Ahhhh, the glow of a new ballroom dance pro.
"I have my dream job!" they proclaim.
The magic of partner dance runs so strong with the newly payrolled. And I hate to crush dreams but
NO I LOVE TO CRUSH DREAMS :
The Cons of Being a Professional Ballroom Dancer
- Wear and tear on your body. Generally speaking, ballroom dancing is a low-impact exercise, but doing anything 20-50 hours a week is going to wear you down, especially when you are working with a variety of levels of dancers. No offense to the amateurs of the world (obvs, 'cause you're like my bread and butter and I really do love my job), but ams are subtly hurting you. I'm not even talking about the occasion elbow to the nose/face/crotch/boob or foot getting stepped on because those are somehow expected. It's more along the lines of the heavy frame, late leads, and lack of momentum (that is totally part of the learning process and you are both working on in your respective roles!) that will wear down joints and cartilage and cause everyone to get hip replacements at 60 years old.
- Your schedule vs. making money. Like I mentioned in the first post of this series, teaching dance is not glamorous for quite awhile, because you're not making any money at it. Of course you want to devote all your time and energy to improving your craft, but you probably also have some bills to pay. Count on not sleeping a lot when you sign on to be a pro. Grab a part-time early morning shift slinging coffee [talk about a dream job!] or filing papers or anything you can get your hands on until you're making enough in the studio to buy more than ramen for dinner.
- Compromising situations. You mostly work one on one with your clients, meaning it feels pretty intimate to the uninitiated/insane. Often, you are a 20-something, fresh-faced sweetheart who wants to share the Love of Dance with someone who is... not 20-something and wants to share more than the Love of Dance with you. [I made it sound dirty, didn't I? It's not always dirty, but those are definitely the note-worthy ones.] Depending on how draw your boundaries, you might have a very professional teacher/student relationship or you might be friends with your ballroom babies. Either way, you will probably get sucked in to situations that are WAY BEYOND your hourly service of Teaching Dance. I've been around teachers turning into marriage/job/divorce counselors, students falling in love with their teachers, students stalking their teachers, and teachers having to fend off advances/subtle sexual harassment/gross sexual harassment (and I've had my fair share of them, too). And with the added tension of traveling with those people who involved? Yikes.
- Paying your dues. Pro ballroomers don't have a union, but that doesn't mean you don't have to pay your dues. If you want to get anywhere good in your career, you have probably have to give up a lot of extraneous fun things... and cake. You're going to have to scramble and whore yourself out (NOT LITERALLY PLEASE) to make connections and meet people and hand out business cards and practice and learn and grab lessons and teach group classes wherever and whenever you can. Friday nights and Sundays are no longer yours, they are your business's. And even then, you're not going to be the most-booked teacher in your studio after 1 year. You're not going to make finals at any legitimate competition for longer than that. If you know you're in it for the long haul, GREAT. If you're looking for short-term success, look for a different career. best Jay-Z line ever
- Code of conduct. There's an code of conduct when it comes to "being good": you teach your students well, you have good results at all levels, you coach with the right people (I like to call them the Ballroom Mafia - some of them you've heard of and some of them you haven't - they're all wonderful, influential, and slightly frightening), you hit the right comps, you hang with the right peeps, you're skinny as hell, and you have the right lifestyle. Some of these "rights" change from time to time, becoming a fairly elusive, implicit agreement throughout the industry. If you don't have someone to show you the ropes, you'll be at best a big fish in a little pond of your region, but never make a name for yourself nationally.
- Sales. This bothers a lot of the newbies and clearly, you have to sell lessons and other activities to be able to teach dance for a living. And it's hard because you feel like it's a lot of money (see the first post of the series) and maybe you don't see the benefits of all the showcases and student night outs and trophy balls and competitions and crazy whosits.
- Lawsuits. Most people won't get stuck with this one, but we live in a litigious society and when someone feels wronged, they can sue you to make themselves feel better. I've known owners who've gotten sued because Daddy's little princess didn't make the finals and lots of teachers who've gotten sued for breach of contract. Even if you don't go to court, it's still going to cost you a ton of money and no one "wins" in the end.
- Registration. This might sound similar to sales to you, and NO OFFENSE TO AMATEURS BECAUSE IT'S NOT JUST YOU, IT'S ALL OF YOU but registering for people for competitions has been the most aggravating part of my job, always. Ironically, I have been put in charge of it at three different studios because I'm "good at it", so I can't even imagine what's going on elsewhere. There's soooooo many different categories and the age groups change from comp to comp and what the hell is Open Bronze and can I be on a full package but not get tickets to that one session I'm not going to be at and I might do it but I might not even though it makes a huge difference in price to everyone who is committed and can I see everything itemized but next time I don't want to see anything itemized and I'll pay 17 days after the due date and this one takes online registration but this one doesn't so I have to mail in 72 pieces of paper and how much postage these days and there's three ladies that want the same scholarship and... *sigh*. It's not my fav.
- Cons. Literal con artists. I alluded to this in my last post and I really respect and admire a good percentage of the pros in my field, but there are some stinkers. From being undertrained and showboating otherwise, to lack of current education, to pitching sales like tents at a music festival, to taking advantage of people's trust to overcharge them, to literally stealing money or services from people, to just being plain crazy, there are some pieces of work out there.
Wouldn't you like to know how to avoid these cons? Next time on Riot and Frolic, I'll give some hard-earned advice on how to not be an idiot (like I was) when you start out.