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Magazine » September October 2011 Issue » Amateurs vs. Pros, How different are they really?

Amateurs vs. Pros, How different are they really?

Michael Mead
Date Published:
September 10, 2011

Let's look at a couple of stereotypical views. The first is that Amateurs of all ages are hobbyists who dance just for fun, who dance in their spare time and do not earn an income from their hobby. Also included in this stereotype is the idea that amateurs are not as concerned about the level of technical expertise brought to bear, but are more interested in learning the next fun move. For them it’s all about the feeling.

The second stereotype I would like to discuss is that of a professional dancer. Encompassed in this stereotype is the idea that a Professional dancer earns the majority of their income by teaching, competing or doing exhibitions, and dancing is their full-time occupation. The stereotypical professional dancer's interest in improving their skills is primarily related to the higher fees they can charge for their teaching, or the recognition and work opportunities that open up from winning competitions. The professional's training is slanted more towards technical improvement and establishing effective training regimens in order to be more competitive in the marketplace and on the competition floor.

I’d like to discuss for a moment the “feeling” discussed earlier that is sought after by the amateurs. It is easy for the more advanced competitive dancers, in both groups, to get caught up in trying to be perfect technicians, and then to lose sight of why it is they are trying to acquire these skills in the first place. That is, of course, in order to allow them to connect and communicate on a more meaningful level with their partners, and be a more effective physical manifestation of the emotional message conveyed in the music as experienced in their hearts and in the hearts of the audience.

Of course technique in dancing is also very important. A less experienced dancer can greatly benefit from instruction by a competent teacher who can demonstrate how the application of physics (gravity and centripetal force) can help them move more efficiently and with less energy output. This results in making the dancing more enjoyable and less stressful, especially for older dancer who may have reduced strength and mobility.

The reality is that these days, especially amongst the top competitors in both the amateur and professional groups, there is a comparable quality of dancing and professionalism exhibited (think prior Amateur Ballroom Champion Victor Fung and Amateur Latin Champions Eugene Katsevman and Maria Munosova who have had considerable success in the Professional ranks). Since members of varying skills from both groups also teach, is it safe to say there is essentially no longer any real difference between an Amateur and Professional dancer?

And if there is a singular lack of meaningful distinction between the two groups would it perhaps not make sense at this point in time to reflect the reality of the situation, dispensing with the term Professional and Amateur all together, and instead employing a unifying ranking system that covers all dancers. When it comes down to it, there are many ways that professionals and amateurs can both learn from each other. They just have to be willing to learn.

Michael Mead