Our studio owner Amy Jordan has been going to competitions and events for 26 years now. However, she still remembers her very first competition in 1991 which she attended even though she had only been an instructor for a few months. Though she only had one student, she was nervous and initially quite surprised that her owner wanted her to go.
Walking into the venue on Friday, she saw all the professionals practicing. Back then there were 19 schools in the region, so the floor was filled with fabulous dancers working on theater arts routines. For someone who had only recently begun teaching this was an impressive sight indeed. A moment she remembers with pride is her studio owner introducing her to one of the judges as the top specialist of the region.
Through decades of teaching dance, Amy has realized one thing above all: People learn much faster with a goal. In fact, the entire Fred Astaire system is based on setting goals. This is a big part of what sets taking instruction at Fred Astaire apart from simply taking a few group classes at the local rec center. Fred Astaire offers individual accountability and goal setting which is the only way to make progress.
A goal can be something personal such as a wedding or prom, or it can be a competition. Amy is convinced that the only true indicator of a student’s progress is a competition, because it’s a controlled environment. Professionals are dancing with amateurs, doing everything they can to make it an enjoyable experience. It’s the best way for someone to attain their dancing goals.
Fred Astaire has a trophy system which composed of Bronze Silver and Gold. The studios also over a Social Foundations Program which is designed to help someone hold their own on the dance floor. As a student moves on into the trophy system, they begin to focus more on expression. If someone goes to a competition while enrolled in a social foundation program they will begin to learn elements of dance that are part of a bronze program. Therefore, the value of the lessons increases.
As Amy explains; when you set a goal for yourself, you also set a goal for your instructor. They carry the responsibility of ensuring that you look incredible on the dance floor and represent them and the studio well. With this responsibility, a teacher is going to work harder. Yes, there is a cost in participating in events and it is substantial. However, there is simply no other way to become a great social dancer. In Amy’s experience, no man has become a great social dancer until he decides to be a competitive dancer.
For this reason, she strongly encourages all students to start attending events early on in their dance journey. Dancing cannot be hobby until you develop it as a skill and competitions are the best way of obtaining that skill. Again, Amy emphasizes: ‘I’ve never met someone who has attended multiple competitions and hasn’t become a competent dancer who is comfortable on the dance floor.’
After 26 years Amy still loves going to competitions. Personally, she loves the dressing up. She still feels like an elegant, sophisticated princess in her beautiful smooth gowns and she feels young and sassy in her little Latin dresses. More than that, she loves watching her students excel and become beautiful dancers right there before her eyes. It’s not only the students she gets to watch improve, it’s also her instructors. Additionally, she loves the camaraderie.
Amy has also been lucky enough to attend several events in spectacular locations. Whether it’s going to Las Vegas and experiencing the nightlife, going to Orlando and visiting Disney Land or going to a Caribbean island, dancing has taken her around the world.
Not only did Amy compete in Ohio, but there was also a time when she would take her students to events in New York and Florida. ‘It was a great experience to see how other regions do their competitions. One of my favorite memories is coming from Ohio and finishing as one of the top teachers at a New York regional.’
The theme for Buckeye Ball is ‘Fire & Ice’ which puts the focus on the unique characteristics of the dances. These characteristics range from fiery to icy cool and everything in between. Some, like the tango can even be icy and fiery within the same dance. Going to competitions helps students learn the expression of a dance better than anything else.
Being involved in dancing for such a long time, dance characteristics have always fascinated Amy. ‘A lot of dances are about love, but even there, it’s different stages and different types of love. Waltz is an elegant, romantic fairy tale love. Bolero is an aching, longing, failed romance love. Cha Cha is a flirtatious kind of love. Seeing all of that play out on the dance floor is truly beautiful.’
Another reason Amy is particularly excited about this year’s Buckeye Ball is that it will be held at the Marriott in Cleveland. She has personally attended events there in the past and has been very impressed by the hotel. The fact that it’s in Cleveland also means there will be some sight-seeing opportunities. Therefore, even if someone isn’t dancing at the event they could still attend as a spectator and have a lovely getaway weekend.
‘At every level students should really consider the competition if they’re serious about becoming good social dancers. It’s part of the learning process and it’s essential. Yes, it’s expensive, but there is no other way of becoming a great social dancer. In the long run, you’ll spend more money for less results if you don’t go to competitions. This is especially true if you’re a man, because leading is something you’ll only learn effectively if you go to competitions.’