Ballroom Dance > Mixed Open Division--Could it be a thing?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Spookisgirl, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    I fully recognize I am probably about to open a can of worms, and bring up potentially controversial issues, and for the length of this post.

    I want to start by saying this is only the result of my own late night insomniac thinking, and none of the examples used are of people or situations I actually know. They are all hypothetical. I also recognize that there are perhaps elements of both the professional and amateur world which I do not know.

    One of the triggering things for this is the recent announcement that in 2018 Blackpool will hold a separate Teacher/Student division where ‘amateur’ teachers can dance with their students. This is separate from Pro/Am where ‘professional’ teachers dance with their students.

    This announcement is interesting, because according to the British Dance Council Rulebook:

    Loss of Amateur Status

    (a) A competitor’s amateur status will be deemed lost if:
    i. accepts remuneration in cash for the use of their name as a dancer in an advertisement;
    ii. declares themselves to be a professional;
    iii. passes a teaching entrance examination of any of the ballroom branches of an examining teacher organisation;
    iv. acts as a teacher of dancing, with or without a fee, unless under the supervision of a qualified professional;
    v. organises dances for personal profit;
    vi. participates in a competition or match limited to professionals;
    vii. acts as an MC for the purpose of leading dances or calling sets.
    viii. adjudicates at a dancing competition

    I do note this rule book is scheduled to be amended in January 2018, so perhaps points i, iii, and iv (or others) will be amended.

    I want to point out that these are the British rules only. I know that in the US, from discussions I have seen on forums the only way to be considered a professional is item ii. In Canada, under Canada Dancesport Rules, amateurs who have achieved specific placings (I think top 3 in the Canadian Closed) may teach provided they pass appropriate exams, don’t charge over a certain amount per lesson, and report all earning from teaching to the CDS (there are other conditions, but those are the main ones).

    So, what is my point? And why is it potentially controversial?

    It just seems to me that the dance world is really starting to ‘split hairs’ when it comes to the number of different divisions and eligibility required for them, especially when talking about the open level. There is a lot of dividing going on, at least on paper, in what appears to be an effort to maintain integrity of the words ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ (although as said above, I recognize this is very simplified). There are so many different ‘statuses’ of couples competing right now, but are they, and their level of dance really that different?

    Usually, when the average person thinks ‘professional’ they think of someone who makes their living by that trade. In dance, someone who teaches and performs for compensation, and an ‘amateur’ is someone for whom dancing is done purely for the enjoyment of doing it without compensation (and usually paying to do it).

    In the dance world, at least in the US as a prime example, this is not the case. Whether you are an amateur or professional is based solely on what you want to call yourself and what division you would like to compete in. One does not automatically imply by the title they are better dancers than the other. In fact, looking just at the number of former amateurs who seem to automatically go to the semi or even final of the pro division, it would imply the level of dancing is fairly even–which begs the question why are there so many divisions?

    Let’s break down some of the divisions:

    1. Professional – couple consisting of two partners registered as professionals. Most likely both teach.
    2. Pro/Am – couple consisting of a teacher registered as a professional dancing with an amateur student who does no teaching whatsoever.
    3. Teacher/Student – couple consisting of a teacher registered as an amateur dancing with an amateur student who does no teaching whatsoever.
    4. Mixed Amateur – (presumably does not apply to open events) a couple consisting of a higher level amateur dancing with a lower level amateur. eg. an open amateur competing with a silver amateur. ( I believe only the lower level partner is judged, and the higher amateur does not teach the lower, but may teach others).
    5. Student/Student – (again, does not seem to apply to open events) a mixed amateur couple consisting of two pro/am students. (I admit to not being very familiar with this division, so could be wrong).
    6. Amateur/Amateur – two partners registered as amateurs competing together. One or both of the partners may teach, or neither may teach.
    Numbers 2-5 have a further breakdown by age, usually adult (16-35), senior I (36-50), senior II (51+). Some have further divisions. There are the odd ‘senior’ professional events, but not very common. For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to focus on types 1, 2, 3, and 6.

    Currently, all 4 of these types of couples are unable to compete directly against each other. The competitive events are completely separate. Pro/ams do not compete with teacher/student, and pro couples don’t compete with amateur couples. From what I have seen in some forums, the reason is (or used to be) that it was felt unfair to mix competitors of different statuses. That amateur couples would be unfairly outclassed by professional couples and that pro/am couples would upstage teacher/student couples.

    Personally, I am not seeing this to be the case, and I have seen many arguments that the quality of amateur couples are equal, if not better than professionals. I think all divisions have both strong, medium and weak couples. In the end, regardless of status, it is two people dancing on the floor.

    A thought that occurred to me though–what stops a teacher/student couple from competing in am/am events?

    Consider this. An Amateur teacher is aged 42. He is no longer competing as an amateur because his partner decided not to continue dance. Lacking a steady partner, he sees not reason to declare ‘professional’ status, but does compete with his students in the teacher/student division. However, he has 3 open-level students aged 36, 41, and 48, who all want to go to the same competition and compete in the multi-dance/scholarship events. He cannot compete with more than one student in the same event. He can compete with the youngest student in the ‘A’ (under 35) event (as it is possible to dance down an age), but only one of his other two students can do the ‘B’ (36-50) event. Neither student is willing to give up the opportunity for the other. So, since he is 42, he registers the 3rd student in the senior I amateur event, as both qualify for that age category, and both are amateurs.

    Is there anything to prevent this? I haven’t seen anything on it, but in order to compete in teacher/student as the ‘teacher’ do you have to be also compete with a dedicated amateur partner? It doesn’t appear to be a necessity, just is the general practice.

    When I think of amateur competitions, it occurs to me that there are at least 3 types of couples competing on the floor–couples where neither partner teaches, where one partner teaches, and where both partners teach. Does one type of couple have an advantage over the others on the floor? On the surface it doesn’t seem to.

    So, after laying out all this, I can see a case for a new division–mixed open–where the only eligibility is that both partners meet the age requirements, regardless of individual status (pro, am, student). In this division (let’s use senior I for an example), all open level, there could be pro couples, am couples, pro/am couples and teacher/student couples all competing against each other, provided every individual on the floor was over 35. It would certainly recognize that as much as the dance world is trying to keep all these divisions separate, the lines between them are blurred and there is less of a distinction in level.

    But could you imagine the fall-out if an am couple were placed above a pro couple, or if a pro/am couple was placed above and am couple? What if a teacher/student couple won the event?

    I think these questions and potential fall-out are exactly why this mixed open division does not exist and likely never will. It’s not unheard of in other sports though–think of hockey where both professional and amateur players compete together in the olympics, similarly with basketball.

    I want to be clear, I am not advocating for one or the other, or that we get rid of any of the current divisions. Sheer variety of couples will mean that other separate events will need to be continued–most pro/am couples have large age differences between the teacher and student, for example, and a mixed open division would only be possible for open events. Certainly not syllabus.

    But to me, it’s an interesting question to ask. Would there be an unfair advantage for one type of couple over the other if this event existed? Would that be negated by knowing what you are registering for (if you know you are registering for an event with a mixed variety of couples, can you then complain the pro couple had an advantage? I think not–its what you signed up for).

    I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this. As I said, most of this is just some logical reasoning and thought processes generated from the recent announcement of including not only pro/am, but a separate teacher/student event at Blackpool. I guess the main question that popped to my mind was–why are these separate events?

    Perhaps that is just an uncomfortable question that shouldn’t be asked.
    DanceMentor and Mengu like this.
  2. Mengu

    Mengu Well-Known Member

    Amateur and Professional are not dance skill designations. We are all dancers, with varying degrees of experience and skill. Conceptually, I have no problem throwing everyone who wants to compete in one bucket. It would not be any more unfair than seeing professionals with 20+ years of experience who have been dancing since they were 6, against professionals with only couple years of experience who started when they were 25. There are always going to be people with different dance journeys in any group.

    There is no doubt if you pit top amateurs against beginner professionals in a competition, the amateurs would win. But there are far more professionals at the highest skill levels, than amateurs. You would see few amateurs in the top ranks, and a big mix in the bottom ranks. As such, I don't know if there is a reason to combine these. It already happens with natural selection, as top amateurs turn pro.

    Pro/Am and Teacher/Student couples are unevenly matched partnerships, and more often than not, they either have a better matched partner, or have otherwise chosen to retire or not compete in the other arenas. It would not be logistically feasible to pit these against pro-pro and am-am couples. It might be unnecessarily frustrating on both ends of the partnership, as one side fails to meet the expectations of the other in a highly competitive arena. Also, I'm not sure if there was such a thing as Open Teacher/Student until recently... if so very few. Most teacher student pairings were of an open amateur and closed student. But recently that may be changing, as "pro to be's" stay amateur longer.
    Spookisgirl likes this.
  3. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    Thank you for your response, and interesting point about the variety of experience that comes to the floor in any division. I would argue that there are some very talented pro/am students who have also been dancing and competing for several years and perhaps are not as unevenly matched as you state--although that is likely more the exception than the rule.

    As far as teacher/student, I have seen open events offered, and Blackpool itself will be offering it next year--a competition that only has open events. I do wonder why teacher/student and pro/am are kept separate--perhaps the same reason as pro and am divisions? I know in my home province, pro/am exists for CDF sanctioned events, but the exact same events (entered by the same people) are referred to as 'teacher/student' in the Dancesport sanctioned events. Perhaps it might be the same in USA Dance?

    Perhaps, leaving pro/pro out of the mix could make it more feasible. I will say it would be a bit daunting to be on the floor with a blackpool finalist and his student in pro/am or teacher/student, but at the same time an interesting experience.

    This could add an interesting new dynamic to senior events. Anyone know if former adult amateur champions compete in over 35 or over 50 events?
    Mengu likes this.
  4. Mengu

    Mengu Well-Known Member

    Absolutely true. I even know one pro-am couple who might be unevenly matched in the opposite direction. But that is a far outlier.
    Spookisgirl likes this.
  5. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    I think pro am couples at least in open gold are matched and each of higher caliber than teacher student couples in general

    the top five ladies in open gold at any age could teach ...and whip a majority of "teachers" who aren't high level active pros of the same age
    FancyFeet, jiwinco and Spookisgirl like this.
  6. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    Except pro/am students are prohibited from teaching...but it's an excellent point!
  7. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    I'd like to see the thing focused on be who is being judged: in a traditional pro/am couple, only the amateur is judged (in theory), where an am/am couple is judged as a couple. I think they could eliminate most of those categories by focusing on this distinction. The exception would be pro couples, which probably should be kept as separate events since, in any comp with a halfway decent pro entry list, ams would never win if they had to compete face to face with pros.

    We all complain about the lack of direct competition we experience at comps, and yet the organizations keep micro-dividing categories, which further reduces direct competition I think it needs to go the other way. I think this would be sufficient for all except the largest comps:

    Age levels: Junior I, Junior II, Adult A, Adult B, Senior, maybe a Senior II. Anyone can move "towards" Adult A.

    Skill levels: Newcomer (maximum one year since first comp), Bronze, Silver, Open, Pre-Champ, Championship. Open combines Gold and Novice since there are so few Gold entries at most comps.

    Participation categories: Pro, Instructor/Student, Am. In Instructor/Student, only the Student is judged. No eligibility requirements for who can dance as the Instructor.
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  8. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    It's an interesting take on it for sure, and I definitely agree with most of your points--especially about how it seems organizers are micro dividing events, reducing the numbers of competitors competing against each other (and usually requiring pro/am students to do these rarely contested single events to qualify for multi-dances).

    I will point out that in pro/am, the student is judged in syllabus levels only. At open levels the partnership is judged as a couple--just as they are in any other division event. Some comps only judge the student at silver and below, judging the couple at gold and above.
    cornutt likes this.
  9. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi Spookishgirl, sorry for commenting despite the fact that I´m not a ball roomer, I´m a tango dancer in the first place. I fear that the reason for the sprawling complexity in devisions and categories simply lies in the fact, that as many as possible participants may win a medal. So competition and comparison seem to be minor ends. I find that the most convincing and significant pairing in a competition would come about simply by drawing lots (Jack and Gill procedure).
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
    Spookisgirl likes this.
  10. rels77

    rels77 Active Member

    I think it's as simple and they've realized the US market wants to do blackpool and USA dance teachers couldn't bring their students. So essentially next year you'll have:
    An NDCA style pro-am at blackpool with teachers who have declared themselves pro (from all countries but honestly 80% of the couples this year were USA/Canada).

    And a USA style teacher/student at blackpool. My guess is some USA dance peeps were sad they couldn't do it this year.
    Spookisgirl and j_alexandra like this.
  11. ralf

    ralf Active Member

    Compare West Coast Swing comps:

    Age levels: Youth (under 16/18), all ages, and 35+
    Participation categories: Pro/Am (only am judged), Strictly (couple judged), Jack&Jill (everyone judged)
    Skill levels: [Newcomer], Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, All-Star, [Champion]

    One points up through the skill levels, except that Champion is only open to those who have won at the All-Star level in the past three years and Newcomer typically specifies having danced WCS for less than two years. Not all events include Newcomer/Champion.
    The skill levels listed above are for the all-ages Strictly and J&J competitions. Youth does not have skill levels, and 35+ has only two: Sophisticated and Masters. So you basically have nine possible skill-level/age combined categories times two plus Pro/Am for a grand total of 19.
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  12. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    I would love to go head-to-head with am-am and/or RS pro-pro couples.

    (Including open pro-pro would not be a level playing field, IMHO).
    Dancey and Spookisgirl like this.
  13. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    RS pro is an interesting idea!
  14. Requiem

    Requiem Member

    I like this idea. Personally, as a new dancer looking for competitions to attend, I found the fine-grained divisions in NDCA to be a bit confusing and a big turn-off. I want large fields and more competition! :D
  15. Mengu

    Mengu Well-Known Member

    You can. Just turn pro. :cool:

    Setting aside skill differences, I still am not sure how the logistics of this would work with combining these categories... So a rising star pro would have to choose between dancing with their pro partner and dancing with their top level student? No good choice there. And would a pro who has retired from professional competition, want to dance against other pro couples again? There is a reason they retired right? Just doesn't seem feasible to me.
    Larinda McRaven and Joe like this.
  16. flying_backwards

    flying_backwards Active Member

    I think in teacher/student only the student is judged, right? And I believe that category is not intended for regular am/am partners. Rather, it is supposed to give more chances for lower-level amateurs, who may not have their own partner, to borrow a higher level partner. They can even pay the teacher. So it gives higher-level amateur's a way to offset comp expenses.

    Student/student at NDCA is only open to students who are also eligible for pro/am. Whereas an am/am at an NDCA is also open to students who (for example) assist or demo for a teacher in a group class as a volunteer. Such a volunteer is not eligible to compete pro/am. Likewise, a student who volunteers for their collegiate team to teach beginning students becomes ineligible for pro/am, technically, but is still eligible to dance as either teacher or student in teacher/student at USAD, and is still eligible to dance in am/am in both USAD and NDCA. At least that is how I read it. I am aware the rule is routinely ignored. Not that it matters to me since I don't do pro/am.

    Back to the topic of this thread, I totally agree it would be nice to merge some categories to have bigger fields and many qualifying rounds. Mincing categories so finely that not even a full final can be filled just isn't sporting. Notice how the pro-am Blackpool festival which preceded the traditional Blackpool had some small fields so small they split the floor.

    But then, I also like to report sample size when citing statistics. What if every placing were a numerator, with field size the denominator?
    Spookisgirl likes this.
  17. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    @Mengu Darn you and your logic ;)

    Seriously, have toyed with turning pro, and if the right partner came along, I think I would... but I get to dance as the am part of a pro-am couple. Changing status doesn't solve my partner problem.

    But to play out this purely hypothetical and fun scenario, who would enter an 'open' comp:
    • Open am couples who want to test themselves against pros before making a decision to turn pro
    • RS pros who want more opportunities to dance
    • Open am couples who want more opportunities to dance
    • Pro who is no longer eligible for RS with his/her pro partner and has a high-level student
    • Pro whose partner is injured/pregnant/other and has a high-level student
    • Pro who has a high-level student who begs/has cash/is good and they want to showcase
    Spookisgirl likes this.
  18. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    Perhaps a pro in senior age category who doesn't feel competitive with younger pros, but has a high level student?

    I think all your examples are viable--at least on some level. I used the example of the senior I age category because 35+ seems a popular category for pro/am (recognizing that 50+ is even more so). I am not sure if it would work well at the adult age category.
  19. Spookisgirl

    Spookisgirl Active Member

    Actually, according to the DSI commentary, the reason for split floors was a time issue because there were TOO many entries to do one final at a time. The plan to try to eliminate splitting the floor next year (hence the two days). They received much more pro/am entries this year than anticipated and had to adapt. I believe finals were all split floors but earlier rounds were not.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2017
  20. Kitnhead

    Kitnhead New Member

    Yes, that is correct. The finals, in some groups, were split floors (like male Latin and Ladies A Latin). The initial groups were full floor. Ladies B International Ballroom started in a first round with two heats. Some finals were on full floors (B and C Ballroom). And forgive me, I am using the "American" B and C terms. They were actually called things like A3 (I can't recall the actual category names, but they were equivalent to the A B and C used in the U.S.).

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