Picking a Pro to do Pro/Am...

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by swan, Sep 5, 2005.

  1. swan

    swan Member

    In the other thread, Waltzer posed a question in regards to how to advance to Open level in Pro/Am. I was also just talking with a friend who is trying to decide if she should switch teacher to do pro/am.

    And...after watching Embassy's Pro/Am comp (this was the first time I actually paid attention to all age divisions Open level in both standard & latin), I've got some thoughts here...

    I used to hold the belief that you must have a very well known pro to do well in Pro/Am comps.

    And after watching the comps this past weekend, I still hold that belief to certain degree...HOWEVER...

    For those ladies or men who really cannot land a partner at the moment and really wish to compete and be taken seriously as Pro/Am competitor, I think what I observe is as follows:

    Your Pro, no doubt, needs to be a decent dancer in that category. However, the 'closer' your own level is to your instructor, the nicer the package will be, and the less 'Pro/Am' look you will end up!

    That seems obvious. But most of the folks in Pro/Am seems to try to just pick the best named pro to compete with, especially the ones who can afford them! Just so that they could 'win' or place better.

    The 'closer gap' & less 'Pro/Am'ish dancing, I want to put examples, and it's not to degrade the pros, but more meant as compliment to the students. The prime examples I saw were 4 couples in 3 age divisons and 2 different styles:

    Standard:
    B division, Jim Maranto & Susie Nieswanda
    A division, Denis Generalov & Rebecca Melton
    C division, Gherman Mustac & Liz Apesos.

    Latin:
    B division, Olga & student (Winner)

    These Pros are all excellent dancers and definitely are still much (if not loads) better than their students in terms of the level, but they are not the absolute top professionals that are in top 24 of Blackpool Professional category.

    But exactly because of that, the gap is not nearly as wide as those top pros w/ their students & the outcome of the dancing was less like Pro/Am and in fact, it's more pleasing to the eyes (at least to mine :lol: ) The Am ladies or men had a chance to actually express themselves better on the floor as well as carrying their own weight.

    I see one common problem w/ some of (not all...) the truly top pros in the Pro/Am comps. They are too into themselves looking good. They'd be holding up the best frame & moving well, and then at times, pause there to make their students do poses (or in lady teachers' case, they just do poses themselves w/ these men standing there looking really odd...) which to me looked so much more artificial and less dynamic than the aforementioned couples.

    The end result of that, a lot of the AM w/ these top pros are simply being looked upon as 'carried' or backled through the floor.

    Now, with that said, there are exceptions. The winners of both Latin & Standard A divisions & their respective runner-ups were all partnered with top pros, and their looks were less Pro/Am than the rest. That again I attribute to the excellent dancing of the students. But that's not the 'norm' in Pro/Am. It's more the exceptions.

    The other problem I see with these top pros - well, we all know that pro/am is expensive, and that's exactly why the pros will be doing that. Sometimes I see working w/ some of (not all) these top pros would be dealing w/ their enormous egoes (and female top pros have them too!) Now Amateur partners' egoes are difficult to deal with already. Pros are even tougher.

    So my advice to my friend this afternoon when we discussed if she should switch pro - my answer was yes. You need a pro who's probably less famed, but still very good dancer & with good teaching skills & enjoys teaching you & competing with you to show you off, than some pro w/ ego like $LKJH&^*&.

    And the less famed pro would be a little lower level, but that will narrow the gap between the teacher & the student's dancing - which IMHO, produces much better 'couple' dancing.

    OK - enough rambling. That's my wisdom of the day! 8)
     
  2. lynn

    lynn New Member

    Wow, great advice! :applause:
     
  3. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    One thing you'd really need to take into consideration when planning how to spend that kind of money is to decide exactly what your goal is: to win sooner? or to really work on dance skills either for their own merit or in hopes of future competition achievement? On a day to day basis, that decision can imply some very different things, and it would be important to have a pro (or really for a dancer in any division, a teacher) compatible with one's goals.

    It's not uniquely a pro-am thing, or even an amateur thing either - you see the same issues in professional competitions, especially when someone famous takes a less experienced partner - pressure to keep up in the obvious areas brings results that satisfy the audience, but neglect of some basic elements leaves judges subtly shaking their heads.
     
  4. mummsie

    mummsie Member

    Hi, Here in Australia we have only just starting the pro-am thing as an actual event rather than a fun thing. It doesn't cost us any extra to dance pro-am at a competition as the actual entry is free to dance. We pay an entry fee to gain entry into the actual place which is maybe a couple of dollars cheaper than the public entry fee if you are dancing.
    What we have here are individual events. That is in each level from juvenile to senior we have events at each competition. This means that if you don't have a partner but still want to dance you can get dressed up and dance with anybody willing to partner you. This could be anybody from your studio. I have seen fathers dancing with their children, I have danced with my daughter on several occasions when she was younger and didn't have a partner. You also see young boys dancing with senior ladies and vice versa. The person being judged wears the number whether it be the female or male. This way you still get to dance but it only costs you the entry fee into the competition. Its also a good way of finding a new partner as often people see somebody they would like to dance with. Just my 2 cents worth - Gayle
     
  5. swan

    swan Member

    Well, I learn something new every day...

    That's an interesting way of doing pro/am in OZ :)

    Back to my original post...I know some top pros probably would not agree with some of the advice & remarks...

    And I did learn from one of them in terms of their perspective which I wanted to offer here as I think it's valuable.

    A lot of my remarks was trying to generalize pro/am, but in fact, it may be more applicable to the 'standard' world Vs. latin.

    The 'carrying' or backleading would probably applied more to Standard folks than latin.

    It's probably harder to cover up for students' mistakes in latin than standard. After all, you don't have the control of the student's body in your frame like in standard's (unless I guess in latin close hold positions...which you don't have a lot of those in the Open level).

    Oh, and...one very encouraging piece of news from this top pro :) There are top pros out there (including this top pro I was exchanging msg with) charging a more reasonable price tag to compete with. So another word of advice - shop around...But again, sometimes you're in an area that may not have enough supply of good pros & thus the choice are limited.

    Good luck to all who will be entering the pro/am world...
     
  6. Purr

    Purr Well-Known Member

    Lots of great advice, swan! :D
     
  7. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    One thought: it may not matter all that much to the quality of your performance who you are dancing with, but it makes a huge amount of difference who you study with. Not necessarily the most famous, but there is a huge difference in the degree to which teachers can effectively teach. Having a pro partner who doesn't look orders of magintude out of your league might help in some ways, but if that means someone who doesn't have all that much insight into teaching you, that could be a problem. On the other hand, some 'overlooked' pros do have a quite a bit to teach.

    And there is the possibility to have a teacher different than the pro you compete with, perhaps even someone who works with you both together. But it's expensive, and the pro you compete with has to be willing to go along with it.
     
  8. saludas

    saludas New Member

    I think you saw something different that what you thought you saw.

    The 'closer to the student level' pros are not lower level at all, but merely doing a good job of 'matching' the student's limitations. Remember, the difference between the 24 and the 48 may be ONE POINT.

    The pros you commented on are top dancers. The students (sorry for the knock) are nowhere near their levels - it's just that the pro gave them choreography that made them look better and the pro danced choreography in a way that made the student have the prerequisite 'easy time' they were looking for. Give these pros credit for doing a good job with their students. it's the 'name' pros that disregard the student's limitations, or their aquiescing to the student's egos that creates the typical 'proam look'.

    Don't think for a minute that a pro dancing proam isn't dancing to their best - but remember, a good pro in this situation will not overshadow the student. After all, the pro dances more in a day than the student does in a week (or more) - and has been doing it for much longer, with much more at stake than their big hotel weekend - they have to do it to SURVIVE. The pros you commend SHOULD be commended - for doing the right thing. Don't 'insult' them by inferring that their 'dancing down' is a mirror of their ultimate abilities - it only shows the pro's compassion and consideration of the student's limitations. The ones being dragged, for instance, are students showing their lack of swing or stride, for instance, not the pro's limitations in any way.

    The look that top pros have of 'look at me' is actually the real look in dancing - it's just that their pro partners match their intensity and projection, so it sort of 'equalizes' the big look. Proam students are not 'there' in that area. What you are seeing when you see the 'big topline pro' and the 'dragged across the floor student' is a much more accurate reality than the pros that you call 'closer to their students' - but all it shows is that the 'big topline pros' are not as good actors as the folks you commend.

    The proam student gets credit for trying to strive - and, after all, they are spending mucho bucks for that 5 minutes in that hotel. But don't infer that a pro is 'close to their level'.
     
  9. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    a few thoughts:

    Swan-- I am so appreciative of your assessment...and I am heartened because I see my pro doing all of the things a good pro does....he WILL NOT hold me up and he is a task master that I do my part and I have only been dancing with him for 8 months....sometimes I think he forgets that I am so new....I know he has to "dance down" to match me but I believe it is, as you say, a skill to match your partner so "dancing down" isn't really an accurate term... to do the basics well is something that I hear many advanced people admit they could use more time on....there are some pros who are arrogant and won't limit themselves...who take their students into their arms like "yawn, I can't believe I am stuck with you , but here goes"...not only does my pro act like I am his queen...he expects me to rise to the occasion....and his view is...if you are willing to plop down the money and put in the effort, the least that I can do is appreciate you...

    to that end, Saludas....granted I do not know what the average student is like but I think you over -generalize as well by much of your characterization of students.....I do not look at comps as nice weekend hotels stays....and I am willing to bet that I spend more time seriously practicing than my pro.....last week I took 8 hours of privates, two hours of groups , 7 hours of cross training at the gym and at least two hours of practice 5 of the 7 days of the week.....I am completely aware that my pro has work to do and will make me look good no matter what but my goal is to match him however elusive that goal may be....


    I spend every spare moment in my garage praticing my fanny off to match him, to dance the higher level of technique, to hold myself up etc....

    as john edwards said in the 2004 primaries " objects in your rearview mirror may be closer than you think"....I another year or two....I am going to give that pro a run for his money 8)

    but part of the reason that I have that view is because my pro expects it...and doesn't have the attitude that it is his job to simply make me look good....
     
  10. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Because Blackpool qarterfinalists seldom do Pro/Am. ;)

    Partly because they're almost all based outside the US.
     
  11. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Perhaps not in the cases listed, but in some cases this is debateable. Top amateurs turning pro tend to shortly end up fairly near the level of many of the currently competing pros who do pro-am (which is to say they join the other ex-amateurs in the rising star final), and I can think of at least one pro who arguably might have a better shot at achieving his goals if partnered with one of his recent students than he does with his current, rather uncooperative pro partner. (Not because the student would be at his level, but because it would be a partnership that could take better advantage of his skills)
     
  12. saludas

    saludas New Member

    I see now that you are a 'nebwie' and that your assessment of what you saw is indeed not what 'is'...

    And a smile come to my face when I realized that you think that after 8 months you are 'almost there' getting as good as your pro teacher ("another year or two').

    BTW, 8 hours of lessons is not the same as 8 hours of practice, and group classes are nice but you are still not practicing. Ditto 'cross training'.

    I commend your enthusiasm. Why not look for an amateur partner? With the money you're spending on lessons, you could afford to travel anywhere in the US for an amateur partnership - and you will benefit much more with another dancer than the paid pro relationship. My 2 cents... and BTW, if your pro does not support your quest for a real partner, than I suggest you RUN. it indicates his loss of the 'gravy train'.
     
  13. mamboqueen

    mamboqueen Well-Known Member

    Maybe she *likes* doing pro/am??!!
     
  14. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    since we have had this conversation before, I am simply going to reiterate --for my own personal edification --that I practice outisde of all of those other activities no less than 10 hours a week some of which includes with my spouse and with other men at my studio....and that my pro is my friend and is proud not threatend by Am men wanting to dance with me....having said that, I would rather pay to dance with my pro than to spend money travelling away from my family or dancing with some guy (who isn't as good) for free....I am happy to be his gravy train...it is a mutually gratifying exploitation :lol: :lol: :lol:
     
  15. saludas

    saludas New Member

    Sure. Or maybe she doesn't have anyone to point her in the right direction?

    I just read HER comment that she IS her teacher's 'gravy train'.

    Honestly, after 8 months, there is very little perspective here. This forum is worldy - there are many views, and many perspectives. And also, wisdom. Just saying 'do what you enjoy' is not really helping someone. The discussion was about how amateur dancers look with teachers on the floor - I maintain they look that way because they are so underequipped to really do partner dance. Dancing and lessoning with an amateur partner is harder, of course, but ultimately is more like real dancing. I sort of think that even the most enthusiastic proam student will want a higher level of dancing experience sooner or later (hopefully before the proam drains her bank account LOL).

    Not a good analogy, but - people enjoy smoking too, but the good and bad of THAT are needed to make a good decision. Being mean to someone because you enjoy it is not a reason to do something. Likewise, stealing things ar the like. As I said, probably not good analogies, but still valid.

    Realistically, 8 hours a week of proam, after only 8 months? There's a bell going off in MY head.
     
  16. saludas

    saludas New Member

    Many amateur dancers are considerably more accomplished than some pros.

    Maybe you are looking at social dancers in your area? Look instead outside socials and your hub...

    Ask around for competitive dancers. After 8 months, you're still at prebronze level - you should be able to find many competitive trained dancers higher level than you. Trust me, your dancing will improve exponentially...
     
  17. mamboqueen

    mamboqueen Well-Known Member

    Well, you gotta work on getting those bells fixed...

    Seriously, I think others would find your comments more useful if they didn't come across as so utterly condescending. People make their choices for whatever reasons are good for them at the time; you may not think they're smart, but who cares what anyone else really thinks? I'm more willing to take advice from, and listen to, people who are open minded and don't think what they do is the only REAL game in town.

    But, that's just me.
     
  18. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    appreciate your opinion...truly... but am NOT at prebronze level and if it were not for anonymity I would direct your attention to the results from my last comp.... where people are not paid to stroke me...where you would be able to observe that I beat people in the full bronze scholarship who have been dancing for decades.... 8) perhaps their pros are just not holding their pathetic selves up quite at well as my pro is 8) ...but then my money grubbing pro :lol: is so much more highly motivated...i am off now in my rose colored glasses onto the good ship lollipop where I will sail off to my useless workout which won't be nearly as useful as dancing with a man I don't have to pay for.....truly, if I am niave then I am happily ignorant and appreciate your kind efforts
     
  19. saludas

    saludas New Member

    Congrats, tho doesn't it make you think a little when your competition has been dancing for DECADES and LOSING to someone dancing for 8 months?
     
  20. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    IT MAKES ME THINK THAT THEY ARE THE ONES YOU NEED TO BE TALKING TO :lol:
     

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