Home Dance Smart Waltz into Christmas


Monday Night Chapelwood Social Dance with Rick Archer and Sharon Shaw


(map to find our room at Chapelwood)


(map to find Chapelwood location)


(history of Chapelwood dance class)


JANUARY 2024: 

4 Mondays (Jan 08, 15, 22, 29), $30 a person

Rick Archer's Note: more information as 2024 grows closer.  For questions,


Stationary Waltz and Traveling Waltz

Rick Archer's Note:  In my recent Newsletter, I announced our "Waltz into Christmas" Dance, Monday, Dec 18

All proceeds from our "Waltz into Christmas" party will go to a Chapelwood program designed to give aid to struggling families at Christmas time.  Please see the website for more details.

In addition, I will be playing six Waltzes that evening to reward Sharon Shaw"s Western Waltz class for their hard work this past Fall.  Each of the songs will be famous Waltz-tempo Christmas carols such as The First Noel, What Child is This, It came upon a Midnight Clear, Silver Bells, We Three Kings, and Carol of the Bells.


Waltz patterns can either travel around the floor or be danced in a limited area.  In other words, Small Floor versus Large Floor.

A couple is getting married and they choose a classic song such Anne Murray's "Could I have this dance?"  If their venue includes a large dance floor, I would recommend the Traveling Style of Waltz, also known as "Western Waltz". If their venue offers a postage-stamp dance floor, Stationary Waltz patterns are an excellent alternative.

Let's say you are on a cruise ship and the band plays a Waltz. As a rule, cruise ships do not have large dance floors, so Small Floor Waltz includes patterns such as the well-known Box Step that enable a couple to dance in one particular spot on the floor.


Traveling Waltz, better known as "Western Waltz" works best on large dance floors such as Houston"s Whiskey River among others.   Since Western artists typically record one Waltz for every album, it is common to hear about three to four Waltzes whenever someone goes dancing at a C&W club. 

Stationary Waltz is designed for small dance floors.  Using the well-known Box Step pattern as a starting point, there are many very attractive Waltz moves that work just fine in a limited area.  In particular, Stationary Waltz is perfect for the First Dance at weddings because the floors that are available are often too small for much traveling. 

Rick and Michelle (pictured) danced a Waltz to Moon River.  Click here if you would like to read their story.


What about the people who know very little Waltz, but would like to learn enough to enjoy dancing to these songs at our upcoming Christmas party in December?  Sharon"s class is too far along for beginners to join in progress, so Marla and I decided to teach a 7-week class in Stationary Waltz ("Small Floor Waltz" if you prefer).  This will be a Beginner-level dance class, no prior dance experience necessary.  Please note Stationary Waltz will be taught in a separate room.  The purpose of this class is to give people with little dance experience a way to participate in our Waltz into Christmas party. 

So this raises a question.  What exactly does "Stationary Waltz" look like?  How about a video?  Marla and I posted a short 1-minute Stationary Waltz video on the Internet.  As you watch, you will see how Marla and I dance an attractive Waltz in one specific area of the floor.  Every move you see will be included in our seven-week class which starts this coming Monday.

Marla and I were married on a cruise ship.  We danced a Waltz to "A Time for Us".  Our dance floor was about 15 feet by 15 feet.  This is a common size for many dance floors.  Hotels have temporary floors this size they can put down for special events.  Wedding venues and bars with limited space also have floors this size.  People who enjoy taking cruise trips are familiar with small dance on the ships.  Since small dance floors do not lend themselves to traveling in a circle unlike the large dance floors Country-Western clubs, the alternative is to learn a form of Waltz that will work in a limited space. 

So which form of Waltz, "Stationary Waltz" as opposed to "Traveling Waltz", is more practical to learn?  It depends on two things.  

1.  What kind of music do you like to dance to?
2.  How big is your dance floor?

Since this is Texas and country music rules, over the years our students have shown a preference for the Traveling-style.  They take our Western Waltz classes in preparation to dance at a Country-Western dance club (of which Houston has plenty). 

Is there a good reason to learn Stationary Waltz?  Yes, I can think of several.  What happens when you have the right music, but the floor is too small?   Or perhaps your floor is so crowded that you have no choice but to dance in one spot.  This is when a knowledge of Stationary Waltz becomes important.


 The patterns in Stationary Waltz are elegant and will work just fine on a small floor.  I know this for a fact because I have taught dozens of Wedding couples how to Waltz for their first dance.  You don"t believe me?  Maybe some more pictures would helpClick "Cinderella Wedding".  As you will see in the pictures, Aubrey and Billye"s dance floor was about 15 by 15. 

Incidentally, perhaps you know a couple who will be getting married in the near future.  This class will be perfect as an inexpensive way to prepare for a First Dance at a wedding, so send them over.  I would love to work with them. 

There are other uses for Stationary Waltz.  Do you like to take cruise trips?  At the moment, I know of five different couples who are taking Fall river cruises.  Have you ever seen the size of the dance floor on a Viking river cruise ship?  15 by 15.  Oddly enough, the dance floors on Viking ocean cruise ships are at best slightly larger.  If you like to take cruise trips and you like to dance, Stationary Waltz is perfect for the small floors you will find. 


By the way, the Waltz patterns you will learn in my class are perfect for Sinatra Foxtrot music as well (I will show you how).  I have heard lots of Sinatra music played on cruise trips.  Ironically, Marla and I are usually the only ones who are out there on the floor.  And why is that?  Because we are the only people who seem to know how to dance Stationary Waltz and Foxtrot. 


I can think of a third use for Stationary Waltz.  You can use my 7-week class as a way to prepare for our "Waltz into Christmas" dance party.  By the magic of Geometry, Traveling Waltz and Stationary Waltz can be used on the same dance floor in Fellowship Hall.  I estimate the dance floor in Fellowship Hall is large enough for anywhere from 50-100 people to Waltz at the same time. 

How is this possible?   Visualize a racetrack.  The Traveling Waltz dancers will use the perimeter while the Stationary Waltz dancers will use the center of the racetrack.  Works like a charm.  So there you have it.  If you would like to learn to Waltz and dance at our Christmas Party, Marla and I would love to have you take our class.  For further details, please visit our Chapelwood website


Rick Archer's Note:

Sharon and Rick are best friends who teach in separate rooms.  Sharon joined Rick's Chapelwood program in July 2023 in order for the two us to offer more choices of which dance class to take.  In October Sharon will teach Intermediate Western Waltz in Fellowship Hall while Rick will teach Intermediate East Coast Swing in Room YB 100 Chapelwood is a vast church, so click Map to see where these rooms are located.

Rick Archer:
Sharon Shaw:

Classes are held in Chapelwood's YB 100 and Fellowship Hall... great wooden floor, complete privacy  (see map below).

Chapelwood is located in the Memorial area at 11140 Green Bay, 77024.   (Please see street map below.)



WHEN:  4 MONDAYS (Oct 30, Nov 06, 13, 20)
COST:  $30 per person

WHEN:  7 MONDAYS (Oct 30, Nov 06, 13, 20, 27, Dec 04, Dec 11)
COST:  $50  (Note: Those who signed up in September for $80 will owe nothing)

TIME: 7:00-8:45 pm (plus special free catch-up class 6-7 pm).   12 minute Break in the middle.

LOCATION:  Chapelwood Methodist Church is located in the Memorial area at 11140 Green Bay, 77024.  MAP

Classes are held in Fellowship Hall located in the central part of the church and Room YB 100 located in the southeast corner.  MAP

PRICE: $30 per person is a monthly charge which includes all 4 October classes (cash or check, please). 

REGISTRATION: Plenty of room, just show up and sign up at the door.



PARTNERS: Partners are welcome, but not necessary.  We switch partners frequently to allow the staff to check on leads and following principles.  We ask politely that everyone respect our policy to periodically change partners.

STAFF: Instruction provided by Rick Archer with much appreciated help from assistants Harriet, Rey, Tim, Jan, Larry and Phyllis.


Rick's Note about Chapelwood:  I have been teaching dance classes on Monday evenings at Chapelwood since October 2010.  Chapelwood is a lovely church with beautiful rooms to hold our classes.  I am grateful to Chapelwood for allowing me to conduct classes here.  Over time we have developed a community of dance friends and have room for more.  It is the perfect place to share friendship and enjoy learning to dance together.





Rick Archer's Note:  If you would like to join the October Intermediate East Coast Swing class, please be aware you will need to know the fundamentals of East Coast Swing dancing in advance. 

The major problem of most dance classes is an uneven mix of experience. You will see hot shots rubbing elbows with rookies. The best way to handle the problem is to offer Intermediate patterns in the first half of the class, take a break, then cover something more difficult, i.e. Advanced, in the second half. If students make use of the pre-class tutorials 6:40-7:00 pm, this should help less experienced dancers catch up. There is no charge for this service; just show up early, find one of the assistants and ask for help.


November-December is up for grabs. I am open to whatever my October students want. Keep in mind that starting in January I will be teaching four straight months of Country-Western classes.

So what exactly will we cover in our October class? That's a good question. For certain we will cover intricate East Coast Swing patterns. However, I also intend to get creative and explain how different forms of East Coast Swing work such as regular Jitterbug, Aggie Jitterbug, and Latin Hustle.

Here is the good news and the bad news: East Coast Swing works to a wider variety of Dance Music than any other style of social dance. Western dancing works to western music, Latin dancing works to latin music, Tango works to tango music, etc. East Coast Swing works to just about anything... Pop, Rock, R&B, Western-style Rockabilly, Oldies, Disco, Motown, Big Band, and Outer Space music (don't worry, I just made that up). If you want one dance fits all, Swing is your answer.

Only one problem: As the speed of the music changes, then you need to change your footwork to adapt. The most common adaptation involves Jitterbug which works to slower tempo music. Another adaptation is Aggie Jitterbug which ignores the beat of the music entirely. Another adaption is Hustle which fits Disco music. Another adaption is 4-count Swing which is an easy alternative to Jitterbug. It sounds confusing, but don't worry, I know how to explain how it works and why each variation has its strong points.

For questions about Rick's class,
please email




From: Carmen
Sent: Thursday, September 7, 2023 2:46 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: SSQQ Newsletter: Sharon Shaw Beg Western Waltz, Rick Archer Int-Adv East Coast Swing begins TUESDAY, Sept 5, at Chapelwood

 Hello Rick,

I had to tell you what an excellent class Sharon and her super team (Bill, Karen and Dennis) gave us on Tuesday. Sharon just commands the room with her straight up, no nonsense teaching style. It gives any dancer at any level the confidence and certainty that they"re getting the best instruction for that particular dance available in Houston.  What amazes me is although I"m not a novice dancer, I always learn new things or rather I relearn things I"d forgotten or become a slacker about such as correct offsetting position, placement of hands, good resistance and posture. All the fundamentals that distinguish a good dancer from a not so good dancer. And isn"t that what we"re all striving to be at the end of the social dancing day?

 At the risk of jam packing the room ( it was already pretty full) I hope more of my "experienced" dancer friends come out to Chapelwood on Monday nights to be a part of something very special: Waltz Class with Sharon.  (Like Cher or Madonna or Beyoncé no last name required :) 



So what exactly is Western Waltz? Waltz patterns can either travel around the floor or be danced in a limited area.  In other words, Small Floor versus Large Floor.

A couple is getting married and they choose a classic song such Anne Murray's "Could I have this dance (for the rest of my life)". If their venue includes a large dance floor, I would recommend the Traveling Style of Waltz. If their venue only offers a postage-stamp dance floor, then the Stationary Waltz patterns are an excellent alternative.

Let's say you are on a cruise ship and the band plays a Waltz. As a rule, cruise ships do not have large dance floors, so Small Floor Waltz includes patterns such as the well-known Box Step that enables a couple to dance in one particular spot on the floor.


On the other hand, Western dance floors in Houston typically offer much more space which allows couples to travel Twostep and Polka patterns counter-clockwise around the floor.  Western Waltz does the same using Waltz patterns that travel.  So now for a statement that might strike some as blasphemy… the same moves can be used to any Waltz music. We could just as easily call Sharon's class "Traveling Waltz". However for marketing reasons, "Western Waltz" has a much better ring to it.  All the music in Sharon's class will be Western.

Sharon's Beginner class will cover the Traveling Basic, Traveling Twinkles, and most likely the popular Sweetheart pattern. Previous dance experience is not necessary. Nor do you need a partner to sign up. The cost will be $30 which includes all 4 classes for October.

For questions about Sharon's class, please email






Dance the Night Away with Rick Archer's Social Dance Lessons at Chapelwood

A variety of Country Western/Ballroom Lessons taught by Rick Archer, former owner of SSQQ Dance Studio

At a Glance:
7:00-8:30 p.m. on Monday nights
Room YB 100-101 at Chapelwood 
Cost:  $30 per person per month  

Under the gracious sponsorship of Chapelwood Methodist Church, Rick Archer has been teaching here since 2010.  Over the years, our class has taught people how to partner dance in social situations such as weddings, rodeo events, visits to nightclubs and dancing on cruise trips.  During the instruction, we emphasize enjoying friendship in a relaxed, laughter-filled atmosphere.  

Starting at 7:00 p.m. every Monday, the class is taught by Rick Archer, former owner of Houston's SSQQ Dance Studio.  In its day, SSQQ was the largest independent dance studio in Houston as well as the United States.  In its heyday each week 1,400 students walked through its doors in search of dance training, exercise, fun and friendship. 

Following his retirement from full-time teaching in 2010, Rick brought a similar magic to Chapelwood.  Thanks to the assistance of Harriet Daniel and a team of experienced assistants, this ongoing class covers a wide range of different dances.  With the featured dance changing from month to month, the class covers Western, Ballroom, Swing and Latin dance patterns.  Past topics include Two Step, Polka, Western Swing, East Coast Swing/Jitterbug, West Coast Swing, Night Club Two Step, Western Waltz, Ballroom Waltz, Rumba, Foxtrot, Cha Cha, and Salsa.  If a particular dance is popular with the current group, typically an Intermediate level is added in the following month.  Rather than dictate what's next, Rick prefers to let his students tell him what they want him to cover from month to month.  While on the surface the class is about learning the art of partner dancing, the class is secretly more about Community.  It does not matter whether someone is single or married.  Come one, come all. 

This ongoing class consists of veteran dancers and newcomers.  There are students in this class who have been taking non-stop for many years due to the camaraderie and mutual love of dance.  To accommodate the newcomers, we offer Beginning-level classes four to six times a year, then advance the class over the next few months.  We encourage our students to rotate partners.  This allows the Volunteer Staff to offer suggestions along the way.  In addition, changing partners gives the students a chance to get to know each other and make friends.  

Rick's class runs till 8:30, sometimes later, with a break in between.  The age range starts with college students and extends to Seniors.  As long as a person wishes to learn, age does not matter.  Class size varies from month to month, but over the years it has stayed within the 20'40 range.  In this time, the boy-girl ratio has remained remarkably close.  Thanks to our volunteer staff to even things up, it is rare for someone to stand out for more than one rotation. 

The dance class typically meets in Room YB 100'101.  However, Chapelwood is a busy church, so periodically the class may meet in another room on a temporary basis.  If there is a last-minute change, Rick and Harriet will use email to offer updates.  We also use email to inform past and present students of our upcoming classes.

If you have questions or need more information, please contact Rick Archer, or Harriet,



Rick Archer's Note:  The section below is where I put old material that I intend to re'use at a later date.  You are welcome to read it if you wish.



June 2023
Rick Archer's Note: 

I would like to talk about Sharon Shaw, a woman I admire and care for very much. 

Longtime members of the Houston Dance Community remember Sharon well.  Sharon was heart and soul of my former SSQQ dance studio on Bissonnet.  She is best remembered for her spectacular Western Waltz classes at my studio.  Sharon's Waltz classes were so popular they exceeded 100 people every year. 

Seriously, Sharon's room was so crowded we had to turn people away.  So what happened next?  We had several students register for a class in a different room, then sneak into Sharon's room when no one was looking.  Thanks to the extra people, the room was brought to a standstill.  Talk about gridlock!  I actually had to hire someone to check people's class receipts as they entered.  Hmm.  So much for the honor system. 

Of course, when you are as popular as Sharon, I guess I could understand the attraction.  On the other hand, it still bugs me that I never had to hire anyone to make sure my class didn't get too crowded.  Oh well, such is life.

Sharon and I go all the way back to 1987.  She started as a student, but right from the start I recognized she was an amazing dancer.  Curious, I asked Sharon about her dance background.  Sharon was a Kilgore Rangerette, a group of long-legged beauties who performed dance routines during halftime at college football games.  Under questioning, Sharon said she performed at the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day among other places.  It did not take long for Sharon to become my favorite dance partner.  Only one problem.  One night we were performing acrobatics and Sharon landed too hard on my thigh.  She broke a couple ribs in the process.  Ouch!  Thank goodness she forgave me. 


Trip to Bahamas organized by Sharon in 1988


Another time Sharon persuaded me to enter a dance contest at a resort in the Bahamas.  Back in 1988 Sharon organized a group trip to a Jack Tar Village in the Bahamas.  Considering that the trip went in the middle of the summer, it was amazingly inexpensive.  Sharon's lengthy research paid off. The value of the trip and perfect timing made it instantly attractive to many SSQQ students.  Our group was 50 people strong. 

While we were there Sharon wanted to enter a dance contest.  I said no thanks, I wanted to go with everyone else on a nighttime luau excursion to a deserted island.  Sharon put her foot down.  "I organized this wonderful trip and now you owe me.  Time to pay up." 

So 46 of our friends went to the luau and a couple stayed behind to cheer for Sharon and me.  Not to boast too much, but Sharon and I were pretty good.  In fact, in a weak moment I might even admit we were amazing.  But here's the curious part.  We lost the contest!

Did we lose to superior dancers?  No, of course not.  We lost to a bunch of drunks from Fort Worth.  A group of about 40 people had just arrived and they wasted no time getting wasted.  Somehow they persuaded two people from their group to get up there and do a lame imitation of the Twist for a couple minutes. 

Now it was time to vote.  The emcee said the winner would be determined by applause.  I have to tell you, no one likes a show-off.  The entire Fort Worth group hooted and hollered so hard for their buddies that Sharon and I never had a chance.  How do you like that for a plot Twist?

1988 was significant for another reason.  Back in those days, I rented two back rooms at a jazz dance studio.  Guess how many teachers I had?  Two.  Me in one room, someone else the other room.  However, the man who ran the studio had gone off his rocker (he had a serious drug problem I did not known about).  He was once a friend, but now he was a monster and I wanted to leave so badly I could not see straight!  However one deal after another to buy a studio of my own kept falling through (long story).  And so I was forced to stick around till perhaps another deal came along. 

One day in April 1988 I showed up early to teach class only to found the front door bolted shut.  No entry allowed.  I had no idea what had happened.  Panic-stricken, I spent the night apologizing to my students and promised to figure it out.  And so I did.  Fortunately there was a space for rent at the end of the strip center that had the bank's phone number printed, so I called the next morning.

That was the day I found out about the drug problem.  Apparently my former friend had been evicted for non-payment of rent.  Hmm.  This might a good time for an innocent question.  "Well, gee, mister, in that case, why leave the facility empty?  Will you rent the place to me??"  The response was negative, something like "H...ll No!!!!"

Why not?  The bank officer was convinced I was front man for the guy he had just gotten rid of.  He believed I would secretly let the guy return.  I said that was not true, adding that my program was independent of his.  He did not believe me.  Just then I had a bright idea.  "Hey, mister, what if I could prove that I am a responsible businessman?"

"How are you going to do that?", he replied with a skeptical frown.

"What if you brought all my canceled rent checks from the past seven years I have been at this location?"

The man quieted down and looked at me in a new way.  "Are you serious?"

"Yes, sir, I am quite serious."

Later that same day I returned with seven years of canceled checks.  Ironically, my former friend had been using my checks to buy drugs rather than pay the bank.  Oh well, his loss was my gain.  That night I was back in business with one major difference.  Now my name was on the lease.  Now that my dance program finally had a permanent home, I wasted no time changing the name on the door: SSQQ (Slow Slow Quick Quick, the rhythm of the Texas Twostep).  A proud moment indeed.

Only one problem.  I had two teachers for two rooms, but suddenly we had FIVE ROOMS.  We had practically tripled our space overnight.  Considering Sharon Crawford (Sharon Shaw) was far and away the best dancer at the studio, I told her I wanted her to become my newest instructor.  Without thinking, Sharon said okay.  She could see I was in a bind and wanted to help.  However she had made the mistake of saying 'yes' before asking when she would start.  When she got around to asking that question, I replied, "In two days".  

Sharon turned pale white with fear.  "No way!"

"C'mon, Sharon, you said yes and I'm holding you to it."

Too bad for Sharon she had a conscience.  She was scared out of her wits, but promised to do her best.  On her first night, Sharon was so nervous that she could not speak above a whisper.  Her students literally had to form a huddle around her just so they could hear what she was saying.  Looking back, it was pretty brutal.  Bless her heart, I threw poor Sharon to the wolves.  I figured what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I doubt Sharon appreciated the beauty of my philosophy.  

Fortunately it did not take long for Sharon to find her groove.  It was obvious right from the start that Sharon was a born teacher. Her dancing ability was obvious to everyone and she had the gift of explaining what she did in terms that were easy to understand.  Her patience was greatly appreciated and, best of all, Sharon possessed a natural warmth that put her students at ease.  Sharon was (and still is) very easy to like.  She quickly became the studio's most popular instructor. 

Truth be told, I was (and still am) incredibly grateful to Sharon.  Once she came on board, it was no longer My Studio, it was Our studio.  Sharon was so dynamic she helped the studio grow by leaps and bounds.  By the time the Millennium rolled around, SSQQ was easily the largest dance studio in Houston.  For that matter, we may very well have been the largest independent dance studio in the country.  Back in our heyday, on any given week 1,300 people walked through our doors.

So whatever happened to SSQQ?  A long and very sad story.  Let's save the details for another time, but here is the short version.  The studio's lease expired in 2010 and the landlord wanted the building for his own use.  I was too old to start over, so I sold the studio.  At this point Sharon and I went our separate ways.  She continued to teach, but I was not welcome at the new SSQQ.  Something about a ship cannot have two captains.  Unfortunately, the new owner failed to grasp the concept known as insurance.  When Hurricane Harvey flooded the studio in 2017, the floors were so badly water damaged the studio closed never to reopen. 


After a twelve year absence, Sharon returned to my life in 2022.  Recently Sharon and her husband Bill had become members of the Hey Lollies Square Dance organization.  Practically overnight Sharon assumed a leadership position.  Was it her dance ability?  No.  It was her integrity.  She is one of the most responsible human beings on earth, the kind of person you trust immediately.  They made her Treasurer.  No surprise there.  Sharon was good at it. 

Unfortunately, the Hey Lollies membership was decimated by Covid.  Once the panic passed and the coast was clear, Sharon and Bill invited Marla and me to consider joining and help the rebuild process.  Over the past year Marla and I have fallen in love with Square Dancing.  One of the best parts of my adventure has been renewing my friendship with Sharon and Bill.  Bill likes having me around.  This time he's the better dancer.  Thanks a lot, Bill. 


2022 was a tough year for me.  Covid decimated my social dance program at Chapelwood the same way it did the Hey Lollies.  Who wants to dance when Covid represents a potential death threat?  So last year was time for me to rebuild as well.  With the help of my friend Harriet Daniel and several other much-appreciated assistants, one month at a time we increased attendance.  That brings us to May 2023.  Our class was huge!  It has been very gratifying to work with wonderful students who have supported the Chapelwood program over the past year. 

Our class was so big... 60? 70?... that I asked Chapelwood if I could move to a larger room.  When they said okay, suddenly my favorite Room YB100 that I had inhabited for the past ten years was vacant.  Hmm.  That gave me an idea.  I am constantly get requests for different kinds of classes.  For example, I might be teaching East Coast Swing and someone will ask when my next Twostep class begins (Answer: July with Sharon).  Or I will be teaching West Coast Swing and someone will ask when the next Western Waltz class begins (Answer: September with Sharon).

Do you see my point?  There is just one of me, but if I could persuade Sharon to come on board, we could double the frequency the different dance styles would be offered.  Sharon liked the idea of making a comeback, so we had a deal. 

Now that you know the story, Welcome back, Sharon.  The spirit of SSQQ lives on.

Thanks for reading,
Rick Archer


country western




Western music and Western dancing is a long-time Texas tradition. Unlike other areas of the country where Line Dances are popular, Houston has had a historical preference for "Partner Dancing."

Western music has long been a major part of Texas tradition. As the largest city in the state that loves Western music the most, over the years Houston has emerged as the national leader when it comes to Western Dancing. There are more people who can dance the Texas Twostep in Houston than any other city in America.   If you would like learn to Western Dance, the best place to start is our Beginning Two Step/Polka class.

Beginning Two Step/Polka

Based on the speed of the music, most C&W music is handled by either the Texas Two Step or the Polka.  Beginning Two Step/Polka covers the leads, footwork, and timing to both dances.  The Beginning-level teaches a basic pattern known as Transition Twostep and Polka.  In the old days, the lady danced backwards pretty much the entire song.  The arrival of Urban Cowboy in 1979 changed that.  Practically overnight the overall appearance of Western dancing changed.  For the first time, it became fashionable for the man to take turns dancing forwards and backwards.   Transition Twostep/Polka begins with the man going forward, then soon the man passes the lady and goes backwards.  After traveling backwards for a while, the man swings the lady back in front of him again so that now he is going forward.  Soon the man passes the lady to start the Transition cycle all over again.


Intermediate Two Step/Polka

Another development created by popularity of Western dancing here in Houston (thanks again to Urban Cowboy) was the introduction of Ballroom Foxtrot patterns into Twostep and Polka dancing.   These new patterns included Circle Turns as well as Promenades, Crossovers, Conversations, Zig Zags, and Sweetheart patterns.  

(Note: These moves are typically taught in an Intermediate Twostep/Polka class offered as a follow-up to the Beginner course.) 

The next major change involved the introduction of Single and Double Turns in Twostep and Polka.  Prior to Urban Cowboy, Twostep and Polka were danced exclusively in Closed Position, a term for the woman dancing with the man's arms wrapped around her.  Given that Disco dancing was still popular here in Houston when Urban Cowboy made its debut, a new look emerged where the lady and man danced apart, i.e. Open Position.  Open Position allowed women to try underarm turns known as Single Turns. 


Beginning Western Swing

The Single Turns opened the door for a major innovation known as Double Turns.  This is a move where the man spins the lady twice.  This new style of Twostep and Polka dancing is often referred to as "Western Swing", the mixture of East Coast Swing patterns combined with the traveling movement of Twostep and Polka. 

In space of few months in 1980, Western Dancing had become a lot more complicated... and a lot more fun as well.  From here on, experienced dancers would alternate dancing in Closed Position and Open Position throughout the song. 

These eye-catching Double Turns use the same timing Polka and Two Step.  Teasingly referred to as "Twostep with Turns", the man twirls the lady with one or two hands as they circle the floor.  Although Western Swing is a very popular dance, it is difficult to learn just by watching.  Fortunately Beginning Western Swing covers the mechanics of leading the double turns for the men while teaching the ladies how to turn properly.



Texas Honky Tonk Music

Excerpted from James Rice's book,, 1985

On the frontier real professional musicians were hard to come by. There was considerably more call for people who could punch cattle or farm or make things or fix them up after they had broken, but there were places and times that the demand was high for entertainment of any kind. If a body could make music or run a game or bring in liquor his future was made.

Or if it was a woman she didn't need any particular skills at all. She could entertain just by being herself.

The main places were Texan by population and spirit even if they were sometimes outside the borders - the big crossroads trading posts, the shipping centers at the railheads, and active mining towns. The times were when a job ended at the end of a cattle drive or a strike was made or whenever there was a slack time that one had change in the pocket.

The rough range workers went one place for entertainment - the saloon. There they could drink, gamble, listen to music, and usually meet a woman without formal introduction. The saloon girls ranged from downright homely to kind of pretty - depending on the number of drinks that preceded the meeting, the amount of light, or the time spent on the trail before reaching town or how close it was to closing time. A woman could help separate a cowboy from a big part of a season's earnings in a few hours and just leave him with something to dream about on his next rail drive as the only return on his money.


Probably the happiest people in the history of mankind were the cowboys who celebrated at the end of a long cattle drive. Many of them could get rid of a season's wages, earned by months of hard work and long hours on the trail in just a few short nights of revelry. It wasn't unusual for a cowboy to put back enough to replace worn-out clothes and boots, and then completely blow the rest.

This started the lasting Texas tradition of celebrators putting on the trappings of a cowboy, or the city slicker's idea of a cowboy to go out and raise hell. Cowboy boots and hat are required apparel if a body's going out celebrating in a Texas honky-tonk, even if a person's never been on a horse or even knows what a cow looks like.

Texas honky-tonk music has been called a lot of things in its time - a big part of it bad. For some the mention of honky-tonk just naturally conjures up pictures of drinking and roughhousing and wild wild women. Some things stand out about a Texas honky-tonk. The music had better be loud and it had better have a beat since most of those cowboys get hard of hearing when they get a woman in their arms.

The music may have started out in the country, but along the way it has picked up a lot of the city as well. Bob Wills may not have been the first honky-tonk country musician to borrow from popular music, but he did it bigger and better than anyone else. Kick any bush in the state of Texas and there's a fifty-fifty chance a fiddle player will fall out of it. If you ask him where he learned to play, the majority of them will claim they helped ole Bob Wills himself get started. Bob Wills mixed a little bit of Mexican Cantina music with a little bit of Blues and gospel sounds, threw in some jazz and folk music, and came up with a sound that has found a permanent home in the state of Texas. He called it "Western Swing".

The sounds get different and people who make the music change, but the spirit of the honky'tonk will go on and on as long as plain people still like to dance. And somewhere up there in sky Bob Wills is watching along with an army of the Fiddle Players and Honky'Tonk Piano players who pioneered the music we still dance to today.



Two'Steppin' Texas Memories

Written by Jerry Flemmons,  Travel Editor of the Fort Worth Star'Telegram,

Looking back it seems that in Texas, 18 was considered the proper age at which to dance in public, meaning at a beer joint.

Perhaps that was simply the ritual's legal threshold and custom really had nothing to do with it, but regardless, I remember well my first turn on a dance floor. I was 18, finally, and the beer joint was Saturday'night full and boisterous. My partner was much older, perhaps 25, someone's sweetheart or wife who had agreed to dance with me while he - a largish, dour man - leaned against the bar and watched. The music, doubtless a country and western dirge of woe, came from two unamplified guitars and a scarred upright bass. And - because this was Texas - we, of course, danced the Twostep.

A rigid etiquette governed this coming'of'age ceremony, and while dancing in public with someone else's woman, I made certain to observe it. I held my left hand cupped as a rest, not a grip, for her right hand. I held my free right arm around her, but kept the hand well above any notion of impropriety, allowing only my thumb to lie against her back. Our bodies almost ' but not quite ' touched. We spoke little because he was watching, and familiarity at such establishments always seemed to breed fistfights.

We danced only once and I returned her to him and found other women, all with hims of some relation, either blood or choice. But when the night was all over, I felt, well, manly. 

I had danced before at school things and in friends' living rooms, but this was a manhood event for me, this publictwo'step dancing. (We pronounced it "daincing" in the nasal prairie patois that passed for English in West Texas.)  Two'stepping had been the common shared experience of Texan men for a century or more, the unifying occasion of socialization for state rich in space and distance but poor in available proper women. In early times, there were few unmarried women and no place to meet them except public dances. Then, in my time, nice girls didn't go alone to beer joints; they came with their families - and so was born that familiar ritual of watchfulness.

It's useless to explain the foot movements of two'step dancing. You kind of slide'shuffle, and either you can do it or you can't. Maybe it's in the genes, but I don't remember not being able to two'step. This peculiarly Texas dance developed, my theory goes, because it fit fiddle and guitar music played in simple two'four time (one'two, one'two, slide'shuffle). And, I surmise, because a dance it required little space. Done traditionally, couples do a lot of stationary turning.

"The Texans," observed an English visitor, Mary Jaques, in 1893, "cannot be described as graceful dancers, although they have some power of expressing the poetry of motion; their figures are supple, and they swing and sway a great deal."


Miss Jaques made her observations at a Central Texas ranch dance, where she was properly courted and two'stepped by the cowboys, as all single women were. Back then that was the socially correct two'step venue'ranch and farmhouses to which cowboys would come from everywhere just to dance. ("Rode 20 miles, danced all night, rode 20 miles back," reads an 1881 diary entry of one cowboy who met his future wife at just such a dance.) 

Dances moved from house to house and took place about every three months. Families would come in wagons and buggies, men by horseback. Fiddles and guitars would strike up in a corner and dancing commenced, usually not ending until dawn, while babies slept clustered on one big bed and young children played together on the front porch.

Ranch dances brought two noticeable things to the two'step. First, that economy of movement. You danced where you stood because there was no space in small rooms for long'distance dancing. Second of all, hatless cowboys. After all, it was considered poor taste to wear your hat inside somebody's house.

The dances ended, I suppose, when public drinking finally was allowed in Texas. Beer joints became the places where young men and women could go to meet one another. By my time, however, the mechanics of the two'step had long since become stamped onto the collective psyche; Texas feet just knew, instinctively, what to do. And the traditional rite of passage, that firmly held introduction to manhood, adapted itself to a new social scene: 18, in Texas, you danced in public. 

Change, though, I've found is no respecter of convention. Real beer joints are about gone, I believe, replaced by bars I find less convivial. The music, I'm happy to say, remains country and western and danceable, however loudly electrified. Young men, no longer in someone's home, do dance with their hats on, and I doubt they feel a need for any kind of formal passage into manhood. The two'step, well, it's still done, but loosed from its claustrophobic limits of cramped rooms, it covers a full dance floor. 

One more thing I've noticed: Couples hold each other closer because there is no he watching by the bar. Now, that appeals to me. I was always in favor of closer dancing. 


What is "Sweethearts of the Rodeo"?

This is a course in Country'Western dancing.  It is not a Beginner course nor is an Advanced course.  I suppose that leaves Intermediate, but a Beginner can take it.  More about that later.

I last offered this class three years ago.  Since I know the people who take my classes pretty well, I predict no one remembers anything.  My students cannot even remember their name which is why we wear name tags.  For that matter, we encourage married couples to add a last name.  That way we can match people with spouses at the end of the night.  As for boyfriends and girls, hmm, not quite as easy.  Wear matching socks.  However I digress.  You want to know what this course covers.



In Western dancing, there are three looks: Closed Position in each other's arms, Open Position for Western Swing, and Sweetheart position for those who are romantically inclined.  In Sweetheart position, partners start side by side, lady on the right.  The lady is the Sweetheart, the man is the one lucky to be dancing with her.  Please reflect your pleasure at being next to one another by smiling.  The Sweetheart position in Western dancing is very popular because the girls face forward and rarely find themselves dancing backwards.  It is a nice feature not to be forced to dance backwards all the time. 

The Sweetheart position includes all sorts of fancy turns and clever moves such as Crossovers, Harriet the Lariat, and the infamous Wild West Shuffle.  The hit of the class will be a popular combination known as 'Book of Love' which combines three positions known as Sweetheart, Cuddles, and Skaters.  For those serious about romance (watches one Hallmark Rom'Com per month), we have an incredible ending to the Book of Love known as the Scintillating Slither.  Women have been known to faint. 



Anyone with a smattering knowledge of Twostep and some Polka will do just fine in this class.  That said, I have heard there are a few people from California who have not yet learned how to dance Texas-style.  When in Rome, dance as the Texans do, the sooner the better.  For these people (and other states are welcome as well), we will have an emergency beginner Twostep class from 6'7 pm.  There will be no charge, just show up.  If you survive the emergency tutorial, you will have learned enough stay for the main event, Sweethearts of the Rodeo. 




West Coast Swing is a tricky partner dance used to pop dance music, Disco, and Blues music.  Despite the difficulty necessary to learn, West Coast Swing is a very popular dance among experienced social dancers. 

West Coast Swing is an offshoot of East Coast Swing.  Both dances use identical timing: 1-2, 3&4, 5&6.  East Coast Swing takes up more room as dancers trade places both East and West, North and South while West Coast Swing goes in a straight line.  This is not an accident.

East Coast Swing was made popular throughout the country during the Big Band Era of the Thirties.  Then came Pearl Harbor.  Now that the USA was at war, thousands of young men and women were rushed to California to deal with the war in the Pacific.  In those days, the fastest way for a young man and young woman to meet was on the local dance floors.  Only one problem ' the number of people wanting to dance had tripled overnight while the size of the dance floors remained fixed.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Realizing East Coast Swing was something of a space guzzler, dancers rearranged the footwork of East Coast to go in a straight line known as "The Slot".  This innovation allowed more dancers to participate at the same time.  It also gave the new dance its name since it originated in California.     



Jitterbug is a form of East Coast Swing. 

Jitterbug uses complicated footwork: "1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5'6 (back step)" as opposed to Swing: "Slow Slow Quick Quick".  Although both systems use 6 beats, Jitterbug is used to Slower tempo music while Swing is used to faster tempo music.  It is important for a Swing dancer to know both systems. 

"Happy Just to Dance with you", Beatles, 135 beats per minute.  This is a Jitterbug.

"Take it Easy", Eagles, 138 beats per minute.  This is a Jitterbug.

"Jailhouse Rock", Elvis, 168 beats per minute.  This is a Swing.

"Rock Around the Clock", Bill Haley, 180 beats per minute.  This is a Swing.

In general, the faster the music, you prefer to use Swing with fewer steps.  The slower the music, Jitterbug uses the extra steps to travel more, thereby speeding things up.  The same thing holds true for other types of music.

Western Dancing:  Twostep handles one speed, Polka handles the other.

Salsa Dancing:  Salsa handles one speed, Merengue handles the other.

East Coast Swing Dancing: Swing handles one speed, Jitterbug handles the other.

Another purpose of the April East Coast Swing "Jitterbug" class is to prepare for our May West Coast Swing class.  As it turns out, Jitterbug and West Coast Swing use the same 6'beat timing and the same 8 steps: "1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5'6"

East Coast Swing:  Triple Step, Triple Step, Back'step.  (six beats, 8 steps)

West Coast Swing: walk'walk, Triple Step, Triple Step.  (six beats, 8 steps)

I happen to like West Coast Swing a lot.  But I will be the first to say it is a tricky dance to learn.  In my opinion, West Coast Swing is not worth learning unless the footwork is precise.  So one feature of the April Jitterbug class will be to help people become more comfortable using 8 steps to 6 beats of music. 

For further information, you are invited to read Rick Archer's History of Swing,

In addition, there is a third form of Swing dancing.  Some call it 'Street Swing', some call it 'High School Swing' or 'Teenager Swing' and some call it 'Aggie Jitterbug'.  For the time being, let's call it 'High School Swing'.  What exactly is it? 

High School Swing is Swing dancing without any attention to footwork or the speed of the music.  As long as a boy can lead, he can use any footwork he wishes and move at whatever speed he wishes.  Obviously this simpler form of Swing Dancing is popular because it is easier to learn than the more disciplined East Coast Swing.  So why bother learning East Coast Swing?

High School Swing is pretty brutal on the girls.  It is a rough dance that involves a lot of being pulled and pushed around.  It also ignores the music which is a nuisance as well.   Getting thrown around might be okay in high school and college, but as the young lady ages, she typically prefers to be treated more gently. 

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