Spoiled by Pros (or a Lesson in Patience)

This is Tommy and me "on deck", waiting for our dance that's coming up.

This is Tommy and me “on deck,” waiting for our dance that’s coming up.

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.



2 thoughts on “Spoiled by Pros (or a Lesson in Patience)

  1. I think it’s human nature to want to work with a more experienced partner. But every “pro” started off as an “am” and worked with partners who had no problem working with an “am.”

    I know ballet is different, but I remember being in partnering class where the girls all wanted to partner with the guys with experience (not a good thing in a class with more than 20 girls and only about four or five guys) and our teacher ended up having to break the girls into groups that alternated with each guy.

    And I’ll never forget what our teacher told the class, that sometimes working with a more experienced partner can actually mask flaws, and that working with a lesser experienced partner forces you to focus to work on areas where you are weakest because your partner can’t compensate to cover it up.

  2. I’d agree with your main point that going to am-am would be difficult having been pro-am for so long. But Dancescribe does raise a good point and that’s why my instructor has been insisting that I do our routines with others at parties. We’ve danced together for so long that she can anticipate what I’m going to do and doesn’t always correct me if I’m not giving a strong enough lead. Attempting to lead someone else through though really points out where I’m not giving the right clues and anything that makes me a stronger leader makes me a stronger dancer. Would guess the same holds for following. Don’t think you were saying you’d never dance with a less experienced person but I think you can learn something from everyone you dance with.

The floor is yours now.

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