I am having a couples days where it is hard to tell. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.
I have noticed the last couple days that my mood is dropping and I am increasingly tired. I am also plagued by headaches although the nausea has let up some. With this drop in mood has come some very serious and deep thinking about dance–what I am doing, and what I would like to do.
It’s leading me to question whether I want to continue dancing when pro/am is the only option open to me for competing and as much as I might try I don’t see how I will be able to both afford pro/am and to reach my competitive goals–goals which seem to be only really open to dancers with partners.
Let me be clear–I love to dance. Absolutely and truly love it. I have from the moment I first started it more than 5 years ago. I started without a partner and except for one leader who I regularly danced with in group classes when I first started I have never had an amateur partner. I can’t even say I really wanted one after discovering pro/am as a possibility–as pro/am allowed me to truly focus on my dancing and myself, which is what I needed to do when I started dancing.
But with pro/am comes many frustrations–the first of which is money and second of which is sharing your professional instructor/partner with other students.
Where I live, the dance community is very am/am oriented. There are very few pro/am students and none in my hometown in my age or category. If I go to a local competition, I am very lucky if there is someone else to compete against. If I want to ‘really’ compete, I have to travel to either the US or Eastern Canada–which is very costly–and include in my costs the fees for my professional teacher. On top of that, pro/am entry fees compared to am/am entry fees are sometimes more than double. Being pro/am, I need to budget $3-6,000 to go to a competition. There are competitions here in my home province for am/am that cost couples less than $500 with all entry fees and travel costs included.
In the past 2 years while I have been sick, I have watched many of the am/am couples from my dance community compete in 5-6 competitions each year, some local, some further away, many of which have strongly contested heats. Each time I see a competition for am/am I found myself looking at the pro/am division (if there was one) and calculating costs and seeing if I would have been contested. Most of the time, the cost was more than $1000 just for a minimal number of dances (one in each dance and 1 scholarship), and there was no one competing in my age and level in pro/am.
It’s a very small dance community here and the majority of the am/am couples are couples in life as well as dance and over 50. Beyond that, there are no leaders looking for partners who want to compete in 10-dance. I even advertised looking for a male athlete who wanted to try a new competitive sport, but everyone who responded did not want to do dance.
So I find myself stuck. If I want to dance competitively, then I need to pay and compete in pro/am. I guess the question I am asking myself now is do I want to continue to dance competitively paying more than $20,000/year for a minimum of competitions, and can I afford to keep doing that?
As I move up in levels, I am increasingly finding that the time I spend working myself has less impact on my dancing. I feel like there are huge gaps where the lack of time working with a partner is very obvious. I can do and work on my own technique and steps, but at certain points they need to be done with a partner to get the proper idea of lead, balance, connection, etc. Without that regular partner practice, it seems like those concepts will always be absent from my dancing.
I know for myself that I am very willing to put in the time and work to do well and get better at my dancing. The problem I am facing is that I cannot afford the same amount of time working and practicing with my instructor, and even if I could, he would not have the time to put into my dancing–paid or not. He has other students who also need lessons and practice. His priorities are not the same as mine–even though he is committed to helping me try to reach my goals. I will always be limited by my budget and my instructor’s time.
I am also looking at my goals and from very early on when I started dancing I wanted to be competitive as an open 10-dancer. I look at the pro/am competitions in Canada though and I have yet to see one that offers a 10-dance option (I think one just added a 9-dance category), and there is no pro/am national competition in Canada. I am also not aware of any recognized international pro/am championships. There is no World 10-dance pro/am championship.
But there is for amateur couples. Both nationally and internationally. Pro/am does have the ‘World Pro/Am Dancesport Series’, but that is a point-based system that is more based on quantity than quality and it is necessary to compete almost monthly in order to even make the top-10. In the end, that series really doesn’t tell you much about the quality of your dancing, just that you are capable and able to afford to dance a lot. Pro/Am champions seem to be based much more on how much you can dance rather than how well you can dance, and I have seen bronze-level dancers treated and recognized more than top-quality open-level dancers.
So with that in mind, what is my long-term goal then? Do I keep working on the hope that as I progress in level I might one day find a partner able to dance at a similar level, who is not a professional, and willing to work as hard as I am to compete in Snr I open or older? Do I hope that some day pro/am students will have their own championships based on quality of dancing similar to those of am/ams and pro/pro?
Am I willing to keep investing money into this sport based on could be, maybe and perhaps one day? Or is it time to find a new sport to maintain my fitness, perhaps one that doesn’t require a partner or large piggy bank that has a very definite goal I can work towards.
I wish it could be enough for me to just compete against myself and be happy knowing I am one of the strongest pro/am dancers for my age and level in my province (due to lack of other options). It is not–not for the amount of money I am investing in it. One of the biggest things I enjoy about dancing, other than the pure joy of dancing itself, is knowing that the time and effort I am putting into it pays off not only for myself, but shows when I am compared with other people. That there is an ultimate goal to work for–to be better than I was the day before and to have the example of others I am competing with to work against. Competition challenges me–to be better for myself, to have goals and to work to be a better dancer.
I am not sure if that makes sense, but it’s the competitive drive that keeps me working so hard, and has been my reason for working so hard from the start. I think if it was enough for me to just dance I would have stuck with group classes and would have become a social dancer happy to be able to do a minimum of steps with so/so technique long ago. I just wouldn’t be the dancer I am today.
Dance is a sport I love because it combines both the athleticism of a sport with the aesthetics of a fine art. I started because I was looking for something I could do to improve my fitness that I would enjoy and had competition to keep me motivated, but also allowed me to express myself.
But now I am finding I am reaching a level where my goals are falling out of my reach because of circumstances I don’t have much control over. I have cut my personal budget as much as I reasonably can and taken measures such as moving to a cheaper apartment and taken on a roommate to cover dance costs. I have very few luxuries in my life, and those I do have are almost all dance related (like going out to social dances). I am trying to make pro/am fit into my goals and life because I feel it is the only option I have. But I am continuously finding myself wondering if I am sacrificing too much of the rest of my life trying to reach goals that might not actually exist in the pro/am world.
So that is a taste of the thoughts that have come swirling into my brain in the last couple days as my fatigue and mood has suffered from the HT. At least I hope it’s the HT (and probably it is a big part of it).
I think some of the other contributing factors are that because Boss is on vacation I am practicing completely on my own right now, and as I do I feel as though practicing on my own is just what I am fated to do. I haven’t had a good practice session with Boss in more than 8 months. Even in my lessons we rarely dance together as we have been focused on me working on technique. Because of my health, I have been inconsistent with when I am able to go to lessons and somewhere in the last 6 months I began to feel left out and not as important as Boss’s other students who have been able to work and compete consistently while I was sick. I do feel like sometimes when Boss needs to adjust or cancel a lesson it is my lesson that gets cancelled first, and I was admittedly hurt that in the end I wasn’t able to have a lesson the day before he left for vacation due to lack of time in the hall and the number of other lessons and classes he had that night. It was like he forgot to include me and when he tried to last minute he couldn’t make it work.
I sometimes feel like because I am so willing to work on my own sometimes I get passed over for opportunities to work with others. I mentioned to Boss about perhaps returning to group classes when he gets back, but his response was that there are already a lot of single ladies in the classes and too many for him to dance with them all. He doesn’t feel the group classes would be much use to me as they are below my level and not in line with how I prefer to work. All that is fair points, but it doesn’t help me in trying to find ways to dance more and dance more constructively.
Right now, I don’t even know when my next lesson will be. I know when Boss is back, but in the shuffle of the time between my return after my last surgery and Boss’s vacation my lessons got moved around a lot, and many of them won’t work with my work hours. I know that the evenings that Boss works are pretty full and that my lessons tend to get added to the beginning of his ‘day’. So I just don’t know when he will have time to schedule my lessons now that I am back at work.
Because of all the health issues I have been facing, with the extra surgeries and recoveries, it almost feels like serious work in dance has been delayed and ‘put off’ waiting for the right time. As soon as I started to come back after my last surgery, it was done knowing that in a short amount of time Boss would be away for vacation. But looking back from there, I can organize my dance into small blocks going all the way back to my first surgery in December 2014. It just seems like I never had enough time to really ‘get into’ anything consistent without something coming to break it up. I do hope that when Boss gets back he and I will be able to sort out a regular schedule and goals to get me back on track. I feel very derailed right now.
And all of that doesn’t help the frustration that I feel I need some concentrated practice time with a partner in order to keep moving forward, and that is just not available–with Boss or anyone else.
I know I am raising many of the frustrations many pro/am students feel and I am sorry to whine some. I am really not sure what I will do right now although I find myself giving thoughts to some options–like leaving ballroom and taking up another form of dance like jazz or modern, or exploring a new sport like martial arts. I know I would miss ballroom, but a large part of me wonders if I would feel happier and more fulfilled in a sport or activity where I can still be competitive, but I don’t need a partner, or to rely on paying a professional in order to do it–beyond lesson costs.
I don’t see how I can reconcile my fitness, competition and budget goals with continuing to do pro/am in ballroom dance with the restrictions on costs and practice time I am facing.
But for now, I am still trying to figure it out.