Reviews | Dance is a sport
I’ve been dancing pretty much my whole life and only stopped once I got to Pitt, but before I stopped people were honestly amazed at what my body was doing. Countless people have asked how my body could move the way it did, how I learned to do it, how I became so flexible, etc.
The reason these questions have permeated my life as a dancer is simple: dance is not widely accepted as a sport. Most of the time people complimented how beautiful and natural I looked on stage but made no mention of the time, effort, dedication and intense training my body had to go through to achieve my high level of dance.
Just like in other sports, one cannot fully comprehend the intensity, work ethic, and endurance required to become a dancer unless you are or are one. Dance encompasses all aspects of you – physical, mental and emotional. In my experience, dancing is often overlooked as a sport, even though it is an incredibly difficult skill to cultivate and more physically demanding than any other sport I have participated in. Believe me, my body has eternal physical repercussions from my many years of Dance.
A sport is defined as an activity that involves physical effort and skill where individuals or teams compete for entertainment – a categorization that dance fits into. Dance requires athletics, but without the required endurance, strength, agility, flexibility, and practices consisting of conditioning drills, maybe people could say that dancers aren’t athletes. But consider having to perform 12 turns in a row seamlessly – without the proper balance and coordination, you immediately become dizzy and will most likely fall.
Another important aspect of a sport is that it is competitive. Although some may not recognize dancing as competitive, there are competitive dancers who participate in all kinds of competitions, such as regional and national competitions. Although not all dancers compete, there is always immense competition between dancers from the same studio.
Coaches in other sports use dance lessons to help condition their athletes. soccer players regularly take dance lessons and perform ballet exercises to help them hone their skills and improve their flexibility, strength, and balance in ways that their regular practices wouldn’t focus on. If football players can use dance as a way to sharpen their skills and help them out on the pitch, why is dancing still so shunned? Of course, taking dance lessons doesn’t make an amazing footballer, there are many other considerations. However, the fact that they use dance to improve certain skills shows how important these skills are in sports. Why then is dance not massively accepted as a sport in its own right?
In my experience, people who don’t quantify dancers as athletes mostly have sexist sentiments behind their opinion. Women to put on makeup 73.4% of the dance population compared to men, who make up 26.6%. Dancing is commonly considered a female activity due to the tutus, costumes, makeup and hairstyle. Although these factors are present in dance, people should have no less regard for the sport.
Others disagree arguing that dance is only an artistic expression and not a sport. When people think of dance as mere artistic expression, they probably think of professional dancers who are part of distinguished dance companies like the New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theater or the Radio City Rockets. These dancers have put their whole lives and careers into their craft. In these cases, the dance is denoted as a physical effort that taps into the specific emotions of an audience, defining it as art. The dancers are always performing, blending their athleticism with their passion and artistry. Many fellow dancers consider dancing an athletic art form while referring to dancers as athletes.
While I agree that dance is an artistic expression, simply referring to it as such tells dancers that we are less valued than other athletes. Dance encompasses a multitude of complex aspects that include both athleticism and artistic expression. Reducing dance to a mere art form ignores the passion that drives any genre of dance. No matter how long a dancer has been dancing, at some point they have put their whole being into perfecting this art form, pushing their body to the max.
Immersing myself in dance for so long has given me a biased position, but I think people’s perception of dance as a sport needs to be rethought. Working to eliminate their own biased views against a female-dominated sport is an important starting point.
Emily O’Neil writes primarily about social issues, politics, and campus life. Write to him at [email protected].