What Is It Really Like To Be An Amateur Competitive Ballroom Dancer?

So one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a trailer for this dance show called “The Studio” that is online.  I don’t know much about the program, or if they will have any more episodes, but I found the content fascinating.  You see, the pilot was about amateur competitive ballroom dancers (like me) and their professional partners as they prepared and competed at Hotlanta Dance Challenge.  I was curious to see how they would be portrayed and hunted down episode 1, the links to which I’ve posted below so you can watch for yourself.  Each episode is about 20 minutes or so, so make sure you have time to watch!  Of course, you know me.  I’m going to have my opinions.  And, I’m really interested to hear about yours as well.  It all seems especially apropos (yes!  How many times do you get to use that word in your life?!) since I’m 10 days away from my big competition!  I’m right in the middle of the preparation and can relate to these dancers.  Anyways, click below, watch, and enjoy, and then meet back up with me for some further commentary.

Pretty interesting, huh?

What did you think?

Me, well, parts I was rooting for people!  Parts, I was rolling my eyes.   Mostly, I was feeling like there is so much missing from the story!!!

Why?

Well, every ballroom dancer I know, including me, practices for hours and hours and hours.  Also, they didn’t show the actual dancing…that you do 4 or 5 dances in a row, at a minimum.  Like in my situation, I’m not just going and doing the scholarship round, I’m dancing all day long.  I’m betting these students danced lots too, at least more than they showed.  Probably they couldn’t show it because there was a contracted videographer at the competition (there always is…remember, nothing about ballroom comes cheaply!!), but that would have added an extra dimension to the story.  Like, how did they look compared to the other dancers on the floor?  Also, the results were only revealed for a few dances.  How did they do overall?  On other heats?

This project focused a little tiny bit on the practice and preparation that actually goes into showing up for a competition.  That is mostly what we students do.  It’s not all rhinestones and glamour.  It just isn’t.  It’s sweat, and tears, and triumph, and breakthroughs, and pains, and aches, and pushing your body beyond what you think it can do.  It is hours of repetition.  It is lots of money (a subject not even broached), and lots of time.  Simply stated, and I guess there’s a reason they don’t show all the “real life” stuff, it’s not all that shiny most of the time.  Most of the time it’s sweating in plain clothes, with blisters, with frustrations, with bills to pay.

But then there are those amazing sparkly moments!  I can’t wait to have a few of my own in like, 6 days OMG!

So anyways, what do you think of these videos?  I’m personally hungry to see more.  How do you think they did showing what it’s “really” like to be an amateur competitive dancer?  How is it the same, or different, from your personal experience?

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10 thoughts on “What Is It Really Like To Be An Amateur Competitive Ballroom Dancer?

  1. Ellen/ITSDF says:

    Stef – as always your blog finds the coolest stuf to share. I loved the videos – if only for some interesting perspective. I think it showed a tiny bit of what goes into putting on a comp, and asmall bit of what goes into owning a studio – both are undoubtedly 10x more work than we realize! I agree that it left out lots of pieces I would consider important, (choosing a dress, figuring out hair and makeup, jewelry, travel, costs, practice, etc.) and I think it barely touched on the “personalities” of both students and instructors. Personally I liked the competitor who had been sick and openly said she wanted to win, and the last lady best (joann I think was her name) who really had no expectations except to dance for the joy of it – whereas everyone else-IMHO-no matter how nicely they “said” they were/would be happy with any experience and doing their best- was intent on WINNING! Nothing necessarily wrong with it – just seemed a bit “nicey nice” for the camera to say “just want to do well” when it was really about winning!

  2. This is a hot mess. I can’t believe a studio would allow this kind of PR, much less self-create it – they look so unprofessional and so messy! I know these guys, and I’ve danced with some of them, and I am embarrassed on behalf of the professionals AND the students. Super uncool. I don’t care if you think you are the next Bravo reality star; your clientele pays you a whole pile of cash to provide a service. Stop wasting their time and yours and provide it. Show up on time, do your job, and keep your mouth shut. You’re not doing yourselves any favors. (In the schadenfreude department, however, it does make me feel better about my staff and how we run our studio.)

    • loveablestef says:

      Yeah….kind of unbelieveable how that one instructor was so late and how it was handled (or not)! I would not be okay with that, personally. Different things work for different people, I suppose.

  3. Melissa says:

    Hi, I am one of the producers and I am thrilled that you found the pilot! We did this as a concept piece to pitch to TV networks and introduce real life characters and show that there was much more to be explored hopefully through a full season where we can spend more time with the characters. There is a lot of work that goes into putting a project like this together especially on a low budget. We are just starting to pitch “The Studio” and appreciate any and all support as we try to get TV networks to see that people want to see real lives, real people, real transformations that can and do occur through ballroom dancing. Thank you again for watching and your commentary! It helps us as we go forward and hopefully we will be able to share much more! We have a vision and hope to have the opportunity to see it through! Please share with your friends and check out our website and Facebook page at “Peachtree and 5th.” (www.peachtreeand5th.com)

    Melissa Ewing

  4. Melissa says:

    By the way, we welcome all feedback, good or bad. Obviously, there is drama in this industry. We hope ballroom dance studios, teachers, and students will support us in trying to get a show like this as part of the TV programming. This is only a pilot and we have much more that we hope to do with the concept if given the support by a network.

    • loveablestef says:

      Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for reaching out. How exciting this all is. I don’t know if you read my post, but I’ve already declared I’m hungry for more. Even DWTS has it’s moments, you know? Both positive and not so positive, and honestly, without some conflict, it would be kinda boring, right? I for one fully support your show and getting it one the air. How could I best help?

      Being a competitive amateur ballroom dancer myself, I find it fascinating to see the stories of others doing the same thing. Some things we share in common. Others….well, that is why there are many colors in the rainbow, and it is cool to learn about how other people experience ballroom dancing.

      Anyways, I’m glad you got the pilot off the ground and please don’t hesitate to ask for any support I might offer as you make the push for your show. Also, please be sure to let us know if/when more episodes might be out that we can gobble up! If it makes it on tv, I’d love to add it to my DVR schedule next to DTWS, SYTYCD, Dance Moms, ABDC, and Bunheads. Yeah, I’m a dance freak! And didn’t even know about ballroom dancing until my 30’s! There should be a space, and an audience for what you have to offer.

      -Stef

  5. Melissa says:

    Stef thank you so much for the support! We really appreciate it! We really want to bring more to our audiences and film more of “The Studio”! I truly am thrilled to find out that you came across the pilot and will keep you informed about way you can support and future episodes. We also have an industry page that you could support/like at:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2339731/combined

    Thanks again! I used to be an amateur dancer and loved it! I want to eventually pick it back up again and working on this project has especially made me want to dance more! 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Against the Line of Dance that this isn’t good PR for the studio (the male owner and the female teacher who started her lesson 12 minutes late, in particular). Still, it’s fun to see what other studios are like, sneak a peek at other student’s experiences, learn more about the pros and their training.

    The big drama at my studio at comp time revolves around stacking all our entries with one teacher (so that he has the best chance possible at winning top teacher), which results in students being told to dance with a teacher who is not truly their teacher and creates conflicts in certain age categories that appear to be routinely resolved in favor of whichever student spends the most money at the studio.

    There’s plenty of drama to go around… or at least to fill a few more episodes.

    • loveablestef says:

      Anonymous, wow….thanks for sharing that insightful tidbit. I have not been a part of a studio (just the way my dancing evolved) in such a way as you mention but I can most certainly understand why some drama might erupt around stacking entries with a teacher so he/she has the best possible chance at winning a cash prize for earning top teacher. Oh yes, they get a cash prize for that title… I, personally, would be P.I.S.S.E.D if I was told to dance with someone else for even a few heats. That just doesn’t work for me. Maybe I’m a spoiled diva, don’t know. I DO know that connection is what it is all about for me when it comes to ballroom and to have me switch-er-roo hither and thither with various individuals that I haven’t practiced or connected with, ugh, well, I would not like that one bit. Actually, it would be very interesting to see how someone would try to “sell” me on that. It sounds like this could be a regular practice so I’d be very interested to know how they finagle it so often… I swear some dance teachers have majors in psychology… And, I don’t think I would acquiesce lightly to a suggestion like that… Anywhoo… All still fascinating!! I love having a community here to share our experiences and opinions (and frustrations!). Thanks for participating!!!

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