for some reason it becomes necessary to reveal those paragraphs, I will gladly do so.



-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2007 12:34 PM
To: rick archer
Subject: Thank you VERY much

Hey Rick,

I want to thank you so much for the card. Lisa and I appreciate it very much, and are very happy to be working at SSQQ. Lately, I know we don't seem to have the same pep as we did about a year ago, but this wedding planning/appointments is draining us. I am very much at work with Lisa in the wedding preparations; I was unable to be the guy that "just shows up at the altar."

Again, thank you very much for your support. After the wedding, Lisa and I want to get working on pitching some ideas to you that will make SSQQ's whip program flourish. I am as heartbroken as you about the declination of attendance in whip, but I think you, me and Lisa can make somehting happen.

Sincerely, Bryan

RICK'S NOTE: As you can see, Bryan and I were on excellent terms. I knew money was tight, so I tried to help by giving the couple an early wedding gift to pay some bills. That is what Bryan is responding to.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2007 1:43 PM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: Thank you VERY much

Bryan, you are very welcome.

I appreciate your letter and I appreciate that you have been loyal to the program despite I am sure many temptations to go in other directions.

I completely understand that you are preoccupied and do not hold it against you at all.

I continue believe you can make solid money in this business and gain quite a bit of satisfaction in the process. When you are ready, I will be more than happy to help you get the momentum back. And I honestly would love to teach the person who puts us down all the time a lesson in the process.

In the meantime, I am just as happy for you and Lisa as I can be. I am really looking forward to your wedding!

(and if there is anything you need help with, just ask.)


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 5:38 PM
To: rick archer
Subject: sub for this coming monday

hey rick,

i was wondering if i could get a sub for me and lisas class this coming monday since we will be on our honeymoon. i don't have an updated email list of those qualified to teach martian level.  i was wondering if you had any ideas for this monday.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2007 10:53 AM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: sub for monday

What about Mitch?

If no one comes through, I will take your suggestion and combine classes. No problem.

RICK'S NOTE: In my April 16 email, I told Bryan if there was anything he needed, just ask. He was getting married this weekend. Bryan looked left and right for a substitute, but kept coming up empty. So when he couldn't find a substitute for his Monday class, he took me up on my offer to assist.

I came through on my promise.

Two days after Bryan's wedding, I ended up merging his class and mine together. It was a little awkward, but everyone understood and were good sports about it.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2007 10:57 AM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: do you have time for a dance lesson?

I have realized just how out of touch I am with current developments in WCS. I would like to pay you to give me a lesson, perhaps Monday?

I think I would be more effective if I had a rough idea what you try to accomplish in your class.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 6:08 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: do you have time for a dance lesson?

Hey Rick,

Amy and Robert are competing this Friday at Texas Classic, and I see them at 6pm today. I can come by the studio maybe on Wednesday before classes start, and there is no need to pay.... you have done so much for me it isnt even a consideration :O).

RICK'S NOTE: I contacted Bryan to give me a lesson for two reasons.

First I wanted to make sure that what I was teaching in my class was congruent with the explanations Bryan was using in his higher level class

Also the Dad in me wanted to find a way to put more money in his pocket.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 10:10 AM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: do you have time for a dance lesson?

No, I want to pay. You are going to be a father soon and every bit counts. Unfortunately Wednesday is my day off and I already have plans. Thursday? Friday?

-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 5:12 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: do you have time for a dance lesson?

I can do Friday before and/or after classes @ SSQQ.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 5:32 PM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: do you have time for a dance lesson?

Is 6 pm a good time on Friday? 6 works for me.

RICK'S NOTE: On May 19th, Bryan and I met for an hour. It was an excellent lesson.  The material I learned that day included several patterns I used in my June class that Cher and I taught on Monday.

And yes, I paid Bryan as I promised I would.  He told me again I didn't have to, but I wanted to.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 12:51 PM
To: Bryan Spivey; Lisa Palmer; Lisa Palmer
Subject: a first look at your wedding story

Hi guys, I finished your story. I have a small favor… Lisa, could you help me out with names of your father, mother, and the cousin you danced with? And Bryan, there was a pretty blonde girl who I believe is your relative. Would you share her name so I can add it under her picture? And what's the name of the young man at the end of the story?

If you wish to delete or add anything, just let me know.

Fun wedding. Thank you for inviting me.

RICK'S NOTE: Not only did I act as an unofficial photographer at Bryan and Lisa's wedding, it gave me great pleasure to write a story about the event. THE STORY OF BRYAN AND LISA'S WEDDING

I found it odd that neither person ever responded to my email above. I assumed they never responded because Bryan and Lisa were so busy they forgot about it.

June was a quiet month. Bryan and I spoke several times in passing at the studio, but nothing important.

The fourth weekend of June was the last time I saw Bryan and Lisa in person until the day before their resignation.

Saturday:  Bryan taught a crash course at the Saturday, June 23 Sock Hop. The party was fantastic by the way.

Sunday: On June 24, the day after the Sock Hop there was a baby shower for Lisa.  My lovely West Coast Swing assistant Cher Longoria was kind enough to host this baby shower for Lisa at Cher's home in West University. Cher is very close to Bryan and Lisa.  Cher and her friend Robert rode with Marla and I down to Bryan and Lisa's wedding a month earlier. That's when Cher decided she was going to ask Lisa for permission to throw a Baby Shower.

The Baby Shower was quite a production. Cher is quite the organizer according to Marla, who was one of the women from SSQQ that afternoon. It was a big event. Marla told me there were about 15 women there. In addition to Lisa's new mother-in-law Yvonne, there was Bryan's sister Denise, plus Bryan's sister in law. The other dozen or so women were from SSQQ. Marla said that Cher did a great job. They had so much fun, the event lasted three hours.

Monday: The following day, June 25, something a little out of the ordinary did happenDating back to a year ago, I have been asking Bryan to conduct tryouts for his class. It is my opinion that some people move up to his class too fast and get in over their heads.  Since Bryan has a big heart - not a bad thing -he is incredibly patient with every student. Bryan works hard to catch them up if there is a gap in their training. Unfortunately I worry that his kind heart means that sometimes the pace of his Super-Advanced Martian Whip class slows down a bit.

At the studio on June 25, I brought up the subject of tryouts up again before class started. Bryan heard me out, then told me he preferred to continue to doing things his way. And that's exactly how we left it. I said my piece and Bryan said his. I decided it was his class.  If he is the Director, then I should respect his opinion. Then I left because it was time for class to start. It really wasn't that big a deal. If you don't believe me, there were at least three witnesses to the conversation, including Lisa, Bryan's friend Amy as well as Bryan's lovely mother Yvonne. To my mind, I swear I thought the conversation ended amicably. As you will see in a later email, maybe not. Maybe this was the reason Bryan quit.

The studio took a break for the July 4th Holiday Week. It was time to refinish the floors. Over our week's break, there were no emails. There was, however, one event that took place.

Phone Call: One morning out of the blue I received a phone call from Bryan. I don't remember the date because it wasn't that big a deal. Bryan was calling to ask permission to run a Saturday morning West Coast Swing workshop at the studio. Bryan said there was a new dance teacher in town named Samantha Buckwalter. Bryan wanted to teach the workshop with her. I was completely amenable to his suggestion. In fact, this looked like an opportunity to put some more money in Bryan's pocket.

With the baby on the way, I figured every dollar would help. Rather than split the proceeds 50-50 as we had in the past, I offered to change the split to 40-60 with Bryan and Samantha taking the lion's share. Bryan seemed very pleased. I told him to email me the details and I would publicize the event in the next Newsletter. That's how the call ended.

Sunday:  On July 8th, the studio swung back into action.  The first thing I saw was Bryan's CDs from practicing at the studio that morning. Things seemed normal to me.

Monday: On Monday, July 9, the hammer fell.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 5:50 AM
To: rick archer
Subject: leave of absence

Hey Rick,

I wanted to take a leave of absence after the month of July. Lisa and I are extremely busy through out the week and we need to have more time at home, especially when our baby comes around.

Sincerely, Bryan

RICK'S NOTE: I was stunned. Where did this come from?  It made no sense. I felt completely, totally unprepared for this.

Yesterday on Sunday Bryan had been at the studio doing his job.  Now at 5:50 AM on Monday morning, he was asking for an indefinite leave of absence.  

Normally when trouble is brewing, you see it coming. Not this time. This was a lightning bolt. 

I had absolutely no one to cover Bryan's class!

If you remember back to EMAIL EXCHANGE TWO, Bryan could not find a single substitute he considered capable of taking his place for one day.

If Bryan couldn't find anyone to substitute for him, just exactly who was I supposed to get to replace him with?  Why didn't he take responsibility for finding his own replacement?

Plus the word 'indefinite' was very threatening.  Anybody can hold out for a month or two and plug the gap.  But 'indefinite' had an ominous feeling about it.

With the baby coming, Bryan needed to be with Lisa as much as possible. I understood that. But who could take his place?  It is one thing to find a substitute for a junior instructor, but Bryan was the head of the program.  

Bryan's decision was very difficult to accept. I had a business to run and I depended on him.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 6:57 AM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: leave of absence

I can spare you for one month if you get a substitute. Any longer than that is out of the question.

Other SSQQ dance instructors have successfully managed to have children and keep their careers, especially the male instructors.

You have something in common with Jim Coulter, Daryl Armstrong and Ben Liles. All three men met their wives here at the studio and helped their wives have children without needing to stop teaching one night a week.

Considering I have built this program around you for the past four years, this would be quite a blow.

In fact, losing you will essentially terminate the whip program at ssqq. Without your credibility, I do not see the point to continue to fight alone. I would pull the plug on every whip class.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 5:40 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: leave of absence

The men you mentioned were obviously able; I am not. You can't compare them to me, this is a case by case situation. My job at SSQQ is not my career. I am teaching at SSQQ because I want to, not because I have to. Telling me that I cannot take a leave of absence is not your decision.

Lets clarify - if you pull the plug on the whip program, it is your choice. Do not try and put the blame on me for your actions. I will surely miss all the students and friends I have taught over the past 5 years at SSQQ, but I would also bet they would understand that life happens.

I do not agree with your new idea of making Martian a class students have to qualify/try out for. It makes someone the bad guy and you want to put that stamp on me...I dont care for that...I will not turn students away. Im here to teach them to get better; you are preventing me from teaching them.

This is not the reason why I am taking a leave of absence. I told you my reasons in my previous email, and I am standing firm to my decision.

I can't say Bryan was wrong for putting me in my place. Once I cooled down, I realized how stupid that statement was.  I wasn't going to terminate the whip program if he left, but at the time I wrote it, I was so frustrated that's how I felt.

I did know this: without an adequate replacement for Bryan... and not one name surfaced in my mind... it would be a huge struggle to overcome his 'indefinite departure'. 

Bryan was the Director of our Program because he was a dance champion.  Not only was he a Texas State Dance Champion, Bryan was poised to be a national dance figure.  His prodigious talent was along the lines of "once in a lifetime".

How exactly do you replace a Champion? 


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 9:07 AM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: leave of absence

Bryan, you have made a commitment to lead what is your whip program to success. Your job is to build a program here at this studio AS YOU PROMISED TO DO.

I have initiated tough changes at your request and taken a great amount of heat in the process. And now you say essentially you are unable to teach one night a week.

Now I have whittled it down to three men and three women who work as a team. You are the leader of that team.

Last night you witnessed forty people practicing WCS in Room 1. This is exactly what you have been hoping for. This is the result of hard work on the part of three men and three women. But you are the Star and the leader. With that position comes the responsibility to lead.

Your INDEFINITE ABSENCE would cripple this momentum.

If you think your wife needs you, yes, she does. But this dance program needs you too. We need your leadership.

I ask you to reconsider. It is ONE NIGHT A WEEK. Don't burn your bridges because you are so stubborn you think I am pushing you around. I push hard because I depend on you, Bryan. I need your help.

If you wish a compromise, then I ask that you promise to limit your absence to two months and pick your substitute and train them. Announce to your class who the substitute is and how long you plan to be gone. That is the professional thing to do.

One more thing. Your leave of absence needs to include SW Whip. If I find you continue to teach at Southwest Whip during your absence, I will be compelled to deal with this matter seriously. It will basically mean you believe your job is there, not here. I gave you permission to teach there at your request because you promised never to hurt me. I can accept dual loyalties; I cannot accept one-sided loyalties.

Think carefully, my friend. Please do not turn your back on us.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 5:44 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: leave of absence


I am sending you my resignation via this email. Thanks for letting me be a part of your SSQQ Whip program and teaching at your studio for over 5 years. I have enjoyed my time at SSQQ, and I will miss everyone. Lisa and I can finish the month of July if you like.

RICK'S NOTE:  Just like I did not see the first letter coming, I did not see his resignation coming either.  I was in shock AGAIN! 

I went back to Bryan's first email to read it a second time.  Did I miss something?

"Lisa and I are extremely busy through out the week and we need to have more time at home, especially when our baby comes around."

Busy throughout the week?  Busy around the house?  How many Dance Directors resign from a two-hour a week commitment and a future position as head of the largest dance studio in Houston to do house chores?  Was I missing something here?

It was very difficult for me to accept that was Bryan's real reason. 

People here at SSQQ depended on Bryan. He was going to turn his back on a two-hour commitment once a week because he was busy at home?

If I had to guess, Bryan resigned because he didn't want to argue with me about teaching at Southwest Whip on Wednesdays.  It was the only explanation that made any sense to me.

In a weird way, the first thing I thought of was Jeff Skilling, the former CEO over at Enron.  Just four months after Skilling quit as head of Enron for no apparent reason, the entire business collapsed.

The entire business community had long heard rumors there was something fishy going on over at Enron.

People assumed Skilling knew something horrible, but wouldn't tell them!  Now the business community suddenly grew suspicious.  The crisis was started by a loss of confidence. They didn't trust Enron any more.  What did Skilling know that he wasn't saying?  

Without Skilling to shore up Enron's reputation, banks suddenly stopped lending Enron cash for the short-term.

The avalanche started all because Skilling's unexplained departure hinted that Enron was hiding something!

Who in the world was going to believe me when I told them the Crown Prince of SSQQ had resigned to do house chores? 

Bryan had just gone Jeff Skilling on me.  New Fathers are supposed to earn money, not quit their jobs.

Heck, even I didn't believe Bryan. Who was going to believe me?

Maybe Bryan had resigned in anger.  If anyone can understand a temper, it's me.  Maybe if I left the door open, we could smooth this out.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 7:44 PM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: resignation

Bryan, I do not accept your resignation. At least not until you give me the courtesy to explain what is REALLY bothering you. This stays btw you and me. I just want to know what's behind your anger.

After you tell me the truth and show me the respect I deserve, then we will proceed from there.

RICK'S NOTE:  You may have noticed I promised Bryan I would keep it between him and me.  I meant that.  But Bryan never took me up on my offer to explain the situation candidly.

In addition, Bryan's next email effectively removed that offer from the table.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 6:41 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: resignation


I am resigning.  Due to the hostility of your emails, I am under the impression that you do not want me to finish the month of July. If you want to talk to me, we can talk in person.

RICK'S NOTE:  Two days and a half days passed. 

Even though I had a Newsletter to send, I was deliberately waiting as long as I could. 

I was ready to throw in the towel and send out the Newsletter on Friday the 13th, but my friend Cher asked me to hold off and give Bryan one more try.

So I phoned Bryan at 5:45 pm.  Unfortunately there was no answer (nor did I get a call back).

It was time to go to the studio.  Honoring my promise to Cher, I decided to try one more email.  As Cher intimated, "Don't ever close the door on diplomacy."


 -----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2007 5:52 PM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: what's the status of your resignation?

I tried calling, but no answer.

I still remain totally in the dark as to your situation. No one resigns without a reason. At this point my only guess is it has something to do w SWWC, but I cannot imagine you would burn a bridge as valuable as SSQQ unless there was a good reason.

I am not going to try to change your mind, but I would appreciate at least knowing what the problem is.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bryan Spivey
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2007 8:11 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: what's the status of your resignation?

Do you still want me to finish up the month of July? If so, please respond. If I do not receive a response by Monday, I will assume that you do not want Lisa and I to finish the month of July.

Rick, it has to do with scheduling for my family. It has nothing to do with SWWC. I do not wish to go into detail on email, If you like, we could chat about sometime this weekend, or at Starbucks on Monday.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2007 8:13 AM
To: Bryan Spivey
Subject: RE: what's the status of your resignation?

I have to be honest, Bryan. I am too depressed about this to do Starbucks.

Blood is more important than business; that I understand.

So I will take your word for it and leave it at that.

In a roundabout way, you have answered the most important question anyway.

The rumors are going crazy and people out there are badgering me to know what I did to chase you away.

If it makes you feel any better, you are very popular here. As the word gets out, I am dealing with a potential rebellion.

No one believes that you would quit a two-hour a week job unless I did something terrible to deserve it. They don't trust me when I keep swearing I didn't do a thing. One instructor walked away from me in mid-sentence last night shaking his head in disbelief.

As for your question about Monday, there is no reason to come to the studio on Monday; it is just too awkward. I will refund those who want one.

Most of your students know where to find you over at Southwest anyway, so there is no reason to put you or me through that ordeal for three weeks.

And, cruel as it sounds, I can begin the healing process faster if you stay away.

Bryan, don't feel guilty. Losing you hurts like hell. It will be impossible to replace a champion like you, but as long as people don't get angry at me for shoving you out the door, then we will eventually figure something out.

I will be happy to pay you and Lisa for the remainder of July if you need the money.

Good luck and I guess I will see you around.

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  On Monday, July 16, I showed up and merged Bryan's class with mine.  I told them all the bad news.

There was a great deal of sadness and several long faces, but everyone was a good sport about this reversal of fortune. 

I promised each and every person that I had done everything possible to persuade Bryan to change his mind.  They must have believed me because not one person asked for a refund.

At some point, I will be criticized for printing these emails.  Let me save you the trouble of emailing me on this issue.  I have published the emails for one specific reason - I have a Reputation to protect.

I understand that Bryan may feel awkward about seeing his mysterious resignation dealt with publicly, but he needs to understand that I have 60 people who work for me, thirteen hundred students a month who take classes here, and 14,000 people on the SSQQ email list who need to see beyond the shadow of a doubt that I do my level best to treat people fairly.

And that is the entire point of our eight chapter essay on Reputation. 

Be it a small arena or a large arena, if your Reputation is attacked and you don't speak up EFFECTIVELY in your own defense, you will get hammered in the court of public opinion.  So you better speak up.


Monday, July 30, 2007  10:13 am

"I have heard you are writing a story about me full of inconsistencies.  I am calling to warn you I have contacted my lawyer..." 

(RICK'S NOTE:  Based on his tone of voice, I hung up at this point without a word.  Bryan did not call back.  This had been the first contact I had with Bryan since the last emails on Friday the 13th of July.

I found Bryan's July 30th phone call to be most peculiar.  You have read my article.  What do you suppose he was worried about?


Friday, July 13 - I finished the story you have just read on July 13th

After reading it, my friend Cher suggested I talk with Bryan one more time. "Don't ever close the door on Diplomacy!" 

Friday, July 13 - Bryan's final email received.

Saturday, July 14 - Added Bryan's final email plus my reply to story.

Monday, July 16 - I made an announcement to Bryan's former class of his resignation.

Tuesday, July 17 - Added
RICK ARCHER'S NOTE to the story.  

From July 17 to July 30, there was no contact between Bryan and myself.  For all intents and purposes, my story was finished on the the 17th with the addition of RICK ARCHER'S NOTE.

From that point on, t
he story stayed completely untouched for these two weeks.  Meanwhile, I thought about whether I really wanted to publish it or not.

Monday, July 30, 2007  10:13 am  Phone call from Bryan regarding his attorney.

After hanging up, I was curious why Bryan would be concerned about a story I had not made public.

I had not published the story for a specific reason - I was having second thoughts about saying anything.  I still had a soft spot for Bryan; maybe the story did not need to be printed.  I would really rather not take a chance of sabotaging any future that Bryan and I might have. 

Plus I wasn't mad at Bryan any more.  It is true that Bryan had left me hanging.  There wasn't anyone else on the SSQQ Staff that could step in at a moment's notice.  Nor was it easy merging two classes with vastly different levels of experience. 

So I will admit I was shaky taking over Bryan's class the first night after he quit (JULY 16). I had a right to be nervous - I had not taught Martian Whip since 2002. 

Fortunately I had an ace in the hole - Cher Longoria, my assistant.  Cher was an enormous help.  With Cher keeping me propped up, I made it through the first class.  Then I began to get my sea legs back. With Cher's help, my class responded to my leadership and people were starting to adjust to me taking his place.  

Suddenly the new 'merged' class begin to click.  The new quarterback was completing passes!  People were learning and laughing.  For the month of July, the attendance was excellent.  We finished out July on a high note.  (By the way, if you were in that class, thank you for giving me a chance) 

Now that much of the damage of Bryan's departure had been healed, why bother stirring up trouble?  Therefore, in the following two weeks, I had more or less decided not to publish this story. 

But Bryan's July 30 lawyer phone call changed things. 

Bryan was worried about rumors ("inconsistencies in the story").  How would he know there were inconsistencies?  The story wasn't even published!  At that point in time, only four people had read the story - Rick, Marla, Cher, and Robert.

I might as well share the story for his sake as well as mine.  Why not?  Every word is true.

Normally when people are threatened with legal action, they run back and re-read everything they said.  I published this story on August 2 without bothering to re-read a word I said. 

Yes, everything written here in the blue area titled "Curious Footnote" was written after Bryan's July 30 phone call.  But everything about Bryan before the Blue Area was written before Bryan's July 30 phone call. In fact, it was finished on July 17th and just sat there awaiting my final decision.

Now, even though Bryan has threatened legal action, I give you my absolute word that not one comma, sentence, phrase, word has been added, changed, or deleted after the phrase "
On Tuesday, July 10th, I received these two messages:" and before CURIOUS FOOTNOTE.

Note: on August 3, I did make one addition.  After reading the story, someone told me what I said about Jeff Skilling had confused him.  So I added the passage:  The entire business community had long heard rumors there was something fishy going on over at Enron.

By the way, along the lines of Enron, I am not hiding anything.  What you see in the article above is exactly the way it came down.  There are no missing phone conversations, no missing fights at the studio.  Nada. Nil. Zip.  When Bryan said he was taking his leave of absence, I was stunned out of my mind.  Things were going good; why leave now?

I was so depressed at Bryan's decision to leave for 'household chores' that I wanted to shut the whole damn Whip Program down right on the spot.  I felt total despair at that moment.  I am sure I felt the same way the Enron people did when Skilling quit - abandoned.

So if I am not hiding anything - and I repeat that I am not - then what is Bryan so worried about?

I do not know why Bryan quit.  I do not accept his written reason.  I find his reference to Starbucks to be a clear indication that he would rather not share the real reason in print.

I have always done my best to treat Bryan fairly.  I won't lie - I was deeply disappointed by his departure.  However I'm over it.  I have no axe to grind.  Live long and prosper, Bryan.  

I am okay because I got what I wanted - a successful Martian class.  That's all I care about.  When Bryan headed for the Exit Door, Cher promised me things would work out fine and so did Marla.  It turned out they were right - I had a great time teaching Martian Whip in July.  The students were wonderful to me. 

By the way, I was not mad when I hung up on Bryan.  Actually, I hung up on Bryan for his sake, not mine.  Given the way the conversation started, I feared he was about to say things he might regret.

Bryan might want to cross back over the SSQQ bridge some day.  And I might want to let him.

RA, 08-02-07

Note: This next section has nothing to do with Bryan. It is basically an open to letter to the Houston Dance Community regarding the status of SSQQ Dance Studio.


Question: "Rick, I am getting a lot of questions, more and more, by the way, people asking me what SSQQ is going to do when your lease is up. The word has gotten around very well. I have been answering them pretty much with what you told me on our last conversation and that is: You haven't made any final decisions. You would like to find a place on I-10 or a place that is central to most of Houston and easy enough for everyone to get to without much difficulty."

Rick's Reply:
  The SSQQ lease is officially up on May 1, 2010.   Unfortunately, due to what I perceive as lack of support on the part of our current landlord, it may behoove us to move sooner than that if we can find a good place to move.

SSQQ does not require a highly visible location.  Thanks to the Internet and maps, any place tucked away in a hidden corner of Houston will do just fine as long as it is near a freeway or centrally located.  I would prefer to say near I-10.  Perhaps there is a spot in Spring Branch that will work out perfectly. 

Nor does this place have to be pretty.  It can be an old church, an industrial park or an old supermarket.  As long as we make it pretty inside, it can look like a barn on the outside.  What or new location does need is PARKING.  Lots of it.  Parking has become our biggest headache as SSQQ continues to grow and grow

So I am therefore authorizing the entire Houston community to start looking on my behalf.

I have no desire to retire.  I am 57.  But like many people my age, my patience begins to wear thin.  The constant headaches of the job are starting to get to me.  Having an ssqq student's car towed by Radio Shack in my own parking center on July 15th is a dark omen that the situation at my current location continues to deteriorate. 

The fact that my students tolerate these parking headaches and still take classes at SSQQ is a clear signal to me just how loyal you all are to SSQQ.  You all amaze me with your determination to overcome every obstacle to get to SSQQ.

However, a word of warning.  Hang on to your hats, buckle your seat belts, and most of all read the tow signs - the parking situation could get worse.

Haya Varon and Jacob Varon, my landlords who also own the hospital next door to us, have shown a total disregard for any harmony by posting Tow Signs throughout the parking lot.  They have currently not only pitted one shop owner against the other in a struggle for parking spots, they have also confiscated at least a dozen parking spaces that used to be available to SSQQ students for their own hospital.  Given that atmosphere of hostility, I am ready to leave when the right spot appears.  

I am not open to selling the studio, but I am open to acquiring a partner, especially to buy a new location.  For example, anyone wishing to open a night club or restaurant with dinner dancing would be assured a built-in audience with an SSQQ affiliation.

Or someone with a day-time business could share the cost of the building... we would take over at night.

There are many directions to go.  I can buy or I can lease.

Who knows what the future holds.  But if you have a good idea, this is a good time to express it.


There are three reasons I prefer to stick around.

It appears people trust my leadership.  So in that sense you have given me the opportunity to lead.

I became aware of this last Sunday when 80 people followed me into the parking lot to successfully rescue the car being towed by Radio Shack.  

I became aware of this on Monday night when not one person questioned my word when I said I was not responsible for the disappearance of Bryan Spivey. 

That kind of trust reflects 30 years of running a good business.  SSQQ is a unique and special place with very unusual traditions.  So I wish to remain on the scene to make sure the legacy of SSQQ is handed to the right man and/or woman.

Second, Marla Archer has shown phenomenal leadership in organizing the cruises.  I cannot tell you how proud I am of the job she does.  Next year we are going to the Greek Isles and someday we are going to take cruises anywhere you ask us to go.  As far as I am concerned, these cruises are a big part of the future of SSQQ.  Click here if you would like to read a recent story I wrote a story about this subject.

Third, I always enjoy writing stories on the Internet.  I will keep writing if you promise to keep reading.  As Leroy Ginzel said to me recently, "Rick, don't go anywhere.  No one can write a Newsletter like you can.  I got new reading glasses just so I could read one of your stories that was in small print." 

I understand that I am basically too grouchy to ever be Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life", but I am aware that my solid Reputation, temper, warts and all, is a uniting force in the dance community. 

When I give you my word on something, lots of people seem willing to take my word for it.  That is a good thing. 

By the way, this summer I have just marked the 30th anniversary of my teaching career.  It's been quite a ride so far and I look forward to adding exciting new chapters as well.

This article on Reputation, by the way, is a culmination of all the lessons I have been given over the years.  I hope you enjoyed reading each chapter. 

And if you haven't read each chapter, as a favor to me, please do read.  I think it is the best piece of writing I have ever done. 

I thank all of you for your continued support. 

Rick Archer
July 2007

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NEXT STORY: The Curious Christmas Tale of Victoria Osteen

On December 20, 2005, Victoria Osteen (from the Lakewood Church) appeared to lose her temper in a very public setting - an airplane that was about to depart. 

We will study how this incident reflects on the theories brought forth in the Thomas Friedman article.
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