Jackie Dout dances with Sandro Virag, left, while Lori Price dances with Armando Aseneta at the Savannah Dance Classic 2022.

It’s likely that most people are not familiar with the term “pro-am” when it applies to dance. The best example would be “Dancing With the Stars.”

I am sure many of you wonder, “What does this Pro-Am partnership mean?” It means that a professional qualified dancer – whether competing, dancing in a showcase, or performing – is dancing with an amateur dancer.

This opens up the opportunity for people to perform later in life because so many people would not consider getting up and doing a dance on stage alone or competing in a professional ballroom dance competition unless they had previous dance experience.

The Pro-Am concept is primarily American. Because of the relationship of the professional with the amateur, it allows the dancers to do 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 beginners, intermediates and advanced, teaching basic elements, basic steps, how to lead, how to follow, the timing of the music and executing the movements.

Interestingly enough, the older generation here in the United States has a good 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 exactly 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 they work together as if they were 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. hiltonheadballroom.com