Ballroom Dance > Student Challenges Prevalent in the Pro-am Structure

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by latingal, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    This subject was brought up in the lessons thread (the posts have been copied in below), and I thought I'd start this thread for Pro-Am Students who wish to discuss challenges the student dancer faces due to the structure of pro-am (pro takes on the day to day role of teacher and then partner on the comp floor).
  2. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    I've always wondered if this is a by product of pro-am. I have dealt with this issue much as of late.

    Since we do most of our dancing with a "partner" who is higher in skill level then ourselves, and said individual is paid to teach and improve our dancing, positive feedback and/or acknowledgment can get lost in the day to day process of continuing improvement.

    I know in my case, continually hearing about all my faults and none of my progress does nothing for my confidence in my skills (which becomes essential after a certain point on the comp floor). It may be different for others, but until this issue was addressed, I could not bring the quality of dancing to the floor that I wished to.
  3. GGinrhinestones

    GGinrhinestones Well-Known Member

    Wow, what a really interesting topic - probably best not answered here, but I've wondered much the same myself, as often as today. Everything becomes about improvement and getting better, and after a while the "fun factor" disappears. Praise is nice, but it's bigger than that - today, in my lessons, I was able to just relax and enjoy dancing, and I've noticed of late that I don't do that much anymore, because I'm always so focused on improving what I am doing wrong. Often it's because I hear the same things over and over again in lessons - the laundry list of stuff I'm still doing wrong. Or "you're improving, but still need more." I'm all for criticism, but you're right Latingal - at a certain point it starts impacting your confidence and sheer joy of dancing if that is all you ever hear.
  4. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I think also, at least for me, that while I would never want a pro effusive in praise, that when one does have a relative vacuum of positive affirmation, it takes a very strong person to continue to prop themselves up amid a long period of time in which there is only what one hasn't accomplished at the forefront...I find that I do get disheartened and sometimes don't feel like dancing anymore when that burden gets too heavy...and it is usally followed by some time off, because, while I can tell my pro what I need or prefer, I can't make anyone be what they aren't ...but taking a break often gives me a chance to remember how much I still love dancing and it also gives me a chance to take an impartial look at what I HAVE accomplished...that being said, I imagine that I will spend the rest of my dance life, being the weak end of a finanacially procured "psuedo" partnership...absent droves of men knocking at my door making me a better offer, this is the choice I have made so I simply have to do the best I can to be kind to myself
  5. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    GG...I agree. And fasc brings up some great points on this subject as well.

    I don't need a pro/teacher who gushes praise (deserved or undeserved) all the time. I am a serious competitor and I am all about improving my dancing, but the constant criticism (hopefully always constructive) - especially if your lessons are your only opportunity to partner dance - can be damaging to your confidence, enjoyment and longevity of the dancing.

    When you do not receive positive feedback from your pro it can be very hard to continue year after year, slogging away trying to constantly improve. Especially, as fasc pointed out, when you really cannot get an accurate picture yourself as to what level you're really dancing at and if you're making improvements at all.
  6. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    And on another subject of "challenges" of the pro-am structure - one I find that shows up a lot on the comp floor, and one I've experienced quite a bit myself....

    You can see when the student is concentrating so hard on the thousands of things they must do "correctly" that they are no longer dancing - they're going through all the mechanics, but they're not dancing....

    I am fortunate to have both am and pro-am partnerships, and from experience I find that it is much easier to let go and dance with my amateur partner than it is with the pro partner. Something about knowing that your pro partner is taking note of every correction that didn't make it in contributes to the dance paralysis....
  7. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    From my perspective as someone who dances am-am as well as pro-am, I personally don't find one more noteable than the other in terms of postivie affirmation. I mean, I understand the theory, that amateur partners can help prop each other up. But it can definitely go through stretches where it becomes something of an unrewarding slog as well. I mean, we all work at this because we love it, but it is work at times. Plus, while this isn't terribly representative of my own partnerships, I certainly know am-am partnerships where there's a certain amount of, "have you ever watched X and Y practice? Can you believe the way X treats Y? Not that it would excuse it if they were, but it's not even like X is the strength of that partnership". I feel like I get waaaaay more positive feedback from my pro than some of those ams get from their partners.

    For me, the bigger challenge inherent in the pro-am structure is that we spend hours upon hours reinforcing the student-teacher relationship, only to have to try to present something different on the competition floor. I mean, there are darned good reasons that people here tend to be quick to correct someone who refers to their pro as their "partner". But that's what you've got to try one's best to make it look like out there. The challenges in being able to make that transition on the fly are something my pro just recently mentioned to me in fact. (After watching the video from our last comp.) She didn't have any answers, but was just noting that it was tough to do, but something I needed to work on.

    The other challenge that is unique to pro-am is, of course, the occassional moment of "Oh, God. I'm practically begging the judges to compare my dancing directly to Slawek Sochaki's. There's ... there's ... just no way that this ends well." ;)
  8. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    yes....exactly...I mean, there is just no way a real rumba is going to happen in my world....

    saying all this...I want to be clear that I am in no way whining about any of this or dissatisfied...these things are simply the challenges that exist for me...they aren't complaints about my pro or any pros....but they are things that impede my dancing and which I have to therefore, learn to manage better
  9. scullystwin42

    scullystwin42 Well-Known Member

    For me, personally (and I stress - PERSONALLY, FOR ME), sometimes I feel like I'm not a "real" ballroom dancer, as I have to pay a "partner" to dance and compete with me. And they can adjust and cover - to a limited extent - what I might not do as well. I long for an amateur partner, but alas, at this point, there is a limited pool of leaders available in my location. Also, with two young kids and a full-time job, it leaves little time for practice and lessons. But pro-am allows me to do what I love, and keeps me in shape to keep up with my kids - so I really can't complain too much.
  10. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I'm the opposite--I could never do am/am at the level I dance at, because I'm thoroughly spoilt dancing with pros. (Plus I could never wear blah street clothes and feel like I was competing.) I'd be constantly worrying about HIM screwing up instead of just me. I like the fact a pro can cover when I make a mistake--to me, that's a plus. Just like doing my darndest to make sure with my old horse we'd do our right-lead canter-depart behind the judge's back so they couldn't see if he blew the lead and I had to pick it up again. The point isn't to be perfect, it's to make sure the judge isn't looking when you're not.

    I feel MUCH less pressure dancing in a competition when I know all I have to worry about is me. I don't even think about whether my pro is making note of things that are wrong-that's what I'm paying him for, after all. Also, at my level, I don't feel any sort of pressure to dance comparably to him. I'm in bronze--no one expects me to dance like someone who's been doing this for thirty years at Open level.

    I really have a radically different view of the 'fun factor', I guess. I'm not going to have fun dancing with someone who isn't very proficient. I have fun when I have every possible advantage with the judges. I'm competing, not going to a social and trying to make beginner leads feel good about themselves (which isn't fun anyway.) The fact that my pro will have things to work on doesn't somehow kill the fun. Now, as far as things that create a 'what's the point' feel, it's when the results are bad and neither I nor my pro are quite sure why. I'm a lot more worried about what the judges' response is than whether my pro thinks there are things to work on.
  11. skwiggy

    skwiggy Well-Known Member

    While I haven't done pro-am, I think this perspective is relevant for any student learning anything. The positive feedback is not only necessary for emotional reasons, although of course I'm not discrediting the value of that. But the positive feedback is also as important as the constructive criticism in order to make progress. If we are taught and reminded over and over again to do X, then how do we know when we have accomplished it? And how do we know when we have created the right X so that we can remember what that feels like and strive to reproduce it? If our teacher, partner or whomever just stops reminding of us X, does that mean we got it right and don't need to work on it anymore? Or does that mean that he/she has just moved on to focus on other things? How will we know unless we hear positive feedback about that accomplishment, what we should strive to reproduce, and when it is time to move on to focus on something else? Hearing something like "X has really improved" is not just good for the sake of our emotional health. It also helps us to understand our own progress so we know where and how to focus our energy to continue to progress.
  12. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    that is not so much an issue of mine as I know that if something continued to be a problem, it would continue to be mentioned...if it is no longer mentioned, that is the cue (sometimes the only one) that it is no longer a problem...and I am okay with is simply that it takes alot of energy for me to stay encouraged...shrug...that is just the way it is and I am okay with that...heaven knows I am much better at it now than I was the first few years when I was ready to quit on a monthly basis....I occasionally run out of the energy to motivate myself, but it is rare...and then I have to take little breaks
  13. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    as to doi's comments...I have a very different take on that...while I know that I will never look as good as my pro...I have always felt it was my job to narrow the disparity at whatever level I happen to be at...and I have always felt pressure to represent myself and my pro's teaching in the best possible light...that pressure has been from inside myself not outside...although my pro does also expect alot from a student if he knows they are serious....and I am glad of that...I also never go out and compete with the idea that my pro is going to cover my offenses and make me look, given his skill, that certainly does happen, but I don't go out resting in that and I think the judges are smart enough to tell the difference to dancing with someone of a more equal skill level, I would be delighted to compete with someone who wasn't as advanced as I would find the absence of pressure to be awesome, and I would love to not have to dance in an expensive gown...however, the fact remains that I am blessed beyond comprehesion to have the opportunity and resources to dance with my pro, and I accept the challenges of what that demands of me
  14. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Street clothes is, for the record, not an accurate description of what most syllabus-level adult am-am dancers wear to competitions. I suppose blah, on the other hand, is a matter of opinion.
  15. scullystwin42

    scullystwin42 Well-Known Member

    The paralysis has definitely happened to me, and I do have to work on not tensing up and getting nervous when I dance with someone high above my current skill level. I've found that used to happen to me when I go to lindy hop socials too, but I got over it after a lot of years. So maybe i just need to be patient.
  16. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    I don't want to put words into anyone's mouth, but I could imagine that if were to begin dancing pro-am, a central challenge would be learning to practice on my own. (Not that solo practice isn't a good thing for am-am dancers, too, but it's only a very small percentage of my own practice time.)
  17. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    Current pro is good about giving positive feedback... not effusive praise... but quick "good job" type feedback which is really all I need. I think it would be difficult to never hear anything positive, because I would just assume I was not doing anything correctly! I do notice though that during competitions, I tend to be more worried about what my pro is thinking about my dancing than the judges. If I make a mistake I feel guilty, that after all his hard work, I still ended up messing a particular step up. He does not make me feel bad about it, but I still feel bad about it. I want my dancing to reflect, in part, all the effort he has put into training me... if that makes sense.
  18. Wannabee

    Wannabee Well-Known Member

    This makes perfect sense to me and I often feel the exact same way. I often think of how poor marks will make my instructor feel even more so than how they will make me feel, that somehow my bad marks will reflect poorly on his teaching abilities, rather than only about my dancing. He has assured me multiple times that that is not the case, but it still adds to the challenges of pro-am. I just feel like pro is, in a way, staking his professional reputation on my performance/placement at a particular comp, etc., and that is very stressful sometimes.
  19. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Also true in most cases I know of and have experienced (though it makes me quite cognizant of giving positive feedback to my partners when it is deserved and needed) - but there is a different "balance of power" in amateur partnerships. In Pro-am the pro is "always" right and the (constructive) criticism usually only goes one way - to the student. It's the fact that hearing constant "criticism" that does not allow some individuals to develop confidence in their skills. I know in my case, the absence of constant criticism is enough to allow me to develop confidence.


    I'm lucky that I have a pro-am teacher/partner who understands this dynamic and we prepare differently close to a comp.
  20. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    I've had this thought before, and I bet it is more common than we think.

    It kinda' goes hand in hand with one that I struggle with at times; the internal pressure that you need to produce good partnership work (good connection, synchronicity etc.), without the practice time with your pro partner that is needed to produce it (due to limited resources for lessons).

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