Monday Night Chapelwood
Social Dance with Rick Archer and Sharon Shaw
INTERMEDIATE WESTERN WALTZ (Sharon)
INTERMEDIATE EAST COAST SWING (Rick)
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
Rick will teach
Intermediate East Coast Swing
Room YB 100.
Chapelwood is a vast church, so click
to see where these rooms are located.
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.)
more detailed information regarding EAST COAST SWING,
more detailed information regarding WESTERN
AT A GLANCE, BOTH RICK & SHARON
4 Mondays (October
02, 09, 16,
will begin Monday, Oct 30 (Oct
30, Nov 06, 13, 20)
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.
are held in Fellowship Hall
located in the central part of the church and
Room YB 100 located in the
PRICE: $30 per person is a
monthly charge which includes all 4
(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.
FOR RICK'S CLASS: Rick Archer,
FOR SHARON'S CLASS:
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
of dance friends and have room for more. It is the
perfect place to share friendship and enjoy learning
to dance together.
MAP TO FIND DANCE ROOM:
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
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
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.
about Rick's class,
Sent: Thursday, September 7, 2023
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: SSQQ Newsletter: Sharon
Shaw Beg Western Waltz, Rick Archer Int-Adv
East Coast Swing begins TUESDAY, Sept 5, at
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
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.
about Sharon's class,
MAP TO CHAPELWOOD
Dance the Night Away
with Rick Archer's Social Dance Lessons at
A variety of
Country Western/Ballroom Lessons taught by
Rick Archer, former owner of SSQQ Dance
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
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
or Harriet, email@example.com
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
REGARDING SHARON SHAW
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
Sharon turned pale white with fear. "No way!"
"C'mon, Sharon, you said yes and I'm holding you to
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
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
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
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
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,
POLKA, WESTERN SWING
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
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.
would like learn to Western Dance, the best
place to start is our Beginning Two
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
Two Step/Polka covers the leads,
footwork, and timing to both dances.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Western Swing is a very popular dance, it is
difficult to learn just by watching.
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
from James Rice's book,,
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
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
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
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
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.
by Jerry Flemmons, Travel
Editor of the Fort Worth Star'Telegram,
back it seems that in Texas, 18 was considered the proper age at
which to dance in public, meaning at a beer joint.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
EAST COAST SWING AND JITTERBUG
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
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.