I hear there was a competition recently. As a matter of fact, I hear it was an “amateur” contest.

What does this mean? Well, maybe the correct question is, what does this mean in the Chicago Salsa scene?

am·a·teur   [am-uh-choor, -cher, -ter, am-uh-tur]
a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Compare professional.
an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize.
a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity: Hunting lions is not for amateurs.
a person who admires something; devotee; fan: an amateur of the cinema.

Looking at these definitions, I think the ones that mostly apply are numbers 1, 2 and 3. But, as all things in life, things are a little more gray.

Before I step onto my soapbox, I really think I should take a second and give credit to the organizers of the event who, I am sure, try to make the event as reputable as possible.

Furthermore, I don’t bemoan the dancers involved AT ALL for participating in the event if the rules weren’t clearly defined or if the rules themselves need refining.

That being said, it is TOTALLY understandable how things could get a bit hairy and everyone will want to point fingers at the organizers and dancers.

Now then, my intention is not to badmouth anyone, but to simply try to make sense of what is REALLY WHAT in the Salsa scene. Let’s consider for a moment that several of the people involved, are in dance companies (Some for years) while other contestants have only ever taken group classes.

While “an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize” would certainly be a good definition on an amateur, I think it’s imperative to also consider this:


Basic: 0-2 years training. No prior knowledge of dance terminology.

Beginner: 2-5 years training. Basic understanding of discipline and general dance terminology.

Advanced Beginner: 5-8 years training. Complete understanding and proficiency in discipline and general dance terminology

Intermediate: 8-10 years training.

Intermediate/Advanced: 10+ years pre-professional/professional.

(Thanks Sekou) What do you guys think? Where does an amateur fit in the scope of this?

It might sound crazy for this scale to be applicable to our scene, considering it was written as a guide for more established dances, but I think that if a student commits him/herself to a serious hobby, then they should aspire to become good at it.

Also, taking into account that the average student comes 1-2 times per week for 2 hours a week and you have, in 5 years time, 480 hours of practice.

Compare this to someone in a group who on average practices about 6 hours a week with more technical attention and you have someone in the same span of time practicing for a whopping 1,440 hours!

If an average student wishes to get to that degree of training in a classroom setting, it would take….you guessed it, 10 YEARS.

SO, back to the point, the couple who won are both in groups and have been for a long time. In fact, there were MANY dance group members participating in an event which SHOULD be catered to students. Students now who are likely turned off by the experience of having to compete against people who are WAY ahead of them in the learning process.

I think the lifeblood of any community is new blood coming in contributing to the growth. Perhaps it would be better to have very strict and ENFORCED rules for dancers to compete against their peers in an environment where everyone is on equal footing. It might be great to have had a lot of couples participate and create excitement in the scene…but not at the expense of the scene itself.

I’ll wrap this up with a suggestion. Perhaps, like in Ballroom, we could start a “Rising Star” division for new couples who have experience dancing, but aren’t known as dance couples. This way, it’s UNDERSTOOD that they are seasoned, but still unknown.

If we go by the payment method to define ability, it really narrows it down to about 25-30 people in the scene and way less if we consider how many of THEM (us) are active performers/competitors.

Let’s applaud the opportunity to have people compete and get excited about dancing. Let’s also make sure we don’t turn people off to the contests with rules that, as unintentional as they may be, appear unfair.

That’s all I’ve got, what do you guys think?

To your dancing,