August 2012

"Those Were the Days, My Friend, We Thought They'd Never End..."

About Encore Dance Classes
Written by Rick Archer

Encore is the name of Rick and Marla Archer's new Sunday dance program at Melody Club.

We started our new program in June 2012 with 3 classes and 50 students.
We had 3 more classes in July 2012 with 55 students. Like all good hurricanes, we are slowly gathering our strength. 

Now it's time for Act III.  Starting Sunday, August 5, from 3:30-5 pm, Encore will offer 4 group dance classes in different rooms that will meet 4 times in August.

Last month we added Gary Richardson to the team. In August we will add Charlene Carter to the mix.  August promises to be four more Sundays of Fun.  We will be visiting the Chandelier on August 4 (Ballroom) and August 11 (Western) indeed! 

The fifth member of our team will start in September.  You will be very impressed - Number 5 is a dance superstar, a definite homerun hitter.  We will announce the identity of our fifth member soon.

We have only just begun...

If you would like to read more about the changes, visit the
SSQQ Travel Newsletter.

 August Encore Classes
 4 Sundays (Aug 5, 12, 19, 26) 3:30-5 pm $40

 1. Western Swing II - Rick Archer
 2. Beg Latin (Rumba, Cha Cha)- Marla Archer
 3. Ghost Town Western - Gary Richardson
 4. Synchronized Western Waltz - Charlene (Tees) Carter

 5. Three Step - Rick Archer (at Chapelwood)


1 - WESTERN SWING II with Rick Archer

I will be teach Western Swing Double Turns again in August.  This Western Swing course will be a follow-up to the patterns I taught in July.  You do not need to have taken my July class to take this August class.  You simply need to know to Twostep.

Western Swing is sometimes called "Twostep with Turns".  Any time a Twostep is played, the man has the choice of dancing with the lady in his arms or "Swing her Out" to begin leading double turns.  This extra feature adds a lot of excitement to Western dancing!

We will cover Twostep patterns such as Conversation, ZigZig, and Wild West Shuffle.  In addition I will show people how to add Polka rhythm to our Western Swing turns.  

This is the class to take if you ladies wish to learn how to double turn properly.  Forgive my immodesty, but I teach double turns very well (I've had 30 years of practice).  In addition, I also teach men how to "lead" the Western Swing turns welll.  This is the class to take if you men wish to learn how to properly double turn the ladies.

I would be honored to teach this class to a new generation of Western dancers.  You can expect I will teach the new level all the way up to Ghost Town.


In August, Marla will be teaching a Latin Ballroom class in Beginning Rumba and Cha Cha

Rumba and Cha Cha share at least a dozen identical basic patterns.  This makes it easy to learn both dances side by side.  Learn the pattern to Rumba, convert it to Cha Cha and smile at the discovery you can learn both classic Latin Ballroom dances in half the time.

Considering we now have 160 guests for our October Magic dance cruise to the Bahamas, a knowledge of Foxtrot and Waltz will come in handy at the fancy Captain's Reception complete with a live orchestra during the trip.  You can expect Ballroom dancing on the cruise.

I might add Rumba and Cha Cha will come in very handy during our regular Saturday visits to the Chandelier Ballroom.  Our next Ballroom visit to the Chandelier will be on Saturday, August 4th, 8 pm.

Since the Moonglow Orchestra plays a steady diet of Rumba and Cha Cha songs throughout the night, this is a very practical class to take if you would like to join us.

with Gary Richardson

In August, Gary will follow up his July class with different Ghost Town Advanced Western Swing patterns for Twostep and Polka.   

Gary's class will target the many dancers who have Western Swing experience.

When we say "Advanced", that means this class will be tougher than Beginning Western Swing, but not as tough as Ghost Town.

Once Gary determines the median skill level of his class, he will adjust accordingly. 

Gary expects the ladies to know how to double turn and the men to know how to lead those turns.  If you can do that much, then this class should be right up your alley.

4 - SYNCHRONIZED WESTERN WALTZ with Charlene Tees-Carter

In June, I taught a popular class known as Synchronized PolkaNow in August, our new instructor Charlene will be teaching Synchronized Western Waltz patterns.

Like Synchronized Polka, as the picture implies, Synchronized Western Waltz also uses the "Sweetheart Position" as the starting point.

In Synchronized Polka and Synchronized Western Western Waltz, both the man and the woman start on the same foot.  They dance the same footwork and dance the same patterns at each other's side.

Waltz has long been considered the most graceful of all the Ballroom dances.  When partners dance identical patterns, the "gracefulness" effect is amplified dramatically.

These are very beautiful dance patterns.  This class is a real treat for anyone who enjoys Waltz.

Note: One small favor to ask - please don't take this class unless you have already taken some form of Waltz.  This class targets experienced Waltz dancers.  Thanks! 

5 - THREE STEP with Rick Archer 

4 Classes starting Monday, August 6, 7 pm to 8:30 pm (Aug 6, 13, 20, 27)  $35

In August, I will teach an unusual Western class that I have decided to call "Threestep". 

To my knowledge, this course has never been offered in Houston before.  Therefore anyone taking this class must be considered "brave".  You will be a pioneer and we all know that some pioneers end up with arrows in their back.  That isn't likely to happen any more, but I won't lie - learning this strange dance could easily screw up at least three dances you have previously learned. 

Background on Three Step

So what in the world is this dance?

The Three Step is essentially 8-count Polka footwork mixed with Western Waltz patterns.  Three Step feels very similar to a Twostep when you dance it, but you replace the four steps of Twostep (SSQQ) with six steps (QQS-QQS).

The effect of this different strategy makes it more comfortable to dance to the songs that many people call "Slow Twosteps".    Threestep is a speedier option to replace the slow Twostep. 

Dating all the way back to the Eighties, I identified a speed of Western music where neither Twostep nor Polka worked effectively.  I decided to call music recorded between 132-150 beats per minute (bpm) the "Dead Zone".

Music in this range is either too fast for Polkas or too slow for Twosteps.  Probably the best example would be the classic Eagles song "Lying Eyes".  Recorded at 132 bpm, it feels like a Twostep, but the traditional Slow Slow Quick Quick of the Twostep simply doesn't work very well.

"Don't Rock the Jukebox" by Alan Jackson and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by the Eagles have the same problem. They are both recorded at 144 bpm. Both songs have the feel of a Twostep but lack the speed for Twostep to feel comfortable.  You feel like you are dancing in slow motion.

For years, students would ask what they should dance to songs in this speed range.  I would tell them Twostep and Polka were not an option.  Try dancing a Jitterbug or just sit down and have a beer. 

Recently when I became interested in Ballroom Foxtrot, it dawned on me that some simple variations on Foxtrot would allow a person to dance comfortably to all the Dead Zone music.  Even better, fancy patterns drawn from Western Waltz would work perfectly as well.

The result was an extremely cool dance that I called the "Three Step".  I might add this dance form is just as a effective to Foxtrot music as it is to slow Twostep music.  In my opinion, Three Step is the perfect new dance to add to everyone's repertoire.  Not only is it easy to learn, there are also fancy Western Swing-style turns to show off the ladies.

If you are suspicious, don't worry.  If you aren't happy, you can definitely get your money back at the end of the evening. 

Be brave.  Be a pioneer.

Come try it... I think you will be very impressed!  It is very useful whenever I go to the Chandelier and it is not a hard dance to learn. 


Rick's Note: I have been teaching dance classes on Monday evenings at Chapelwood Methodist Church
in the Memorial area for a year and a half.  We have a large, very beautiful dance floor all to ourselves at this lovely church. 

I cannot begin to tell you what a pleasure it is to conduct my classes here at Chapelwood.  It is the perfect learning environment.  Best of all, we accept students of all religions!!  These are 'non-denominational' dance classes!


In August we will use Walk-in Registration.  Just show up at the door at Melody Club (see map) and sign up the day of the class.  This will go very fast.  Doors will open at 3 pm.

Sorry, no credit cards.  Cash or check (make checks to Marla Archer).  Classes are $40 a person. 

    Email:   rick@ssqq.com
    Phone: 713-862-2121 till 5 pm
    Directions to Melody Club
"Those Were the Days, My Friend, We Thought They'd Never End..."

About Encore
Written by Rick Archer

The idea behind Encore is easily explained by our theme song Those Were the Days. This pretty ballad was one of my favorite songs back in college forty years ago.  With such a considerable passage of time, I can certainly understand why this must be an obscure song to most of you.  So let me explain why the song is important.
Those Were the Days is a bittersweet song about the sadness of aging and the value of friendship in old age.  The song begins in a tavern where a group of college age friends would meet for nights of song and dance.

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

Those were the days, my friend,  We thought they'd never end.

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say….  Those were the Days, my Friend, we thought they'd never end...

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me??

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same…

Those were the Days, my Friend, ...  We thought they'd never end.

Those were the days, my friend,
We thought they'd never end.
We'd sing and dance forever and a day.
We'd live the life we choose,
We'd fight and never lose,
For we were young and sure to have our way.

We thought those days would never end...

This line reminds me of the regret I felt in the closing days of the Bissonnet studio back in April 2010. 

I used to play
Those Were the Days at every New Year's Eve Party after playing Auld Lang Syne at Midnight. 

Most people have never made the connection, but Auld Lang Syne and Those Were the Days have practically the same message -

Old Friends Should Not be Forgotten.

SSQQ on Bissonnet served as a modern day "tavern".  During those final days, I was asked by many people if things would ever be the same when the studio was gone. I would simply say, "I hope so.  Something this good deserves to continue."

Two years have passed.  Yes, people stay in touch, but not like we once did.  As the song suggests, time has scattered us all in many directions. 


Encore - The Start of a New Era


The concept that powered my 32 year dance program was Community

From the moment I started my dance studio, I saw large groups of people drawn together by the common activity.  In the beginning, certainly much of the attraction was birds and bees.  After all, we know that Slow Dance leads to Romance.  However, the dating scene was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Underneath the surface, an entire network of friendships were being formed.  As new students became comfortable at the studio, they would say this was the warmest group of people they had met since college.  I would just smile.

Of course everyone went out dancing together.  After all, social dancing is one of the most powerful tools there is to unite a large group of people.  However, over time the bonds of these friendships became so powerful that people from the studio did many things that had little to do with dance.

Back in the Eighties the studio did all sorts of things together.  We had swimming pool parties, volleyball afternoons, charades parties, ski trips and camping trips.  Unfortunately, this energy dwindled a bit in the Nineties.

It took Marla and her amazing cruise trips to help rekindle the true sense of Community during the Millennium decade.  Marla's trips continue to be as popular as ever.  However, there is something missing and we all know what it is - we need a Tavern.  We need a place to meet between cruise trips.

This is a picture of our cruise guests dancing on the Conquest. Obviously the dance energy is high out at sea.  It is time to capture the dance energy that is so dynamic on our cruise trips and bring it back to land on a weekly basis. 

The time has come for an Encore.  

Let's bring the gang together again on a frequent basis.

I am very sure we can re-create those magic days of yesterday once more.  We may be older, but we still remember how dance originally brought us together.  We can do this again.

I am confident the ancient Slow Dance and Romance Magic is still there.  All we need is a Tavern.

Now we have one at Melody.  Let's Dance!



It Wasn't the

Last Waltz after all

The Time has Come

to Waltz Again



Note: This is an Excerpt from the May 25th Newsletter

Addressing Rumors about Encore
Written by Rick Archer

Last week I announced that I am returning to my teaching career in June over at Melody Club. 

Encore is the name of our new once-a-week dance program.  Marla, myself and our friend Cher Longoria will be teaching every Sunday from 3:30-5 pm starting June 3rd.  

Afterwards we will host an open dance from 5-6 pm.  There is no charge.  Furthermore our weekly “Tea Dance” is open to the entire Houston dance community. 

The purpose of my new program is simple – we want to establish a place where the people I met during my thirty years at SSQQ on Bissonnet can come and spend an afternoon together.  I don’t even care if they take a class… the Tea Dance is free.   

Working on the parallel ideas of “Those Were the Days” and “Auld Lang Syne”, I have pointed out how foolish it is to let our old acquaintances be forgotten.  In other words, I mean to establish a program where we can see our friends on a regular basis that we have met over our many years of dancing in Houston.

Encore is essentially a social program meant to re-establish my ties to the Houston dance community.  In next week’s Newsletter, I will reveal more about what I am trying to accomplish.

The Nature of Rumors

Today I wish to clear up a few rumors that have crossed my plate. 

Everybody has a different approach to dealing with Rumors.  Some people like to ignore them.  Some people say, “Take the high road and don’t dignify Rumors with a reply.”

Twice in my career, I have taken that approach.  Both times I was badly burned.  

Here is the more recent example.  Back in 1998, I received my second bitter lesson about unchecked Rumors. 

A person of color accused me of being a bigot.  He told anyone who would listen that I had deliberately denied him entrance to our dance party based on his race.  Quickly this story was heard in every corner of the Houston dance world.  A dance team from our studio was almost denied participation at a Rice University event based on his allegations.

Was I really a bigot?  No.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I denied the man entrance to the party because he had previously betrayed my trust. 

This man had once taught for us.  While he was in our employment, he lied to us about his involvement with another dance organization.  Not only that, he was secretly persuading students at my studio to follow him over to the other program.  Once I found out the truth, I told him to leave and don’t come back. 

He deliberately tried to come back anyway to a place where he knew he wasn’t welcome.  My refusal had nothing to do about race.

Everybody who knows me knows I am color-blind.  Furthermore I don’t care what a person’s religion is or what their sexual preference is or where they are from or any of that nonsense. 

My entire career was spent trying to establish an environment that fostered warmth and the development of a large community of friends.  Given my goal, it is absurd to think I would ever possess an attitude that excluded people on the basis of race.

It was so important to me to maintain an open studio that I deliberately avoided letting my studio be involved in dance competitions.  While I have no objection to anyone who wishes to improve their dancing ability, I preferred to avoid fostering a sense of competition within my own home.  The idea was to make friends, not to prove who was the better dancer.  If something felt divisive, I avoided it.

Getting back to that ugly rumor about me being a racist, I wanted to write a letter to my students at Bissonnet to explain what had really happened.  However, instead I kept my mouth shut and watched.

Bad mistake.  That ugly rumor spread through the dance community like wildfire.  That rumor definitely cost us students and it also cost us our reputation as a place run by decent people.  I have never felt so humiliated.

I am here to say I have had two painful lessons about the stupidity of letting rumors fly unchecked.  Some time ago I vowed I wasn’t going to do it this way anymore.  I decided it made more sense to respond to rumors than let them go unchecked.

Rumor One:  Rick’s Non-Compete Clause

Last week’s announcement about Encore has given birth to several rumors that I will address now.

The first and most serious rumor is that I am prohibited by my sales agreement from teaching dance elsewhere. 

My contract says “Richard Archer agrees not to compete with the new dance studio with respect to dance instruction and the dance studio business for a period of two years from the Closing Date of this agreement within Harris County, Texas.”

I sold the studio on March 18, 2010.  Daryl and Jo Anne Armstrong took control on May 1, 2010.  By either date, I have a legal right to continue my career as a dance instructor.  

I have a right to earn a living.  I have a right to earn money to pay for my rising health insurance.  I have a right to earn money to pay for my rising property taxes.   I have bills just like you do.  

I have only one marketable job skill – teaching dance.  In addition, I like to teach dance.  It is something I have a knack for.  I like helping people and I like the interaction that comes from helping my students accomplish a goal. 

Rumor Two:  Encore is the start of a new studio to compete with SSQQ

It has come to my attention that I am said to be starting Encore to build a new dance studio that will compete with SSQQ. 

Read this carefully.  I love SSQQ.  I have SSQQ in my blood.  SSQQ is part of my Legacy and it always will be.  Even if I don't own SSQQ, I have no desire to damage the program I created.  It would be like hurting my own child.  I am proud of SSQQ.

Furthermore, I deeply respect the job that Daryl and Jo Anne Armstrong have done with the new SSQQ.  I am totally grateful that they have continued the SSQQ tradition. 

They always say don’t criticize until you have walked in someone else’s shoes.  Well, I am not going to criticize anyone.  But I will tell you that no one is more qualified to talk about a running a dance studio than I am. 

So let me tell you this –  I am glad I sold the studio to Daryl and Jo Anne.  They came in with a lot of energy at a time when I was completely out of gas.  Since then, they have done a good job against a lot of obstacles.  Maybe they have had to learn a couple things the hard way, but they are so far ahead of where I was at a similar stage it is ridiculous. 

Running a dance studio is so much more work than any of you can ever imagine. 
The sacrifice of time is ridiculous.  Anyone who runs a dance studio is always there. 

You are there greeting the students at night.  You are there greeting the maintenance people during the day.  And when you aren’t at the studio, you are home writing Newsletters, answering the phone and answering emails.  Throw in the complaints and the divas and the headaches… there is almost no peace.  

Running a studio can be very rewarding, but at times it can also feel like a thankless task. Exhaustion and burn out is always a danger.

The stress is unbelievable.  The stress begins with the great financial risk of running a large, complicated business.  I recall that the overhead of running the Bissonnet SSQQ was enormous.  Rent, air conditioning, utilities, payroll, insurance, accounting fees, taxes, fire inspection, maintenance on the floor… the list was endless. 

Marla and I used to say the break-even point of every month was $35,000.

You say 35 thousand divided by $50 a person is 700.  Wrong.  Many of our students received half-price discounts.  Women paid $40. We needed to get 900 students a month just to break even. 

Now when the studio was in its heyday, we averaged 1,300.  So, yes, when things were good, the dance studio made very good money.  

The studio allowed me to send my daughter Sam to a private school for 14 years.  A good education is the best present any parent can give.  

I am so grateful to all of you for helping me do that!

However, then came the plague.  The shopping center was bought by a landlord who promptly confiscated our parking lot and gave it to his new hospital next door. 
Once our landlord took away our parking lot, many people were forced to walk a mile to the studio. 

The hospital was virtually empty at night.  As a result, the parking lot was empty in the same the parking lot we had used for 25 years.  Students would stare at the empty spaces in consternation.  They soon discovered if they tried to park in one of them, the building guard would chase them off or threaten to have their car towed.

It wasn't enough to have my own landlord towing SSQQ cars from our own parking lot. The City of Bellaire ordered most of First Street off limits and started towing cars from First Street.  It felt like we were literally being run out of town.

Attendance plummeted.   We were being choked to death… we were left gasping for parking spots.  In the final years, our attendance average dropped to around 900. 

We paid our bills and there was nothing left.  You talk about stress; that was stress. 

Now you know why I was so bitter towards our landlord.  And now you know why I said I would never run another dance studio. 

So when people say, “Gee, Rick is trying to open another studio,” I look at these people and think to myself, “Are you out of your mind?”

If I wanted to run a dance studio, I would have never sold the one I had in the first place!!!

Given my broken spirit two years ago thanks to the landlord problems, when Daryl and Jo Anne offered to take over the reins at the studio, I was deeply grateful.  Now at least the traditions of SSQQ would come forward to a new generation of dancers.  

To this day, I can’t even begin to express my appreciation to Daryl and Jo Anne.  They have accomplished a lot in a short time.

For starters, they moved SSQQ to a new location and made it work.  Very impressive!

I also like the way they have decorated the new studio.  Give them time.  Considering the progress they have made, SSQQ on Jester will just keep getting better. 

In conclusion, let it be known that Encore is not some backdoor attempt to open a new dance studio.   Encore is one afternoon a week.  SSQQ is eight days a week (2 on Sunday).  

Rumor Three:  Encore is meant to compete with SSQQ

The final rumor suggests that I am not showing loyalty to the new SSQQ by starting up Encore.  Won’t Encore and SSQQ compete with one another for the same students?

Yes, to some extent this is true, but let’s put things into perspective.

If I could work at SSQQ, I would.  But it is very awkward.  I tried.  I worked at SSQQ for seven months last year, but I was never really comfortable. 

Let me see if I can explain it.  You are the Captain of the ship, but the previous Captain is also on the same ship.  Every time the new Captain gives an order or hands out discipline, the crew looks at the previous Captain for a reaction.

You buy a baseball team, but the previous owner wants to work in the front office.  Every time the new owner makes a risky decision that doesn’t work out immediately, the fans and the reporters look to the previous owner for a reaction.

Or look at it from a family perspective.  You marry a man’s daughter… and Dad comes to live with you.   Now you have your father-in-law looking over your shoulder the whole time.   You discipline the kids… he’s watching.  You have an argument with your wife… he’s watching.

I tried working at SSQQ and it just didn’t feel right.  I left SSQQ voluntarily because I respect Daryl and Jo Anne too much to put them through that.   No one showed me the door; it was my own choice to leave.   Yes, I regretted resigning, but I understood the dynamics.  As I left for the final time, I was forced to admit to myself that SSQQ was "none of my business" anymore. 

Yes, I have mixed feelings about teaching dance in the same city as my former studio.  However, look at it this way.  Houston has two million people.  Houston is also very dance conscious.  I firmly believe our population can support one extra program that meets one day a week.

Let me add that the appearance of Encore is not meant as a slap against SSQQ. 

SSQQ has a marvelous dance program.  Their classes are the best value for the money in the city.  Not only do they offer 8 hours of instruction while other studios offer 4 hours for the same price, SSQQ offers many parallel classes for make-ups and extra practice. 

SSQQ has the most comprehensive program in the city.  SSQQ teaches everything – Ballroom, Swing, Salsa, Western.  Each program has an excellent progression of classes.  On any given night, you will see a Beginning class, an Intermediate class, and an Advanced class in different rooms.  This feature allows a student a way to make rapid progress as a dancer in a very economical way. 

Best of all, SSQQ has a wonderful staff.  Most of their instructors have been teaching for many years and are very experienced at what they do.  The SSQQ staff is terrific.

I did not create Encore as competition for my former studio.  I created Encore to fill a specific niche.  There are people who miss the spirit of the “The Good Old Days”. 

For example, just because there is a current Texas A&M football team, the players from years past like to stick together with events of their own. This desire to see their friends, their coaches and teammates from another era is no disrespect to the current team. 

I am trying to give the friends I have made over the past thirty years a place to visit once a week to reconnect on a frequent basis.  Encore is nothing more than a sentimental watering hole for earlier generations of SSQQ students. This is easy to understand.

Encore will meet one afternoon a week on Sundays.  I don’t see any reason why a person can’t drop by Encore and see a lot of their friends, then turn around and take a dance class at SSQQ the same week. 

I would be crushed if someone mistakenly thought they were forced to choose between the two programs.  It is not disloyal to like both places.

In conclusion, although I am no longer responsible for SSQQ, the studio will always hold a special place for me.  Encore is an attempt to live those memories again. 

Rick Archer

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