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"Why do Amateurs Dance? Because They Love It!"

The Sounder - Unknown Date - The Sounder
by Gary Feider

What’s the real difference between an "amateur" dancer and a "professional" dancer?

Is there a different method for training the professional? Do the pros use different steps and styling than amateurs do? Do pros dance to a different music tempo? Of course, the answer to all these questions is no. The movement is the same, the styling is the same, and the music is the same – it’s a matter of how advanced one gets.

Even in Wisconsin there are amateur dancers who have more than a decade of formal ballroom dance instruction. Obviously, they know more about dancing than a brand new professional would. One assumes that the new pro will be working "full-time" on dancing and he or she will compress a decade of amateur training into a matter of months.

For a formal definition of professional and amateur dancers one should consult the USA DanceSport rulebook, which is the official set of rules promulgated by the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association, Inc. This rulebook governs all amateur competitions in the United States.

The definitions take several pages, but basically the amateur dancesport athlete may not generate a net profit from his or her dance skills above and beyond the amount of allowable expenses incurred (reimbursements of traveling, subsistence and other out-of-pocket expenses for competitions, training camps and exhibitions). Any one who wants to get involved in competitive ballroom dancing will eventually be joining USABDA and will get a copy of the rulebook (or call 1-800-447-9047).

But let’s get back to the question which opened this article. What really defines the amateur dancer? To anyone who has enjoyed gliding across the floor with your partner in the fox trot, or being a total flirt with the cha cha, the legal definitions just won’t do. The real answer lies in the root of the word "amateur." It’s a French word that derives from the Latin "amator" or "lover." In other words, the amateur dances for the love of dancing. Isn’t that what you truly believe?

The World Book Dictionary supports that thesis with its first two definitions of "amateur". The first: "a person who does something for pleasure, not for money or as a profession." The second: "an athlete who is not a professional."

We surely do not agree that the amateur dancer is well described by World Book’s third and fourth definitions if this word: "a person who does something rather poorly" and "a superficial student or worker; dabbler."

Noah Webster published his great dictionary (An American Dictionary of the English language) in 1828, and this is how he defined "amateur". "A person attached to a particular pursuit, study or science as to music or painting; one who has a taste for the arts." Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary in 1913 expanded it to: "A person attached to a particular pursuit, study or science as to music or painting, esp. the one who cultivates any study or art, from taste or attachment without pursuing it professionally." This 1913 version is very close to what you’ll find in a modern Webster’s dictionary.

Amateur dancing should never be written off as dancing "badly done" but it usually reflects the amount of time, study and practice that has been invested. Those professionals who pursue the finest training and practice the hardest should see the results on the floor, but the same goes for amateur dancers. The difference is that the amateur truly dances for the love of the activity.