ASDC 2014

Another ASDC come and gone but we won’t have to wait as long for the next one!  With the sad news that ACC will no longer be held, ASDC has moved into that time slot and will be MLK weekend in January 2015.  YAY!  I, for one, am very excited for the move – there is so much going on in the Springtime that the move to January actually makes it a bit easier for us.

Another fantastic event.  During the weekend, they spoke of the “Dream Team” DJs of Victor Loviera, Cher Peadon and Ruby Lair – that is not an exaggeration!  Three of the most talented and well respected DJ in all of WCS and we got all three of them for the weekend.  I have to say that the event directors are a bit a “dream team” themselves.  You’ve got Rick Domalski, who has traveled and competed for years – he knows what competitors and social dancers want.  Then Angel and Debbie Figueroa – amazing champion dancers, but beyond that, they also have vast chief judge experience and know how to keep an event running smoothly.  You add in Mike Topel, yet another well known, well organized chief judge and the event, at least from an attendees’ point of view, was the most well run I’ve ever attended.  Every event has its issues, no matter how well planned, but I don’t really remember having any UGH moments regarding timing of events or things running ridiculously late.  In fact, there was even time for dinner on both Friday and Saturday nights for us before the evening activities!  Really rare of us.  

This year was also very special to us as we were bringing the first ever SSQQ WCS Team out on the competition floor.  These are all people who represent the studio we work for, either as staff members or long time students.  With Michael Stephens, we had the privilege of being their choreographers, their coaches and for this event, part of their dance team to sub in for dancers who couldn’t make the event. Most of the folks on the team have never been to a full weekend event before, let alone actually perform at an event.  We were truly proud of them and how they performed and it made me very very happy to get to share the experience with them.  It gives me so much joy that they enjoyed themselves so much that they are ready to perform again.  That’s dance JOY, people!

It’s back to work this weekend with the team to prepare for our next performance at Swingapalooza!

West Coast Swing Competition Class starting April 17th at SSQQ!

Starting April 17th, Trent and Michelle Haynes will be offering a West Coast Swing Competition level class for active competitors and those want to compete!  Each week, we will cover different topics on all aspects of competing, such as technique, musicality, jack and jills, judging, etc.  This is a great way to get ready to start competing or to take your competition to the next level.
Join us for this fun and informative class!
Every Thursday, starting April 17th, 9:30-10:30pm
Located at
SSQQ Dance Studio
1431 W. TC Jester at 20th street
Houston, TX 77008
Classes will be $7 per person/class.
For more information, please email at

Novice Invitational 2014 and more…

Novice Invitational was one of the first events that I ever competed at when I first started WCS.  This event holds a lot of fond memories for me, and this year was no exception.  In the last year, we’ve had the honor of working with a lot of new dancers and competitors in WCS.  It has been an absolute pleasure getting to see them grow in the dance and in their self confidence, and see them make so many improvements, in both social and competitive dancing.  Congrats to Robert, Karina, Sherri, Troy, Leah, Emma, Amy, Shane, Lani, Alan, Karen, and Mary on all your progress and successes!  A special thanks and congrats to Kevin, Louie and Roger for dancing with me in the pro-ams this year – it is an absolute privilege to get to dance with each of you and I hope you had as much fun as I did!  

It was also a time for some personal achievements, being on staff for the first time at this event and getting to work with the incomparable Debbie Figueroa.  She has been a wonderful mentor and coach in my dance journey and I cannot thank her enough for her faith in me.  Plus between her and her husband, Angel, I have achieved my next step in this journey of mine – All Stars, here I come!

And since apparently, we weren’t danced out yet, last Saturday was the ever popular WCS party hosted by David Appel.  David has been doing these parties for almost 10 years – and I am happy to report that he is doing these on the regular these days!  David always has a great mix of popular and current music, and he always works with great venues to give us a great floor and a nice comfortable setting.  Trent and I both danced hard for almost 2 hours straight and we both had some fantastic dances all evening.  I apologize to anyone that I missed over the weekend – it was time to go home and ice so I can dance some more next time!

Next up is Austin Swing Dance Championships!  We’re busy putting the finishing touches on our SSQQ Swing Team to get ready to compete our new routine for the first time!  So excited and nervous! 


Novice Invitational 2014 – Trendlyon Veal and Marcus Smith

This year’s featured instructors at Novice Invitational was Trendlyon Veal and Marcus Smith from the DC area. They are truly 2 of the nicest, most creative dancers on the pro WCS circuit right now. Love these folks! And they are amazing dancers to boot! This was the exhibition they performed for us at the event. This is not choreographed – just 2 people really connected with each other!

America’s Classic 2014

WOW, what a weekend! I am sore, exhausted, can barely focus, and have no voice. And it was totally worth it!

As I’ve said before, this is one of my favorite events to attend every year. It certainly helps that it’s in my backyard, but I think it’s such a great way to start the new year of dancing! I am always awed, motivated and inspired by the dancing at ACC, and this year was no exception.

Our slow whip category was especially meaningful this year. We went into the Thursday night dance with no one signed up and wondering if the category would even make. Trent was scheduled to dance with Deborah and I was schedule to danced with Stephen White, but we didn’t know of anyone else who was intending to sign up. After chatting with Stephen, he did the most amazing thing and started to help us recruit. We were also able to talk to Diego and Jessica from Brazil and they were excited about learning it as well. So we scheduled a 2 hour slow whip session Friday at 1:30p for anyone who was interested in competing that night at 7:30p. HA! Talk about last minute.

Lo and behold, at one point, we took up a 3rd of the practice ballroom just working with some phenomenal people – Diego, Jessica, Ben Clemons, Stephen, Hugo, Stacy, Joshua Sturgeon, and Lindsey Nastos. Crystal and Brennar were in there practicing their showcase routine and even did a quick little slow whipish dance when we were playing music. LOVED IT. I think my favorite part was Victor coming in to practice and seeing our group. The look on his face just matched how I was feeling inside. Everyone just coming together to collaborate, to learn, to share. This is what this community should be all about – sometimes we forget with all the competition.

Thank you to everyone who came and to everyone who competed to make this the best slow whip division in a very long time! Special thanks goes to Stephen for believing in this and spreading the word!

Saturday was originally going to be me and Trent’s first time on the floor with our new Classic routine. But with my knee injury back in November and then Trent’s shoulder injury last month, we have not been able to practice at all. We were both pretty disappointed at not being able to perform the routine, but then we got to watch one of the most inspired Classic divisions I’ve seen in a long long time at ACC. Getting to watch LIVE 2 of the routines that I admired on youtube from the US Open: Josh and Lindsey and Susan and Gary – the energy was amazing! I absolutely enjoyed Hugo and Stacy’s new routine – so much growth in both their dance and their performance! I can’t wait to watch this routine get better and better! but the one that everyone was talking about, the one that blew us all away – Diego and Kellese. WOW WOW WOW. Stan Graves posted about watching a dance that made you listen to music and think about dance in a whole new way – this was it. For those of you who have not seen it, I hope it gets posted soon – you have to watch it!

The Classic division left me exhilarated and also totally just fine that we didn’t compete that day. I think I would have been hyperventilating and crying. LOL. After that division finished, Albert asked me to dance and I felt like I couldn’t even remember how to triple step.

I had some of best JJ and strictly dances ever! My many thanks to B Manning, Diego, Bertie, Dom and Earl for some fun fun fun dances in comps! and of course, the huge list of amazing leads I had for social dancing – reminds me every time why I love this dance so much!

What a weekend!

Finishing the year with a bang – and some ice!


As Houston is coming out of the “polar vortex”, I am finally gathering my thoughts from the last couple of months.  Houston Rocks, The “Iced” Challenge and The Challenge Redux all coming your way!

The Challenge series has been a fun way to bring the community together the last few years – kudos to Barry Jones and Johnny Siharath for coming up with such a great idea.  For a little background, check out my post from last year, the Challenge 2012.

Houston Rocks was in November and was super fun with the addition of the newcomer J&J division.  It was so great to see so many new competitors to the scene.  Some people just wanted to see what it was about and others wanted to start their competition careers!  There were a lot of jitters, but everyone did a great job.  I was especially proud to see my own students competing and doing so well!

Then it was time to prepare for the Challenge and the Robert Royston musicality intensive.  The intensive had some great information as usual with Robert and I especially enjoyed the individual critiques.  Unfortunately, the next day a huge ice storm came into town and the original Challenge had to be postponed.  Good news for us though – we were already in town and was able to schedule our own mini intensive with Robert for 2 hours.  Completely and totally worth it.  Not only did he give us stuff to work on together – he also gave us very specific drills and concepts to work on our own.  Highly recommend it, if you can manage it!

Fortunately, the Challenge was able to get rescheduled and we just returned from the event on Sunday.  I’m usually using this time of year to get geared up for ACC, but since my knee injury and Trent’s shoulder injury, we haven’t been able to do much practice time.  Maybe because of this, my energy going into the weekend was a bit low.  But by Saturday night, the place was packed and we had a great time!  Houston came really close to winning the team trophy back again, because of an incredible showing by our newcomer dancers!  Next year!

Now time to start a new year!  ACC, here we come!

Austin Rocks and Tampa Bay Classic 2013

TBC M&S All Star SS

Still recovering from Tampa. Good grief, I think it’s taking longer and longer the more I do this. I really don’t know how the pros go from event to event so quickly! Granted most of them don’t have to get up at 5:55am for work, but still. It’s exhausting!

I sat down to start writing about Tampa Bay when I realized that I never got around to Austin Rocks back in October! I love dancing in Austin. They are a small but enthusiastic group and I always have a great time there. This time we were there for Austin Rocks, part of the Challenge series ( This year, they were also joined by another new event, Same Sex Swing ( What a fun addition! There are a lot of us who dabble in role swapping in this dance – guys who follow, ladies who lead – so it was really great to have a venue for them to show off their skills!

Trent and CJ Caraway did a great job DJing the event – I really enjoyed the music and I heard a lot of good feedback from others. There was a really great energy the whole weekend. I was honored to be asked to join the invitational J&J and was privileged to draw the one and only Barry Jones! I had a blast! Naturally in keeping with the Keep Austin Weird theme, we all also had to draw a “dance move” as well. Barry and I drew the moonwalk. YIKES! Yeah so we are both really bad at it, but we tried. Good news is that we have the patented Barry Jones moves to entertain everyone with to make up for the bad moonwalking. LOL. Other couples got things like the can-can, the cabbage patch, the orangutan. Trent doing the orangutan – HA! SO FUNNY.

Then Tampa Bay Classic was this past weekend. We had heard lots of good things about this event for years and we were looking forward to going. Originally I had 3 routines planned to put on the floor, but a knee injury has prevented me from doing any real practice. So I’ve been resting the knee, and only planned to compete in JJ, SS and ProAm SS.

The resort is beautiful and right by the beach. The weather was great – the rain held off and it was never that hot. My only issue with resort type venues is that the ballroom is often quite a distance from our room and we have to go outside to get there – meaning having to carry your dance shoes around quite a bit. Minor complaint, but one to be aware of. Instead of being in the hotel itself, the ballroom was set up in a tented pavillion area, which provides a really nice backdrop. I was really impressed at how well it was cooled inside. One big drawback – because of noise ordinances, the music for late night had to be turned way down. There were times when you could not really hear the beat of the music until you got to the floor near the speaker. On the plus side, you could actually hold a decent conversation on the sidelines. For me, though, maybe because I’ve gotten used to it, it seemed like the energy late night was a little lacking because the music was just a bit too quiet. I guess there’s something to said about a pulsating beat that makes you want to get up and dance.

One really special treat was the Willis Clan. I had never seen them before since we don’t have cable, but you may have seen them on Great American Country on their TV show:,,GAC_26058_107286,00.html. They did a couple of exhibitions and I had seen a video of two of the older kids completing in the junior division at the US Open. They are super talented! From 2 to 21 years old, they sing, they dance, they play instruments, they act – they can do it all! I was truly impressed.

I danced more than I should have, given my knee, but I still didn’t dance as much as I normally do. Still, I got in some super fun dances, including one with Robert Royston (so MUCH FUN!) and one of my favorite leads, Jason Miklic. I also got to compete with two of my ams, Shane Young in Novice and Matthew in Intermediate. And they both won! So proud of my guys! It was especially satisfying for Matthew to win as it was our last time to dance pro-am together. He is moving on up in the dance world!

I also had such an amazing all star strictly swing partner, Sheven Kekoolani. Honestly I was pretty surprised that he didn’t already have a partner when I asked him about it and I am so glad I asked! That was the most fun I had in a strictly. The music was awesome, the connection was totally there, and I just relaxed and danced. And we won! What a delightful surprise to get that text when we landed in Houston! 🙂 So thanks to all my dance partners over the weekend. Can’t wait to dance with y’all again soon!

So proud of all of our students and fellow SSQQ staff that attended with us. They did fantastic! Amy, Leah and Shane all made novice JJ finals – I believe it was also the first time for Amy and Leah (and out of over 60 followers!) Leah came in 9th, Shane 5th and Amy 4th! So excited! Amy also came in 3rd in her pro-am with Trent. I know that they have all worked so hard. Additionally Matthew came in 4th in his Intermediate JJ and 1st in his ProAM JJ. Troy also came in 2nd in his Intermediate JJ. Even though we didn’t have a huge group there, we definitely represented Houston very well!

Next for us is Houston Rocks and The Challenge, complete with another Robert Royston intensive. Can’t wait!!!


Meet Me in St. Louis Dance Championships 2013


I’ve had a few days to recover from lost luggage and broken cars to finally reflect on the weekend in St. Louis.  It was our first time there and we had a great time!

I believe this was Katie Hicks and Crystal Auclair’s first time as event directors at this event, and they did a great job.  I think it really helps to have long time competitors as event directors – there are just certain little nuances that you are probably more aware of because you’ve been there so many time before.  Like having plenty of space for private lessons and for dance practice.  I thought the event was run well, and took advantage of the idancemobile app to keep dancers on top of any scheduling changes.  

I enjoyed the pro staff that was there – I even got to dance with a couple that I had never danced with before this time! I really liked that there was plenty of down time for lunch and dinner.  Granted this is a smaller event with fewer comps, but I thought it was scheduled well.  The hotel was very nice and the hotel restaurant had good food that wasn’t too crazy expensive.  I do wish that there were more food options outside of the hotel within walking distance, but that is a minor complaint.  Being close the airport with a free shuttle is a big plus as well!

This is definitely an event that we will plan to return to in the future.  Great job, Katie and Crystal! 

Dallas DANCE 2013



I’ve had a couple of days now to recover, although I did have to go back to work on Tuesday.  I used take that Tuesday off – something I need to remember for next year!

Dallas DANCE has long been a favorite event of ours and we were definitely looking forward to competing and seeing some of our best friends, both in and out of the dance community.  We were aware of some drama and rumors that were floating around which I think effected the energy levels early in the weekend.  By Sunday, however, the energy in the ballroom was as electric as it ever was!  Sunday was a great show from the novices to the all stars, with a sharp teams division, and some Phenomenal exciting performances in Cabaret, ending with one of the best invitational JJ divisions I’ve seen in a long time.  I mean that sincerely and not just because Trent was dancing in it for the first time.  🙂

It was also a weekend of some personal triumphs for both of us.  We both get a bit insecure from time to time about our competition status as we aren’t getting any younger and sometimes we wonder if we can keep up!  It was only my 2nd time to make finals in a jack and jill at this event at any level and my first time to make strictly finals ever!  To have done both at the same time was so exciting and so shocking.  And then to have placed in both (5th in JJ, 3rd in SS) was just icing on the cake.  Thank you so much for all my dance partners for taking care of me: Tommy, Shane, Byron, Mike, and Jay in JJ and Jeff in SS!  It was also my first time taking the floor as a pro at Dallas Dance in the Female ProAm division.  The last time I was on the floor in a proam routine was with Trent in 2007!  I was a little nervous, but as usual when the music started to play, the nerves went away.  Matthew did a fantastic job – his best performance of our routine yet!

Trent also had his firsts.  He is now a back to back winner of All Star JJ in Dallas!  ANd he had to dance twice – and he won 3rd with his other partner!  He was also invited to dance in the invitational JJ – a big honor at Dallas Dance, and a goal of his for over 20 years.  He drew the incredibly talented Stevie Blakely and they proceeded to have one of the best dances I’ve ever seen from Trent.  And they came in 6th!  Amazing for going up against some of the best of the best in the country in WCS.  I was supremely proud and happy!

Of course the best parts of the weekend were always laughing in our suite with some of our best friends and just getting to spend time with people who like you for you.  Absolutely the best thing to have come out of learning how to dance – my friends who have become like family to me.  /sappy sap sap/

Till next year!