Some readers might not be familiar with the term “pro-am.” In the dance world, it means that a professional, qualified dancer (“pro”) – whether competing, dancing in a showcase, or in a performance – is dancing with an amateur dancer (“am”).

The best example of this is “Dancing With the Stars.”

This format opens up the opportunity for people, especially elders, to perform who might not otherwise consider getting up and doing a dance on stage alone or in a ballroom dance competition.

The pro-am concept was primarily American. Because of the relationship of the professional with the amateur, it allows the dancers to perform more levels and more varied styles of dance. There are students who take their dancing very seriously – maybe to a high competitive level – and there are students who just enjoy performing with a professional.

In most European countries, the dance culture is much younger. Most dancers range from age 5 to 35. What’s amazing about the United States is, there is no limit to age, size or ability. The dance world here is so expanded.

Like myself, many Europeans who came here to teach found themselves faced with a different challenge. I personally was intrigued because I was used to teaching professionals, so this was a new chapter. This involved teaching beginner, intermediate and advanced students, teaching basic elements, basic steps, how to lead and follow, the timing of the music and execution of movements.

Interestingly enough, the older generation here in the U.S. has a solid background of dance due to the Big Band Era, which gave them such a good foundation for partner dancing. This generation has an appreciation of traditional dance and traditional music.

Pro-am competition works exactly the same way as a professional competition. The age categories separate the dancers by age groups and also by level. The judging method is the same that is used in professional competitions. There are also regulations regarding costumes.

Pro-am competition allows all levels and ages a fair shot at being successful. With pro-am, the partnership is very serious and the pair work together as if they are both professionals to achieve the very best outcome.

It’s never too late to start dancing and never too late to take your dancing to the highest level you can.

Sandro Virag is a partner and instructor at Hilton Head Ballroom Dance Studio of Hilton Head, located in Bluffton at Seaquins Ballroom.