As an Amateur dancer in Ukraine, Vladyslav Dolya won 15 Ukrainian National Championships, five World Championships, and three European Championships. Here he is competing with his partner, Oleksandra Sydorova. Photo courtesy of Vlad Dolya

Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick…More than just words

By Rose-Ann Lynch – Commentary
Managing Editor
Who is a Professional and why do they want so much?

I was studying my ballroom videos the other day, watching Professional Vladyslav Dolya mold and correct everything in our Standard frame.  We were trying so hard and listening so intently as he gave instruction.  Certainly, he is a master of his trade.

Then, we were laughing with him.  Perhaps we did it right, perhaps we did it wrong, perhaps it was better than the last time, perhaps he wanted to throw up his hands and walk away.  Professional Dancers can be quite dramatic.  We did it again and again until it was right for the first time.  Ballroom is definitely a marathon.  

Then, Mike (my husband and partner), zigged and I zagged, and we were frustrated.  He was supposed to dance the routine; true!  I was supposed to know the routine but follow him no matter what; also true!   It’s again not the end of the world.  No one is shooting at us.  No one is dying over this. It’s just ballroom dancing, right? 

Then, we watched our Pro again demonstrate what he wanted — posture, swing, sway, exact footwork, count, movement, strength, so much passion, easy, fluid…true perfection on the floor.  He was even smiling. I wondered:  What does it feel like to move so efficiently.  

When our time was up, he thanked us, told us to practice, gave us a hug, and moved on to a middle-aged wedding couple.  I remember him start, “Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick.  Good…Good.  Nice Promenade…Try to dance to the music.”  

Of course, they didn’t realize that he is brilliant, and was once the best in his country and one of the best in the world.  He happened to be the local Professional, at the local dance studio, and they needed to dance a three-minute song at their wedding.

This begs the question:  Who is a Professional and why do they want so much?  Or would it be better to ask:  Who is the Amateur and do we want enough? 

Vlad began his dancing career in Ukraine when he was five years old. Here he is competing with his partner, Oleksandra Sydorova.
Vlad began his dancing career in Ukraine when he was five years old. Here he is competing with his partner, Oleksandra Sydorova.

Although all Professionals are not created equally, many come from a very structured dance background.  They study from the age of four or five, while their parents scrape together money to get them started and try to keep them going.  Life is hard!  They work with numerous partners until the right one comes along, take endless lessons, travel to study with the world’s top coaches, and practice for hours a day.  They become gorgeous and compete against the best in their country…and around the world!  Eventually, they might be in demand and at the top of their game — winning everything, sponsorships, scholarships, invitations, lovely dresses, shoes, posters, flowers, trophies, adoring fans, and students lining up for lessons. 

They practice, perform, compete, and take well-deserved bows.  Life is good!!

Then it happens:  new, young, hungry couples start nipping at their heels.  Partnerships collapse, they begin to age, bodies hurt, injuries, (Dare I say it?) politics, family commitments; the list goes on.  Where does that leave them?  “Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick.  Good…Good.  Nice Promenade…Try to dance to the music.”

As Amateur dancers, the world of ballroom remains open, beautiful, and at our feet.  We can compete at any age and at any level.  We have bronze for the beginners until they are ready to move on to Silver, Gold, and eventually Open.  Some stay in Bronze too long, some move up too quickly; it is really up to us.  We have age categories from Teddy Bear through Seniors to keep competitions fair and exciting.  Most recently, I even heard of Senior VI in Europe — Do the math; that is 85 and up!!

Amateurs don’t count on their ballroom to pay the bills.  It is what we want it to be.  We can Social Dance or compete.  We can stand around the refreshment table and enjoy listening to the beautiful music.  We can call dance a workout, a hobby, a sport, or an evening out.  If we want to, we can take lessons and improve…heck, we can take lessons and not improve.  We can practice hard, get serious, and compete all over the world.  Or, we can work on routines every now and then and compete once a year.  The Amateur dancer has few limits.  

Social dance
Vlad is a USA Dance Professional with more than 15 years of teaching experience. He currently enjoys instructing Pro-Am and Am-Am students from entry level up to USA Dance National Team members. Here he enjoys an evening social with his students and friends.
Photo courtesy of Noriko Donahue

So, what does it come down to for the Amateur?  We get to choose our Professional, Coach or Instructor, and then try to participate in something they know extremely well and take very seriously.  To us, it might be a pastime; for them, it is a profession.  For us, it might be one more competition; for them, it is a chance to prove themselves in front of their peers and students.  To us, it might be a chance to enjoy our Cinderella moment; for them it is a culture and way of life.  

There is a lot to consider when discussing Professional and Amateur dancers.  So, here’s a thought:  Although our Professionals want so much more, they can only make us the best dancers we want to be.  And…No, it’s not JUST ballroom dancing!

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