Ballroom Dance > Is Pro Am becoming a sport of only the wealthy?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by debmc, Jul 5, 2013.

  1. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    So here is a quote from a studio owner on a page of dance teachers on FB. It illustrates quite well that the truth of the matter is there is far more dancing OUTSIDE of pro-am and competitions. It is quite silly that we assign the value of a pro based on how they perform in one tiny aspect of their career. NDCA competition dancing is such a SMALL piece of the pie when it comes to "dancing".

    There is so much to do with your dancing without shelling out half of your yearly salary.
    wooh, Lyra, Mr 4 styles and 3 others like this.
  2. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    Larinda, I agree. I would also add that I don't think that this board is representative of the typical dance student. The great majority of people who post on this board appear to be competitive dancers. However, I don't think that they represent the typical person who dances. Certainly, they are not the typical dancer at the independent studio I go to. The typical dancer and the bread and butter dancers at the studio I go to are social dancers. They and I could care less about being competitive dancers. And I sure ain't going to pay the money the competitive dancers that post here pay-and neither are the great majority of the students at the studio I go about to pay that kind of money.
  3. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    Unfortunately the forum software doesn't let me "like" that quote more than once. The "and not looking back" part rings true for my social circle outside of ballroom. Another one: “It is becoming very difficult as a coach or as a teacher to divorce the requirements of dancing from being competitive.” That was Peter Maxwell in a Blackpool lecture I saw a clip of from 1993. In the last 10 years, perhaps the tense of "becoming" has changed?

    It also goes the other way: not only are social dancers expected to fit certain parts of the competitive mold (e.g. frame), they are not taught certain useful or enjoyable techniques that are assumed to be too complicated or hard, which drives the more interested students toward expensive competitive dancing. Whereas in those other social dance forms mentioned, there are intermediate and advanced workshops that teach social dancers better dancing, even if they don't compete, which creates a different culture and atmosphere.

    Personally, I would rather do social ballroom with a relaxed hold and proper swing and sway, than in a stiff frame, stock upright with no swing and no sway. The latter is what seems to be taught as "correct" technique to lower level dancers. Fortunately I have a practice partner as there is no way I could afford pro-am.
  4. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    like and agree...that being said, OP wants to compete and is only posing the question about how competitive one can be without shelling out half their salary ...which we have probably answered to death :)...
    debmc likes this.
  5. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    and that is fine and is a great subject for a different thread
    latingal likes this.
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    again, an excellent post which I think we could pursue further in its own thread :)...I do think there is a disconnect between how some instructors teach their competitive students versus their social students, some of which is a good thing and some of which would make me hesitant to say that my goals were social even if they were...when I have time, perhaps I will try, without messing it up, to move these posts to their own thread
  7. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    Since ballroom competitions are almost always choreographed, ams will always be dependent on their pros for the dance. They simply can't dance with another pro that doesn't know the choreography. Therefore the ams are captive to their pro so market forces don't come into play.

    If comps were lead/follow (like social dancing) and ams could compete with any good pro all sorts of costs would go down. For one thing, competitors could get pros to bid against each other for dances, and that would introduce market forces into the formula of costs.

    Given all of that -- the aristocrats in dancesport will be sure to never give lead/follow a competitive chance because they are part of the "good ol' boy network" that conspires with pros to keep the money pouring in.

    Another way to reduce cost and keep choreography would be to require everyone to do the same pattern dance. Then any pro could dance with any am. Of course that's not likely to happen either.

    So, dancesport will stay a game for rich people because that's how the system was designed. Of course ordinary people can scrape and spend their precious money but they will always be at a disadvantage.

    Most other sports are the same. Just look at how few top tennis players, bowlers, or golfers ever come from lower middle class families.
  8. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    Another way to reduce costs would be to introduce Jack and Jill competitions to ballroom. That wouldn't be a popular choice because most competitive ballroom dancers don't know how to do freestyle lead/follow.

    USAdance has tried some J&J comps but I'm not sure if they are being well received.
  9. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    IMV, alot if ProAm is lead/follow until you get to the open divisions. Not everyone has a routine.
    Gorme likes this.
  10. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    Appreciate the solutions, but not sure where you get the idea that we don't know how to lead/follow. That is a big part of my instruction during my lessons.
    stash, danceronice and Bailamosdance like this.
  11. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    And in my experience, even where the competitors (pro-am or otherwise) might have competition routines, that doesn't preclude them from being perfectly competent leads or follows. In my experience, most syllabus level competitors do have routines, but choreography is ultimately a pretty small thing and adjustments can be made pretty quickly. Admittedly I'm a lead, which is at least a little bit different. But I'm more than capable of flaking out on my routine in the middle of the heat. The ladies I dance with follow and we eventually get back on, no worries. I'd bet a shiny nickle that most good pro-am follows could adjust reasonably well as well.
    RiseNFall and debmc like this.
  12. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    It's an entirely different debate whether pro/ams do lead/follow or just go through steps. I hope my comments don't cause the subject of the thread to wander off subject.

    My main point is that an Am is captive to their pro because the pro is the only one who can do his/her unique choreography. The net result is that the pros control the market because the ams have almost no bargaining power. Sure, the am can leave their pro but it will cost them having to learn new choreography and their new pro won't have any incentive to ease up on the price.

    There is little debate that not as much priority in judging is given to lead/follow than to flashy choreography and moves. The reason the priorities are the way they are is because pros want and the ruling hierarchy to be in control of the cost of comps. That's the way the system works, for good or bad. It is what it is.
  13. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    No, follows can't adjust unless they are dancing with their own pro. And pros have no incentive to learn the choreography that somebody else designed. IF the ams were truly following they wouldn't need choreography and therefore the pro they dance with would be mostly irrelevant.

    So the ams (mostly follows) are stuck with the pro that designed their choreography. They can gripe all they want about the cost of the pro, but they are not in a position to demand a lower price.
  14. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    That is a gross generalization. I myself, as well as a bunch of my peers and friends, absolutely do NOT fit that assumption.

    I teach lead and follow, my competitive men, up until open level, do not compete with strict routines. And when routines ARE taught it is so the student can be as rehearsed and polished as possible... so they have the best chance of not only making the final, but winning.

    My students (women included so there goes your theory it is about them not dancing with other teachers) pay my fees not because they are tethered to me, but instead because they want what I sell.
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  15. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    If you think lead and follow is not part of a competitor's arsenal of movement, what is the competitor supposed to do when confronted with other couples on the floor?
    danceronice likes this.
  16. nikkitta

    nikkitta Well-Known Member

    Sadly, my first instructor, during my first Pro-Am experience, didn't move. He waited. And also waited until the music phrasing was appropriate, which turned us as a couple into a roadblock for everyone else on the floor. I was horrified.

    re: lead/follow, I'm a huge proponent, but I have heard many times that "so-and-so can only follow her Pro". That's sad.
  17. dancelvr

    dancelvr Well-Known Member

    (Mods...please forgive my straying away from the subject of this thread. )

    I don't know if I can adequately express how offended I am by these remarks. My DP considers leading and following skills a priority. As a result, I have been able to not only follow him when we veer away from our choreography, but I've had the pleasure of dancing with several competative amature dancers on the social floor, and had no trouble at all following any of them. Such generalities are insulting.
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  18. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    All the male pro instructors I know can lead their students perfectly well, and the female pro instructors teach their students a sufficiently good lead that they can follow them as well. I've heard a lot more stories about people forgetting their routines and just using lead and follow in pro-am than in professional or amateur competition.

    Also, learning the choreography is the smallest part of dance instruction; 90% of the time is spent on technique. A open level pro-am student switching instructors might have to learn some new choreography, but that would be over in the first few lessons, and it would be back to technique.

    And I say all that despite not being that much of a fan of either pro-am or routines, myself.
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  19. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    When I hear that, and I grant I've heard it quite a bit, it's always from another student, and not from another pro of the same level as the pro in question.

    Well, duh. Of course a student is going to follow her pro better than she follows other students of her own level. The whole point of paying a pro in pro-am is that the pro is a lot better than the student is. That means the pro is going to be better at leading, which makes it easier for the student to follow.
  20. Leon Theou

    Leon Theou Active Member

    This is a vast oversimplification. Yes, high level routines are usually choreographed, and yes, this limits the interchangeability of pros. On the other hand, there is nothing preventing an amateur from leaving a studio whose fees are too expensive, and getting new choreography with a new pro. Sure, if I dance pro-am with a given pro, and she falls down the stairs and breaks her leg on the morning of the competition, I will not necessarily be able to grab another pro and compete with her (I am not sure if that's even allowed, but let's assume it is) and have it look like I'm dancing with my regular teacher. If I know some basic figures, though, I could at the very least get around the floor and might even get a mark or two. The same is true of amateurs though. When I was actively competing (which was on the collegiate level), I danced entirely lead-follow, but I still did better dancing with my regular partner than with a follower who I had never danced with before, even if she was a good dancer in her own right. When you practice with someone, you begin to get a feel for them; how they respond to your leads, how you fit into each other's frame, how much movement they can produce, etc. That stuff is totally independent of one's knowledge of a given choreographed routine.

    Like I said before, there are definite benefits to having a standing partnership, even in an environment where the norm is lead-follow (and it has been noted that in lower levels, most of the dancing is improvisational anyway). Because the nature of pro-am is that amateur students are partnering their teachers, it would be foolish to pass on the opportunity to compete with a partner who knows you, the way you dance, and the extent of your dancing knowledge.

    A conspiracy, really? Aside from the fact that we have established the existence, if not predominance of lead-follow in the syllabus levels, without concrete proof, it is far more reasonable to assume that there is a serial escalation in prices, which is progressively passed down the chain until it reaches the end consumer. It's like sales tax; the customer is not the one being taxed, the store is, they just add the 6% to the price of the item to make up for it.

    That sounds pretty much like New Vogue, which is danced mostly in Australia.

    While I agree that the end result is that a relative lack of wealth tends to put one at a disadvantage compared to those who have more, but that advantage does not mean that a less financially-fortunate dancer can never do better than their wealthier competition. Money can't buy you skill, and it can't buy you dedication. You can make up for what you lack in financial resources by practicing that much harder and that much longer. For example, I recently went from the substantial breadth and value of the New England collegiate ballroom scene, where I could pay about $100 a year for weekly group lessons, along with the collected knowledge of anyone more advanced than me, and then $60-80 for the occasional private lesson with very good coaches, to an area where there is only one studio available, it does not offer group classes, and charges $90+ per lesson. I know that, being a poor college student with no income, I cannot afford that kind of expense on a regular basis. I also love dancing and want to keep from losing the skills it took me so long to develop, so I do a ton of practicing on my own.
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