When I danced there...many years ago they were not using a sanctioned syllabus that would allow you to take the moves to an independent comp I know when I left they were talking about changing to more traditional styles but I'm not sure how traditional and I don't believe that they did align themselves to a regular syllabus.
You can do the inhouse comps with success and I know that I have seen ladies from Fred Astaire at big comps like Ohio Star and Emerald and Millenium...but not many and most of their professional partners did not learn to dance at Fred in the first place. Fred Astaire has any number of dancers from other countries that they import over to increase their talent pool, which isn't a bad thing. So chances are you aren't going to have a real skilled dancer unless they speak with an accent....probably European in origin. Secondarily you are going to have to pay so much money to get to that level that it might blow your mind....
So if you want to check if your instructor knows a series of syllabus steps...go to the web page of a comp you want to attend. Find the set of legal steps for your style and level. Print them out...take them to your instructor and ask them to dance them for you and explain them to you....right then. Not tomorrow, not on your next lesson, not after he or she asks the boss. They should make no excuses...dance them, understand them on at least 90% of the steps. If they don't know them right then...they can't really teach them to you in a way that will allow you to succeed at a real competition.
While I am not really competent to tend to any differences between Fred Astaire studios and other teaching studios, I do know that Fred Astaire is a member organization of the National Dance Council and participates in the syllabus committee. In the past several years, the Fred Astaire dance syllabuses have been completely revised and rewritten, probably bringing them into line with the NDC standards.
I have been taking lessons at FADS for over 5 years and I know that there are many, many students and teachers that participate in competitions outside of the FADS system including Black Pool. In fact one of the pro couples from Florida won last years cabaret division at Black Pool and were featured on "So You Think You Can Dance" closing episode. Our "traveling" coaches feature teachers that are former world champions. For example, my smooth coach is Michael Meade, 5 times consecutive world champion in smooth.
I think that if you examine the teaching methods and syllabuses used, you will find only very slight, if any, differences between FADS and the NDC standards.
Michael Meade has a very impressive history and you are very fortunate to have him for a coach. I have been to his website and see no reference to FADS anyplace; are you saying he is a FADS coach?
Another question, are you saying your FADS promotes competition out side of the closed FAD Comps? We sure don't see that in the Midwest, as a matter of fact, I think an instructor would be fired if he or she danced a comp with a student out side of FADS. To me, they seem very closed and protective of their revenue stream, I mean students.
Top "flight " coaches, do not restrict themselves to any particular group ( unless, under contract ).
The major difference between the A/M and Freds syl.wise , lies in the Bronze syl.; but, essentially the same with the odd "twist " .
As to Freds or A/M competing in outside events, allow me to give you some background.
On several occasions ( 2 in particular... Phoenix and NYC ) I was the organiser of 2 NDCA recognised events, in which both had participants Prof. and Pro .Am. In matter of fact, in one of those, an A/M teacher, danced with a F/A teacher in a Prof comp. ( that was in 1974 ) and the NYC one ( in 1964 ) had, again, both chains in attendance .
That( NYC ) was the 1st major comp. that both Larry and Betty Silvers and Joe and Nancy Jenkins competed. I shortly afterwards , coached both, before they and I moved on ( them to much greater fame), to other locales.
PS... Not all chain school owners, are open to such outside activities .
My instructor teaches from a variety of syllabi. For example, at one time he took us through the entire Silver-level Tango syllabi of Fred Astaire, DVIDA, and USISTD (even including a few figures that have been dropped from their syllabus but that he likes). They are different from one another, but there is substantial overlap. In some cases two syllabi have patterns that differ from each other only in trivial ways, though the figures have different names. If you go to a comp you need to follow their rules, but your Fred Astaire training should allow you to prepare to dance whatever syllabus they specify.
In response to 2rightfeet's question and comments, please realize that FADs and AM are franchise operations. As such, each studio owner is, on one hand, subject to "corporate" directions such as syllabi, competence testing of instructors, studio administrative procedures, etc. On the other hand, the owner is free to encourage the use of outside coaches, outside competitions, etc. The owner of our studio recognizes the use of outside coaches and outside competition can develop the students level of dancing, and he encourages it. Other owners I have met are loathe to even recognize that there is a world of dancing outside their studio, let alone encourage students to participate. My wife, and her pro partner, danced at the US Dance Championships in Orlando this past year. And she noted that there were many FADS students in the competition (Michael Meade was there as a judge).
Regarding Michael Meade, he is not under any contract with FADS that I know of, and currently spends most of his time as a judge at various events around the world. Since he lives in Southern California, our studio brings him in 6 or more times a year for coaching. I take full advantage of his time in the studio and schedule many sessions with Michael.
Going back to the syllabi issue, to me it is funny the differences between syllabi, with each organization having a different name for the same move and slightly different openings. For example, in FADS the first basic Rumba steps are Q-Q-S starting on the 1 beat. In AM the first Rumba steps are S-Q-Q, also starting on the 1 beat. As nloftofan1 states, "the differences are trivial".