I was surprised when I heard the phrase “pro-am” in one of my journalism classes last year. The professor was lecturing on collaborative journalism and how ordinary people can contribute directly to a professional distributor (e.g. a news station reporting live at an event.) This is known as “pro-am journalism” This was definitely interesting, but what occupied me more was the fact that this was the second time I had heard the term “pro-am”.
I learned about it first through dance. “Pro-am” is an abbreviation for “professional-amateur”. In the competitive environment, a student dances with his or her teacher. I compete in pro-am, and as of now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. (More on this to come.) Other students may dance with their spouse or friend, “am-am”. There are also professional competitions, “pro-pro”. For the record, pro-am is all I’ve known because I’ve never had a student partner for competitions. And, I’m not the only one.
I remember seeing a discussion on Dance Forums some time ago about the differing aspects of pro-am versus am-am. Like me, many of the students there only competed with their teacher. Scrolling through the replies, one answer particularly stood out. The current question was, “For the pro-am dancers, would you ever consider doing am-am?” One poster said that she couldn’t conceive it because she had been “spoiled” by her pro. She had gotten used to dancing with her teacher and was quite comfortable with his style. In addition, she liked the fact that she could dance with a man who was more skilled than she was. She enjoyed that security. It’s a slightly painful to admit, but her answer is currently my own.
There is something oddly comforting in knowing that if something goes wrong, it’s probably on me. I also look up to Tommy. He’s no-nonsense and knows how to push. But, he loves his students very much and knows when to add humor to his lessons. If I achieved my dream, I could see myself teaching in a similar style to Tommy’s. Mainly, I like dancing with someone that’s better than me. I have to “dance up” to his level. Dancing with someone less experienced means I have to slow down. I like going fast, and putting on the brakes can really test my patience. My reasoning is selfish, but I see no use in trying to sugarcoat my flaws.
In retrospect, I’m grateful for every dance I have with newer dancers. This even applies to when they dance off-beat. (Argh! It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.) I don’t think I could choose a better setting to learn life lessons than the dance floor. Plus, if I want to become a dance teacher, I’d better start bulking up on patience.