Many social dancers go to events for the opportunity to dance with their favourite pros. In some places, the most sought-after dancers can have a line-up of people waiting for their “3-5 minutes of heaven”.
But, there are some pros who social dance very little – or seem to social dance ‘too much’ with other professionals.
Are they breaking a rule? Should there be a ‘requirement’ or ‘expectation’ that a professional social dance as much as possible -and with everyone at an event?
My answer? Usually, no.
Which pros are we talking about?
This article is primarily directed towards the ‘top tier’ of pros. These are the ones who travel very regularly to dance events, and are paid as a headliner to attend the event. They usually give workshops, and feature strongly in advertising.
What pros are usually contracted to do
From an organizer’s perspective, we typically ‘hire’ professionals to teach and perform. There are some genres that may have modifications on this (ie, competitions), and some may contract a pro to dance socially for a few hours. What a pro is contracted for is what they are obligated to do.
When you figure in the duties that a pro is contracted for, it’s often between 2-8 hours a day. If the pro is a teacher and performer, competitor, DJ, or judge, this tends towards the high end of the range.
When you figure in prep time, each hour-long workshop eats up at least 1.5 hours. DJ’s need to set up their equipment. Performers and competitors have tech rehearsals, prep time, and more – and they need to be very fresh to do their best job. Judges need to be mentally alert and prepare for the competition. All of these things take time – and a well(ish)- rested pro.
What pros do on the side
In addition to the regular obligations set by the event, top professionals typically have an impressive lineup of people who want to take privates. So, they may do an additional 2-6 hours of teaching per day.
When you add these two numbers together, you’re looking at between 4 and 14 hours already spent in the day.
Extra things pros do
Many events also have things that don’t fit in the normal scope of duties that artists are still expected to attend. This is incredibly event-specific, and can range from a photo-op to a VIP dinner or lecture.
This is not including time for eating or personal care, or any other extra ‘activities’ happening throughout the day that are mandatory to attend.
Where social dancing fits in
If a pro is on the low end of the spectrum (say, 4 hours), it’s typical to see them burning the social dance floor. They may not dance the whole night, but they are typically present at the parties for at least part of the evening. Some of these professionals do this to build their reputation; others do it because they really really love social dancing.
Even for the pros at the high end of the time commitment range, they usually spend at least a bit of time at the party. But, they may be exhausted from a full day of activities. They could also need to get to bed on time – especially if the event requires them to be up early, or they have a big show or competition.
There’s a caveat for even the most social pro. If something is going to get cut during the weekend, it usually has to be the social dancing or private classes. And usually, the economical thing to cut is the social dancing. Especially for top artists who make their living off of dancing, privates are a main source of income.
Pros do need rest and downtime to be functional. Some require more than others. For example, I need sleep. If I don’t get sleep, everything suffers. I either need to get that sleep during daytime downtime, or at some point during the evening.
If I’m teaching the first workshop at 11, running competitions from 2-4, doing tech from 6-7, and performing at 11, the only time that I can feasibly fit sleeping is after the show. This means that I’m leaving the social early (2 a.m. being ‘early’). But, if I’m teaching at 12, running competitions until 3, and then I’m ‘off’ for the rest of the day, I’ll burn the floor all night and do my sleeping in the afternoon.
Why was the pro hired if they’re not going to social dance?
When you’re a dance professional, your reputation can be built on a few things:
- Your DJ’ing
- Your teaching
- Your social dancing
- Your performances/demonstrations
There are some professionals who are legendary for staying on the floor all night. And, this is usually reflected in their reputation and acclaim. This can contrast with a famous performer, who may not be known for burning the floor all night.
Both types draw people. Both bring a different flavour to the event that hires them. Sometimes, even within a couple, you have one partner that dances significantly more than the other. Some pros are well-known for both performance and staying on the floor all night.
So, some artists simply aren’t hired because of their social dancing. They’re hired because they add value in another way.
Shy, Grumpy, or Injured Pros
Another consideration is the temperament of certain pros. Contrary to intuition, many artists are pretty shy people. Several are introverts. So, giant parties where they know few people are not exactly their comfort zone.
Plus, many pros are dealing with injuries. This is simply the result of the intense physical things they make themselves do every day. If they social dance with too many partners, they risk turning a temporary inconvenience into a giant problem. This is doubly true if they have a big performance or competition later in the weekend; the wrong move on the social floor can jeopardize their ability to fulfill their professional obligations.
There’s also professionals who may just be having an ‘off day’. I get those when I’m tired. When I’m half-asleep and just want to curl up in bed, it takes some seriously awesome music and dancing to ‘pep’ me back up. Sometimes, even that’s not enough. So, they may choose to go fulfill their needs rather than be the ‘snob’ that night.
Why some hardworking pros dance anyway
First of all, many hard-working pros simply love dancing. So, that part of the event may not be a ‘job’ for them.
Others use it to build their reputation, in order to be able to command better gigs and better pay rates. The more draw an artist has when they attend an event, the more valuable they are to organizers. That doesn’t mean they dislike social dancing – but it may be the difference between heading to bed early and dancing a couple more hours.
But some social dance – yet ignore the ‘regular’ dancers! What snobs!
If the evening’s social dance is the time a pro gets to unwind, many will elect to spend part of that time with people they’re close to. On the dance circuit, that’s other travelling professionals.
Those other professionals are also the ones who are able to challenge them, push them, and let them express the music to their fullest capacity. It’s no wonder they want to dance with each other!
Most of the time, the pros that social dance with other pros aren’t actually thinking about how exclusive it seems. They’re simply doing what makes them happy. That’s not a license to be rude to a social dancer who comes and asks for a dance – but it is an explanation for behavior that may seem snobby, yet is not ill-intentioned.
(And yes, there are a few professionals who really can be snobby. But, it’s far from the majority in every style I’ve seen).
How dare they enjoy dancing with other pros more than regular people!
Most of the time, ‘regular’ dancers want to dance with the big names because of their insane level of skill. That skill is built because dancing is what they do. Every day. For several hours. Constantly. Of course they have a far superior grasp of what they’re doing!
It’s not reasonable say that an average dancer will provide that challenging thrill to a top artist. Dances with hobby dancers may be enjoyable, fun, exciting, and more – but it’s not the same as dancing with someone else that has the same intense practice schedule, experience, and dedication to their craft. It’s like saying a top NASA engineer will be challenged by the thoughts of a 2nd-year undergraduate engineering student. The conversation can be fun and even create new ideas, but there’s simply an imbalance in experience.
But I want social dancing pros!
When a pro chooses whether or not to social dance, how long to dance for, and who to dance with, they are building a reputation for themselves (whether they recognize it or not).
It may not be your idea of a good reputation – and that is completely fine. You have the ability to choose where to spend your money, and on whom. You pick what events you pay for, and who you take lessons with. If you love social dancing pros, prioritize and spend money on the events that bring those people. Support them!
Why don’t event organizers force them to social dance?
Well, some events may pay money to contract the artist for a specified number of social dance hours. But, typically that means budget needs to be taken away from other areas. It’s hard enough to break even on an event without adding extra expenses.
In most events, party passes are cheaper. Therefore, spending the money allocated for an artist to fly around the world to be there for social dancing instead of using those funds to beef up workshop schedules and other Full Pass programs can seem like a bad idea. This is particularly true if you know the artist is likely to at least social dance for a portion of the party.
So, if you want events to start mandating social dance hours for your favourite pros, prepare to spend more money on your weekend and party passes. Otherwise, it’s simply not affordable to pay pros for social dance duties.
If we are not paying an artist for social dancing, we never mandate how much time a pro must spend social dancing, or dictate who they will dance with. That is their call, and they have the right to decline, go to sleep, or only dance with each other. However, we do encourage artists to spend time with attendees and dance with them. Most are very happy to do so.
Well, this is their job. Don’t they get the whole week to rest?
Most top-level pros travel weekly. Depending on how far the travel is, that can take 1-2 days out of the week. Then, you’ve got to add in a day for jetlag recovery.
If the artist is typically at an event starting Thursday and leaving Monday, simple recovery and packing can eat up a lot of the Tuesday/Wednesday downtime.
Of course, many artists also run dance schools, have to manage their business, do laundry, and the other day-to-day maintenance stuff the rest of us do. Plus, they need to rehearse routines, train their bodies, and more. Professional artists don’t spend their downtime sitting around doing nothing. If they did, they wouldn’t be at the top of their field!
It’s a true treasure when we have artists who are avid social dancers, great teachers, and awesome performers. We should be incredibly grateful to have these people among us, and it is totally awesome to recognize their great spirit.
But, recognizing how awesome those people are doesn’t mean we should put down the artists who don’t “do it all” as effectively. We need to recognize that artists are people, and people have limits. Their bodies have limits. Their minds have limits. And, those limits don’t make them bad people or professionals.
Even if they are hired for an event, it doesn’t mean that they are our slave for the duration of the weekend. There are very few select professions where people are reasonably expected to be constantly available for days on end, and “dance artist” is not among them.
Let’s be a little bit more understanding of these people who inspire, promote and grow our wonderful dance. Let’s give them the space for downtime and enjoyment, so that they can truly give 100% when it counts. At the very least, choose to recognize the artists who go above and beyond, rather than rejecting those who you feel don’t ‘do enough’ because they didn’t burn the floor all night.