Pro/am isolation

I have been debating about whether to write a post about this or not for a while now.

One caveat I will say is that this is based on my own experiences in the community where I live, which is certainly unique compared to what I hear about others.

I will also say that in many ways, this is a post where I just need to vent and I apologize in advance for that.  Sometimes you just have to get things out before they consume you.

In all honesty, this could be a combination of post-comp crash combined with a hormone surge from my injection last week, although what I will speak about has been swirling in my brain for quite some time.

I have been feeling more and more isolated from the dance community lately and a big part of it seems to be that I am an unpartnered person trying to fit into a community that celebrates and embraces partnerships.

I don’t fit in with the competitive couples here because since I compete in pro/am I am not really considered a competitor.

I don’t fit in with the social dancers here because I am seen by them as more of a competitor.  And again, the majority of them from the studio where I dance are couples.

I feel like everywhere I turn I am encountering a situation that highlights the fact that I am a single person trying to do something meant for couples, and because of that, I just don’t fit in.  The more I try to fit in, the more isolated I feel.

One of the things I always like about dance is that it is a community of people who all have similar interests as me and a community with which I have a lot in common.  I enjoy and crave that sense of community. When I first moved to the city where I lived, I started dancing at a franchise studio which provided a great sense of community, even if I had issues with some of the other things about the franchise system.  While I know that leaving the franchise when I did was the best decision for me, I do miss the community I was a part of while I was there.

I did try to get involved with the local dance society, but because I am a pro/am student anything which I did was perceived as having the sole goal of trying to promote my instructor (even when it had nothing to do with him). I was told I couldn’t participate in events with am/am couples (as again any dancing I did with my instructor indirectly promoted him unfairly and not other instructors), and I was repeatedly accused of manipulating other members to make decisions in my instructor’s favour, even when I had no knowledge or involvement in those decisions.  After more than a year of dealing with this and the stress it caused me, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from that community.  I don’t regret that decision, but I am sorry for the loss of interactions with those in the community who had nothing to do with the stress and drama. Even after leaving, I hear rumblings that similar things are occurring even without me being a convenient scapegoat.

I will admit that with the loss of this community, I have been trying to find a new one to fit into without success.  The isolation I feel has even led me to very seriously consider stopping dance and taking up another sport that does not require a partner (such as martial arts).  I am honestly quite frustrated that I will always be on the outside of the dance community here, competitive or social, simply because I am stuck being the ‘am’ in a pro/am relationship in order to compete and enjoy dance.

Being a pro/am student is hard.  It’s even harder when you are only 1 of 2 in an entire community of competitive dancers.  I didn’t get into dance with the intention of being a pro/am student (I didn’t even know it was possible or what it was when I started!), but that is how my dance journey has unfolded for me, and I don’t see that being able to be changed anytime soon if I want to continue dancing and competing.

Recently, a news article came out with information that the average age in the city where I live is 44–6 years older than what I am.  When it comes to dance, I can see how that demographic is played out.  We do have some university aged students that dance social through the university club.  Unfortunately, I am almost 20 years older than them.  We have a large social dance community, but the average age there is 60–almost 20 years older than me.  There is a huge gap between these two groups and that is where I fit, basically by myself.

Along with thinking about taking up a new sport, when the question of where I would be working came up, I also very seriously considered requesting a posting to another community in the hope that I might have a chance of finding a competitive partner and/or fitting better into the dance community.  That didn’t come to pass (as I have been posted back to the position I was in before I got sick, starting Wednesday), but it does still cross my mind.

Something else I will admit is that I often wonder if while doing pro/am on the one hand allows me to dance,  if on the other it is also holding me back from my goals as well. I think of what I want from dance, and being a pro/am student is not necessarily going to provide it.  I want to be part of the community, especially the competitive one.  It’s very difficult to not feel separate and singled out when you are practicing on a floor with competitive couples and you are the only single lady trying not to get run-over.

I don’t know if other pro/am students experience the same frustrations and feelings of isolation from the rest of the ballroom community, but I can say it’s something which I find myself feeling more and more, especially as I work to rebuild back into competitive shape.

A summary of the basic attitude towards pro/am from an amateur competitor is a conversation that occurred at the last competition I attended:

“Am lady: I wish I could compete at this comp, but my partner and I have been working on new routines at a new level for the last few months and they aren’t ready yet.

pro/am student: I can understand that, I also started working on new routines for my new level a couple months ago, but we are doing them here for experience even though they are still pretty new and shaky.

Am lady: Well, you are doing pro/am so that is like basically cheating.”

I don’t know where these feelings will take me in the future.  In many ways I feel ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’.  I won’t ever be accepted as a competitor here as long as I have to compete in pro/am.  But if I don’t compete in pro/am, I won’t be able to compete or even dance at all.

The logical part of my brain says to forget about community and just focus on my dancing and doing what I want to do. And believe me, I really wish I could and for many years I tried.  I am not sure if it is part of my recovery or the amount of time I have been dancing or that I am just seeking some support and recognition for the amount of work I put into my dancing and competing, but finding that sense of community just keeps becoming more and more important to me.

And that worries me for the future of my dancing.

If you are still here, thank you for reading the entire post and tolerating my need to vent.  I appreciate it very much.

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3 thoughts on “Pro/am isolation

  1. My experience is limited to the Franchise world and their comps. Most of the dancers at my studio are primarily pro/am. There’s one couple that also does am/am but, from what I see at our Franchise comps, most people are pro/am. But I do get a bit of where you are coming from in trying to figure out the right path for your dance journey. Hope you find some answers.

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  2. That was my experience at the franchise. An interesting perspective was presented to me today–that the competitive dancers consider me a beginner dancer because they have only known me as a dancer for 2 years–and I was sick for most of that time. They don’t consider that I was dancing 4 years before they met me.

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  3. In my little world, I am exactly the opposite. Because I choose to dance with another amateur, I am outside of the norm. I constantly hear things about how much faster I would progress if I danced with a professional, and when I do go to competitions oftentimes I am one of only a handful of people who compete purely amateur. But don’t sweat it! If dancing pro/am makes you happy, then do it! Who cares what those other people say or think? They aren’t taking your dance journey for you.

    When all is said and done you can look back and feel good about getting wherever you got by forging your own path despite what everyone else thinks. And I’ll be right there to high-five you because that’s how I’m going to do it too. 🙂

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