Accountability & Transparency in Pro-Am Competitions

Stephen Marino Photography

Competing at any Pro-Am competition is expensive. Period. For many competitors, the cost of one competition, especially if it is not local and requires plane travel, can cost more than 1 month’s salary. It’s a huge commitment that requires careful thought and research to ensure that the money being spent has the best value for you and your goals, especially if it is the ONE competition you can afford to attend in an entire year.


I am a Canadian Pro-Am competitor who used to compete in the U.S. until the rising prices combined with the increasing exchange rate made it cost-prohibitive. I now try to limit myself to Canadian competitions, but even that takes a lot of pre-thought and planning.

Stephen Marino Photography

“No Prices for Students”

I, along with other Pro-Am competitors, regularly sift through competition information available online to try to determine what competition might be best to attend. The process can require hours of searching through websites, and more often than not it turns out the information is just not openly available—it has either been taken down with previous year’s information, or you see something similar to this:

“Wholesale package prices are not publicly posted. It is customary for Studios, Teachers & Professionals to add a surcharge to the standard pricing to compensate for the loss of income and teaching time due to the attendance at the competition. These fees may vary and are encouraged and supported by the organizers of this competition.”

I want to be clear and up-front. As a Pro-Am student, I 100% support the practice of charging to compensate for loss of income, it just makes sense. However, what I do object to is the implication that competition prices are kept private to enable studios, teachers and professionals to inflate them without any accountability.

Stephen Marino Photography

Personal Experience

Early in my competing career, I fell victim to this. It does happen. For me, it came down to naivety of the Pro-Am system and a lack of understanding about how competitions are priced. While I batted an eye at the rather large package price, it didn’t occur to me that the studio had inflated the price on top of their other listed fees to compensate for work and lost time. It took two competitions costing me much more than $10,000 each before I started doing research and asking questions. What I learned, shocked me. Needless to say, I no longer dance at that studio.

Stephen Marino Photography

Small Progress

That was more than 5 years ago, and I am happy to report that I have seen some changes in this area. More and more competitions are openly posting their prices or making them available to whomever asks without question (despite their website saying differently), and research shows it is more common for prices to be openly available in Canada than the U.S. Even 3 years ago, if I requested wholesale prices I would have been grilled about my status (Are you a Pro-Am student? What studio do you represent? Do you have a registration number?) and even denied access as a Pro-Am student.

“Our Events are Always Well-Contested”

Another area where it is commonly difficult to find information, especially in Canada, is
previous year’s results. If you are similar to me, you prefer to have an idea of whether or not you are likely to be contested at a competition before signing on the dotted line. However, it appears to be common practice in Canada for organizers to remove previous year’s results from their website about 3 months after a competition is over, and especially when registration for the following year is open. Those familiar with compmngr by Richard Douglass will also know the frustration of trying to find results for a specific event vice an individual competitor.

I have heard examples from credible sources of instances where students are assured by their instructors (via the organizers) that a competition is well contested (5-6 couples or semi-finals) only to arrive and find themselves virtually uncontested in every event. In talking with some American competitors, a negative experience such as this has led or would lead them to rule out competing anywhere in Canada again. It’s disappointing to hear this when there ARE fun, strong, and well contested competitions out here in Canada that are attended by some of the top pro/am competitors in North America (many of whom live and train in Canada). The actions of a few have the potential to undermine the system as a whole.

Stephen Marino Photography

Being Part of the Solution

How can organizers be held accountable for the transparency and honesty of information related to their competitions? I used to be part of the group complaining about the lack of transparency and accountability, and felt that as a Pro-Am student, I was powerless to do anything to address these issues. But I refused to accept that, and instead I decided to take some action.

My solution has been to create a website – ProAm Dance Canada, that compiles and organizes information in one place for all Canadian Pro-Am competitions that is available YEAR ROUND, regardless of what happens with individual competition websites.

I have also begun compiling entry number information for multi-dance events into easy-to- read charts on each event’s page. The information is openly available without cost or need to ask for it. Pro-Am in Canada is growing. Good things are happening. It’s hard work and a huge investment to train and compete in Pro/Am, wherever you do it. Be openly and honestly informed. Here is the website again, and can’t wait to hear from fellow Pro-Am competitors!

Author: Anonymous Pro-Am Dancer
Photography: Stephen Marino Photography
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review