Ballroom Dance > Pro-Am vs Am-Am vs no-Am

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by MidoriUma, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. MidoriUma

    MidoriUma New Member

    So, I found a really promising dance studio that I'm going to check out this week (thank you FancyFeet!!) and I'm narrowing down what I want to ask them about their programs and classes.

    One thing I noticed is they seem to have a strong focus on Pro-Am, which I understand is students hiring professionals to be their partners. I'm just imagining this is probably a fair bit more expensive than two students teaming up (Am-Am?) since you as the customer would be paying both entry fees, plus both transportation/accommodations, plus whatever money they want for their time.

    Is this something that a prospective beginner student should be concerned about? Money's not tight but I also don't want to break the bank... would it be rude of me to ask if they also do Am-Am competitions, or if they have any professionals who are willing to split the costs?

    Just curious, thanks for any advice!
     
  2. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Well-Known Member

    hide your wallet
     
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  3. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    Yes, Pro-Am is significantly more expensive than Am-Am, and it's not at all rude to ask about it. Any good teacher should be willing and able to teach a couple, even if most of their students are individuals. Some students choose to dance Pro-Am because they like being able to focus just on their individual improvement; some would prefer to dance Am-Am but don't have an Am partner. Am-Ams often choose that route both for the price and because that way they have a partner to practice with outside of lessons. And some people compete both ways.

    One thing -- asking if "they also do Am-Am competitions" is an unusual phrasing. Ultimately, an amateur competition is something that amateur couples do, not really studios, though if other couples from your studio are there, that's nice. But you'd take care of your own registration, etc., and your teacher wouldn't necessarily be there (unless s/he's judging or the comp is local).

    Since you don't have a partner now, it would make sense to go ahead and take both private lessons by yourself and group classes. Start going to socials as soon as possible. At group classes and socials, make friends, keep your eye out for prospective amateur partners, and if you identify any, suggest getting together to practice and/or sharing some private lessons. And if that goes well, you can think about competing together. Until that's going, or in parallel, you can consider Pro-Am comps, too.

    A studio recommending Pro-Am isn't in itself a problem, though do keep an eye on your budget to make sure you stay comfortable with your spending. If you find that people at the studio are actively recommending against you looking for an amateur partner, that's when I'd start worrying that they're after your money more than your dance improvement.
     
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  4. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Consider checking entry fees on any of the major comp Web sites. They can add up quickly.
     
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  5. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I would only be concerned if, as bia says, they actively discourage you from seeking an am partner if that's what you really want to do. But honestly if you're an absolute beginner, competitions aren't really something you should be worrying about immediately. Take privates and groups, see if you really like it, see what styles you like. If nothing else, finding an am partner for competition (as opposed to someone just to practice with) will be easier if you're a little more experienced and if you've focused more on a particular style or division. When you are feeling like you want to try competing, a lot of independent studios have either their own mini-comp or showcase or a "studio" competition that a lot of teachers and students who normally don't compete go to (because it's smaller, closer, whatever.) Get your feet wet doing a few heats, and see if you LIKE competing. Ideally a couple pro-am, if you can find someone a few student/student. Get a sense whether you even enjoy it before assuming you have to do one or the other or have to compete at all.

    Personally, I like pro-am. Finding ANY partner for competition who is a good height, "look", style, and experience match is hard enough. Finding one who also is a good personality match, has similar dance goals, and lives close enough to not make it utterly impractical for someone who's only in it as a hobby can be borderline impossible unless you live in a major area like New York, Boston, Chicago, etc. (And even there, if you're a woman late twenties or over who's only a beginner, it gets even harder. Just like pairs skating or ice dance, women are as a rule a dime a dozen, men are hard to come by.) Pro-am cuts out the lost search time, the failed tryouts, finding coaches, and having to deal with someone else's learning curve, schedule, and finances. With the down side it costs more, unless you're in one of those partnerships that involves hours of driving/flying to get practice in.

    But, and this is hard with ANY dance expenses (if it's not the pro/studio pressuring you in pro-am, it's a partner and coach), cost control is on you. "No" is a complete sentence. You don't want to do a competition, you do not HAVE to. You do not want to dance fifty heats and three multi-dance events? You don't HAVE to. Am partnerships are not as clear-cut as it's not a straightforward consumer-provider relationship, but if you feel like you're carrying too much of the load, you can speak up and renegotiate. No one can actually force you to spend money-in almost every town there are dance options, and the studio knows at the end of the day, you can walk out and take your wallet with you.
     
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  6. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    There are many ways to get into the 'scene'. Many students find that training for a goal, such as competition or a show, focuses them and allows them to apply the 'outside world's' ways of measuring results to an art form that has an always moving future. And, allowing you to forgo responsibility for much of the partnering aspect will, as you are being told, allow you to feel like you are concentrating your energy and effort to yourself solely, without the cumbersome issues that real partnering presents - not only the mechanics like compromise, scheduling, and interaction, but also in dance aspects like compromise, interaction, and presentation.

    Expense of course is relative in any hobby or pursuit - but if it makes you happy, there is not dollar value that is too great, in my opinion. However, dance is a journey and not a goal, no matter how often your studio ties the memorization of steps and choreography to a specific level or rate of success. You can be a great dancer with very few movements, and a very bad one with millions of steps.

    it is seductive to pay a pro to dance with you, and for the pro they hear so often how their student 'can only dance with him' or that 'with him is the only way they can dance / remember / etc', but on the other hand, dancing with a real partner has many many advantages, least of which is that sharing the learning experience will ultimately make you progress faster, and in different ways. Yes, both of you in the partnership may pine for a better partner (you DO know that every guy wants a better partner too, right? lol) but working together to remember, work thru technique, and share the costs and issues that come up is ultimately going to get you to better partner dancing.

    Going to a 'social' is very disheartening when you are on the path to competition since most folks there will be either of the 'just here to meet folks and have fun' variety when your needs are better met with folks with a 'i want to understand and dance this better' mentality. Also, 'social' dancing adds all the 'social' aspects, like guys who feel that they can 'teach' you, guys that engage you in flirtation, etc. Very little competition style dance goes on at a social, and if it does, the social dancers will as a group discourage or ridicule you. Jealousy and envy play a part in this.

    Good luck on your new adventure. As someone who dances with an am partner, I can assure you that despite what a studio may intimate, the am/am world is big, vibrant, and welcoming. Going to a comp with your friends is a fun experience, and all ams want to see more folks in their heats, so you are added quickly to their circle. Go to a pro am comp and watch folks dance endless 'heats' with no competition in an empty ballroom and then compare that to excitement of an am/am comp. And, compare the entry costs, if that is an issue.
     
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I am not sure what this means!?
     
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  8. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    And to clarify, the studio in question also coaches couples :)
     
  9. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Not my experience--the advanced Am/Am guys are generally the worst social leads (they tend to be really locked into their routines, really rigid frames, don't like/want to deal with a social follow who doesn't know their routines). Best social leads are usually the guys who take lessons focused on social dancing and who go to lots of socials, who may not LOOK like a "dancer" but who are often heavenly to follow. (Though any one of Larinda's students could lead me any day. Soft and smooth as silk.) Am/am comps too, I'm just not impressed with the quality of dancing with the syllabus adults , and the costume rules just make the whole thing very drab except for the most advanced events. Yeah, people are probably supportive and about the fun, I guess. NDCA events you generally are there with people from your studio and you tend to start seeing the same people from elsewhere so you have your group of friends there, too.

    Admittedly most of my experience with Am/am stuff is from Boston. Maybe it's different in NY or LA.
     
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  10. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    agree about am/am leads at a social, but form different reasons… they are trained to do things like provide strong frames, work on routines, etc. These are good things, and just because a social dancer is not 'with the program' does not make them bad. Remember, the am/am lead is hoping for a different result, too. Your 'heavenly' is their 'grin and bear it' like your perspective is opposite.

    Anyway, a couple of notes: syllabus adults do have costume limits, but not over 35s - they are exempt from costume requirements at competitions. And the NDCA comps welcome am/ams, but usually you see the groups of ams surrounding their coach - the 'school' thing is more a 'coach' thing. And your being unimpressed with beginners? Hmmm… sorry, but that is what they look like. To not look like that means hard work, and remember that all dancers start out somewhere. We all encourage them and cheer them on so that they are inspired to improve.
     
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  11. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    One thing to keep in mind is that, in my experience, comparing am-am dancers with pro-am dancers at a specific profficiency level produces a somewhat apples to oranges comparison. This is not, I think, due to any inherent difference in the dancers themselves but as a byproduct of gold, novice, pre-champ and champ existing as meaningful levels on the am-am side of thing. At least for scholarship events, one typically goes directly from silver to competing against the best dancers in the field. There's more room for incremental advancement in am-am. As a result, it's been my wholly subjective observation that good pro-am silver dancers are pretty commonly better than the majority of silver am-am dancers, but that the overall strengths of the fields are pretty comparable. Excepting the adult champ dancers on the am-am side of things. The elites there are in an entirely different category as they're de facto if not de jure professional dancers.
     
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  12. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    Just adding off what Jude said, it's also tough to compare couples where one dancer's a pro to an all-amateur couple. I've only just started dabbling in pro am in smooth, and I can say beyond a doubt that I look like a better dancer leading my coach than I do leading an am of comparable skill. I'm hesitant to say she back leads anything, but she can definitely coax a little extra shape out of me, subtly change a direction, or cover for a botched lead in a way that a partner who only has my level of experience simply couldn't.

    It might not be the case for everyone and I'm definitely not saying that the amateur's skill has no bearing on the look of the partnership, just that a pro partner can consistently coax the best results the am can produce because they don't need to devote nearly as much mental energy to coaxing the best performance possible out of themselves.
     
  13. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    if you were leading an am of comparable skill to your COACH is the operative. Your goal is to get as good as your coach.
     
  14. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    You probably won't be competing right from the start. So it should be perfectly fine to just start taking lessons on your own, and then decide what you want to do with it.

    Like other posters said, pro-am is a more expensive way to compete, but I personally like it. The only times I thought that it would be nice to have an am partner is when we had an amateur-only local event, and I felt left out. But that only happens once a year for me anyway, so I think I can live with that.
     
  15. llamasarefuzzy

    llamasarefuzzy Well-Known Member

    Speaking as an exclusive am, I think that proam is a wonderful opportunity- you get to focus on your dancing exclusively. I imagine with enough time and money, the learning curve could be very quick. Unfortunately, it is a (tad :rolleyes:) expensive. So far I've "settled" for dancing/taking lessons with my am partner who lives far away 1/2x month and taking lessons essentially as a pro-am the rest of the time. Its worked out very well. I'd love to add a pro-am competition, but unfortunately being a poor graduate student is mutually exclusive with that event.
     
  16. joedance

    joedance Member

    My observation . . .

    Am/Am dancers learn by problem solving and trying things until a coach can fix it. Hence, bad habits can develop quickly and take time to fix. On the other hand, trying to figure out how a pattern works and executed within the technique learned from a coach improves their dancing quickly.

    Pro/Am dancers do what their pro's tell them to do while at the same time the pro leads strongly or follows with even the slightest amount of indication. Hence, dancing without that level of lead/follow is far more difficult. On the other hand, the technique for Pro/Am dancers is very clean thus improving their quality of dance quickly.

    One generally can't go wrong either way as long as there is a goal in place (i.e. show, competition, studio event, etc.)

    I think the best option for a beginner is to work with a pro for pro/am to get a strong foundation and apply the technique with an am/am practice partner to see how it works. That practice partner over time could someday become a competitive partner.
     
  17. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    There are also plenty of pros who insist on good lead/follow from their students...my smooth coach being one of them (she tells me often she's "playing dumb" to *make* me lead the figure).
     
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  18. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    No, comparable skill to me (contrasted with the skill of my coach) was the whole point of what I wrote.
     
  19. Egorich

    Egorich Active Member

    She is prepping you for life situations :)
     
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  20. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    Or making her future job that much easier ;) compensating for a poor lead ain't easy, I'm sure.
     
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