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

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

  1. latingal

    latingal Well-Known Member

    I do believe that Generalist was trying to make a point of how to "change the structure of the game" to make pro-am pros more "interchangable" and perhaps less cost inelastic. I don't believe the point was to say that pro-ams can't lead or follow. So let's not go there?
    Generalist likes this.
  2. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Generalist's proposal was based on the assumption that pros lock their students in through choreography. To the extent that lead/follow ameliorates that, it shows that Generalist's proposal is unlikely to work, so the discussion is on point.
  3. latingal

    latingal Well-Known Member

    I believe that he was talking about having jack and jills or lead/follow requirements, rather than just the current state of pre-choreographed routines used at ballroom comps (though as debmc noted alot of syllabus students do use lead/follow).

    So my interpretation was that he was NOT stating that pro-am ams can't follow or lead....THAT is the discussion I wish to avoid in this thread.
  4. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I think this issue, of what I would call lead/follow style, is actually much less applicable to pro-am, because one tends to have much less practice time with a pro-am instructor than one does with an amateur partner.

    While I haven't grabbed another pro and competed with her cold, there was one time when my regular instructor had another student with seniority over me, and thus quite reasonably danced the scholarship level at a particular competition with him instead of me. I had a few weeks notice of that, and still wanted to do the scholarship level at that competition, so with my regular instructor's knowledge, I entered it with another, less experienced, instructor, after taking a few lessons with that less experienced instructor. The result was that I and the less experienced instructor beat the other student and my regular instructor in that scholarship event.

    Now, I would certainly like to think that I actually was better than the other student, but he was certainly at least comparable. I think the fact that I could beat him with only a few hours lessons/practice with a new instructor shows that there already isn't, in fact, much of a barrier to switching instructors.

    Since there already isn't much of a barrier for switching instructors, there isn't much room for improving the situation by reducing that barrier.
  5. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    Yes, that was my point. Thanks!
  6. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    This forum is full of threads about how tough it is to change their pro. I find it odd you would deny such a thing.

    I'm surely not suggesting that reducing the barriers for switching pros would improve competitions or the dancers involved, but it would drop the costs.

    Personally I think it's a very positive thing that top dance pros make a decent living, so I don't necessarily see a need to change how things are done. Reducing the barrier for pure lead/follow dancing would force pros and the establishment to make less profit, but that might not be a good thing for the dance community. Free market reforms often do more damage than anticipated.

    Things will not change until there is not enough people to pay the high price of entry to the sport. Apparently there are plenty of people who are willing to pay whatever it costs, so prices aren't go to drop anytime soon.
  7. Generalist

    Generalist Active Member

    Yes, I believe choreography ties students to their pros. But, it is a win/win relationship! Choreographed dances look better and they are more exciting to watch, which in theory should increase audience sizes. These dances are good for the pro, good for promoters, and good for the dancers whose egos are being fed by dancing better and wowing onlookers.
  8. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Ok, I'm going to try to avoid the lead-follow discussion, but I really do feel that you're proceeding from a faulty premise. I'm certainly not suggesting that it's an entirely trivial thing to change pros. I'm suggesting that choreography is, at most, a minor factor in that difficulty.

    As I see it, there are two basic cases here. If we're talking about changing out pros on the fly, I think the difficulty comes more from a matter of connection than choreography. Even given simplified choreography (and really, fancy choreography is fun, but it's rarely a determining factor in competition results), it's harder to dance with someone you've never danced with before than it is with someone you've danced with for months or years. I can dance feathers and three steps with my am partner better than with certain ladies who are, pretty objectively, better dancers than she is. I've spent a (relative) lot of time dancing with her. It makes a difference. It doesn't necessarily take a huge amount of time to build up a really good connection, but it's not nothing either.

    On the other hand, when you're looking to change pros out in the long run. Learning new choreography is a small thing. When I switched to dancing silver standard with my pro, getting my new routines took all of two weeks. And I had never danced a step of silver prior. That was followed up with months of technique work, trying to get me to dance them reasonably well, but the choreography itself? Not such a big deal. I think the bigger issue is simply that not all areas are blessed with an overabundance of quality professional dancers. It's really a pretty limited pool of individuals. This, imvho, would be a much better tack to take for your jack-and-jill arguments.
    Gorme likes this.
  9. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    The reasons they think it's tough to change their pro is not because of the choreo issue you bring up. It's either an emotional issue for them (I can't change, I've been with him so long!), or a supply and demand issue (there are no other teachers who dance X in my area).
  10. kckc

    kckc 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."
    "No, follows can't adjust unless they are dancing with their own pro".
    Those are direct quotes from upthread, so yes, his point was exactly that pro-ams can't lead or follow. And yes, that is a whole different debate.

    The question original topic was "Is Pro Am becoming a sport of only the wealthy?" To which I say, as others have, probably, but of course there are always exceptions, and money doesn't guarantee you good results.
    Warren J. Dew likes this.
  11. ChaChaMama

    ChaChaMama Well-Known Member

    Getting back to the original question: Pro-am IS a sport for the well-off to ultra-wealthy. I agree with Warren J. Dew: "becoming" is not the verb I would use. There's no need to bring in the present participle! It is and has always been, and will continue to be.

    The median household income in the US as of the last census was just over 50K. We have one person on this thread describe a level of involvement that easily crests over that median household income...and who rightly points out that there are people who spend quite a good deal more! So is this an activity for the wealthy? Asked and answered! Even someone taking 1 private lesson a week for a highly reasonable $75 and dancing 5 single dances and 1 scholarship at 3 local comps a year in a rented dress would probably be spending in the neighborhood of 7K-10K, and that is a pretty optimistic estimate. I wish I could begin to tell you how having the freedom to spend 10K on a hobby would strike the person earning 27K a year. (Median salary for a female worker!) To the average earner, being able to spend 7-10K on a hobby would seem like an unbelievable luxury. Statements like "Well, I spend 20K a year on my hobby, but we barely ever go out to eat!" would not garner a whole lot of understanding from someone who can do neither. Plenty of people around here have made sacrifices much larger than that to keep a roof over their head. I know students working 2-3 jobs--some of them truly awful jobs--to be able to stay in college (expensive even with scholarships and loans).
    This is not to make anyone who dances pro-am (a population that includes me) feel badly about how much we spend. It is simply to point out that this entire conversation is taking place from a position of immense privilege, so I feel like I need to keep things in proportion. If you dance pro-am at all, your financial situation probably does not include agonizing sleepless nights trying to figure out whether to pay the rent or that overdue medical bill.

    So sure, I notice that there are people who can and are willing to spend multiple times more than I do on this hobby and can buy custom made dresses every year. I also recognize my own immensely privileged position. Disposable income to spend on a hobby? That's nice work if you can get it. Do I occasionally wish I could spend more and feel good about that choice? If I'm honest, yes, sometimes. Do I also feel quite lucky to have money to spend on a passion at all? You bet. I intend to be appreciative of what I do have and try to minimize the time spent envying others who have more. I am amazingly fortunate to have been able to dance with my teacher over the past 5 years. Even if I never got to spend another dime on dancing or had a horrible injury that precluded further participation, I would appreciate what a gift this experience has been. Thank you, Life!
  12. ChaChaMama

    ChaChaMama Well-Known Member

    One other thought:

    For those who cannot avoid being consumed with the financial and political aspects of pro-am, there are many, many competitive activities for adults that you can do at a fairly high level at a much, much lower cost. Running is one of them. From 5ks to ultra marathons, the cost of running as a sport is much lower, and it has a popularity around the world that ballroom will never see and does not even aspire to see. There are plenty of fun events, too, including color runs, tough mudders, runs in costumes, runs that raise money for great causes, runs that end with some pretty banging parties. Running also doesn't have the subjective judging aspect. Of course, it also doesn't have the awesome music or the bling. But there are trade-offs to everything.
  13. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Hear, hear, CCM! I wish I could give that post multiple likes.
    ChaChaMama likes this.
  14. ChaChaMama

    ChaChaMama Well-Known Member

    Aww, thanks Jude! That made my day.
  15. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    and half of those leads are delusional about their own skill
    stash and nikkitta like this.
  16. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Well-Known Member

    I am a social and showcase dancer. I can testify that the comp trained standard followers can follow very well if they social dance also. and they are very good. You can see their development as they social dance more often, they get used to dancing with us non-pros.
    Gorme likes this.
  17. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Except s/he flat out said "pro-am ams can only follow/lead their pro." Which is patently, demonstrably, false (I don't even know "my" routines on a conscious level, I've danced with Larinda's students and they not only lead but have a beautiful, floaty lead any halfway decent follower can feel). Like Warren and fasc said, that's the kind of assertion you generally hear from 1. another student who 2. has a higher opinion of their own leading ability than is warranted and are blaming their inability to lead the other student on her being unable to follow rather than on their not giving her anything to follow.
    fascination and Bailamosdance like this.
  18. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    and the best kind.....ZOMBIE RUNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Joe, Miss Silly and ChaChaMama like this.
  19. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I haven't seen any threads about how difficult it is to change pros as you describe.

    What I have seen are threads about how difficult it is to find another professional instructor who is as good as a student's existing instructor. So what does your theory say there? Go to an inferior instructor and offer to pay less money per lesson so you can afford more lessons? You might get more lessons that way, but given they're from an less qualified instructor, I don't think that strategy will normally improve your competition results.

    Or you could take the same number of the lower quality lessons at the lower cost, accepting the worse results, I suppose, but I don't think that's what the original poster is looking for. Anyone can save money already by cutting back on the number of lessons they take.
    There are price/quality tradeoffs and usually product differentiation in any free market. It's hard to imagine a market less regulated than the existing pro-am competition market.
    it's a competitive activity that participants get passionate about. Of course people are going to do everything they can to improve, including spending as much as they can possibly afford if that benefits their results.
  20. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    And yet, I've known secretaries who made below median income who did pro-am competition. In most or all of the years when I was actively competing, I spent more than a third of my income - the fraction your numbers illustrate - on it, and in some of those years my income was below the median.

    Does it help to have more money? Sure. Do you have to be "rich", whatever that means? Not if you're sufficiently single minded about it. If you're not careful, ballroom can suck up all the money you have, however much or little that is.

    I suspect what's contributing to the perception that things are getting worse is two things, neither of which is directly related to ballroom.

    First, there has been some increase in income in the top brackets in recent years - roughly since the crash. That may only be among the top 0.01% in income or whatever, but it's still a noticeable number of people compared to the size of the competitive ballroom community. So there may actually have been an increase in the number of competitors who are able to afford a large number of lessons and ballgowns.

    More importantly, though, the real median income has been eroding for the same few years, as wages have not kept up with inflation. When a ballroom competitor has to pay more for food without having more money to pay for it, it's obviously going to squeeze the competition budget. And when your ballroom budget is getting squeezed, you're more likely to notice others who don't seem to be facing the same squeeze. That may be true even if the others are also getting squeezed, and you just don't happen to know about it.

    I don't think there's much the ballroom community can do about those things - ballroom is not going to fix the economy by itself.
    debmc likes this.

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