Who needs reality TV dance shows when there's the real thing?
That's what Rozana and Terry Sweeney, owners of Art & Style Dance Studio on the South Side, thought when they introduced the Steel City Classic DanceSport amateur ballroom dance competition in 2011. It's an event that allows the public an opportunity to participate.
"We like to bring it to Pittsburgh and put Pittsburgh on the map for competitive amateur dancing," says Ms. Sweeney, who, like her husband, is a retired competitive dancer.
The competition will return Saturday to the Cathedral Room at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland. What separates the event from others on the competitive dance circuit is that it welcomes amateurs, from children through seniors, to showcase their ballroom and Latin dance skills.
"It's not like professionals who are doing it for money. Amateurs, it's their hobby. They like to compete and make new friends and have a good time. That's why there's not that many around," Ms. Sweeney says. "We're doing it for the benefit of the community."
Dancers from the East Coast make up the bulk of the competitors, although word-of-mouth, increased local advertising and the National Dance Council of America have helped introduce the competition to more people. Last year, it received hundreds of entries.
"We're actually having now -- for the second year in a row -- Canadians coming," Ms. Sweeney says.
Dancers will compete in some divisions for trophies and ribbons as well as feedback from the elite panel of judges from across the country and Canada. Many have taught ballroom for decades or were former competitors and champions. On Sunday, a few of them will hold workshops in American Rhythm, International Latin and International Standard styles at the Rangos Ballroom at Carnegie Mellon University.
"Really, it's for the benefit of their own dancing," Ms. Sweeney says. "A lot of these people train, spend a lot of money on lessons. This is for them to compare themselves with other dancers."
The public is invited to attend the competition, too, and learn more about ballroom and Latin dance.
"We just really want people to know there are better things than 'Dancing With the Stars,' " Ms. Sweeney says. "You can see it live."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @SaraB_PG.