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Is dance a sport & should dancers be considered athletes?

Updated on December 13, 2012

Dance as a sport....

Is dance a sport? Ask any dancer & you will get a resounding YES!!! Others argue that dance is an art & therefore should not be considered a sport. In order to fully answer this question we must first look at the definitions of both sports & dance.

Sport - an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.

Dance - to move rhythmically usually to music, using prescribed or improvised steps & gestures.

At first glance one seems to have nothing to do with the other but lets dig deeper into the lives of dancers & athletes & compare the two.

Sports involve competition. Whether it be individuals competing against each other (as in tennis or gymnastics) or teams there is always a winner or loser in any sporting event. Well...what about the world of competitive dance? Ballroom dance competitions are HUGE!! They have been around forever. Couples compete in waltz, foxtrot, tango, & swing (to name a few). They are scored on poise, body alignment, expression, musicality, & posture by a panel of experts. Also - dance competitions are big among children's dance schools as well as high school & colleges. Again - individuals as well as teams compete against each other for the top medals in jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, musical theater etc. Dance = Sport....I think so!!

Now lets compare an athlete training for a "sport" & a dancer training for "dance". How different are they? Being a BIG Yankees fan I'll compare a baseball player's practice schedule to that of a dancer. Obviously baseball players work very hard. Training officially begins in January with the start of spring training. Although I think you will find most players continue their work out routines all year. To be the best you can't afford to slack off!! Besides the obvious batting & fielding practice they are in the gym working to keep their bodies in top shape.

The same goes for dancers. When I was dancing professionally I was training 5-7 days a week. Besides taking dance classes to keep up my technique I was in the gym working to build up my stamina, muscle tone & strength. A typical jazz or contemporary class involve stretching & conditioning exercises. Sit-ups & push-ups are a mandatory part of class! Not just your average 1-2 minute a workout.. We are talking a good 10-15 minutes of abs & arms. Then you still have another hour and fifteen minutes to go. Now multiple that by 2 sometimes 3 classes a day. Add in gym time & rehearsals & most of your day is spent working out. Your body is your tool & you need to keep it in top shape for a long career. Just like any athlete.

The toll dance takes on your body is a hard one. Most professional dancers will sustain some sort of injury during their career that will require therapy & possibly surgery. Many dancers have knee & hip replacement surgery in their future. To say that what they do is not athletic is unfair. On top of all the physicality involved a dancer must make the steps look easy & perform them with a smile on their face. Dance is a beautiful sport & the dancers are beautiful, inspiring athletes!








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    • profile image

      Aiden Romerroo 

      11 months ago

      As a dancer I believer dance IS A SPORT and dancers are ATHLETES!!! I mean it’s one thing to say dance isn’t a sport and you have tried it buts it’s another to say it’s not a sport and you haven’t even tried!

      I ask my friends who play football or baseball (or any other sport) “how many days do you have practice?” They say “oh like one or two and then a game” I’m like well I dance 6 days a week and a competition using just 2 hours it’s a WHOLE DAY of dancing. It’s not a whole day of running or catching or throwing it’s a whole day ot leaps, turns, flips, feet moving everywhere!!

      So as you can see dance isn’t a sport.... it’s the #1 sport!!!

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 

      5 years ago from Texas

      If golf, which is basically just walking and swinging a club is considered a sport, I would definitely say dancers are athletes and it is a sport.

    • profile image

      Marcus Ampe 

      5 years ago

      Cathy Fidelibus you write "a ballet production does not involve competition" but I am afraid that in a certain way it is always a sort of competition, the choreographer looking for the right person to play one or other part, the company to find interesting choreographies and looking for names that will attract enough spectators and media interest.

    • profile image

      Marcus Ampe 

      5 years ago

      As a professional (retired) dancer, choreographer, choreologist (under my stage name) I would consider dancers top athletes and master artists.

      Having been a teacher and artistic director I would say after many years of intensive training and hard work it would be in avoidable to have some disformaties or some body troubles, but balletmasters and choreographers do have the task to take care of their dancers and treat them as such that they receive the least of injuries as possible.

      Being a top sport after a certain age limitation drops in and should be listened to, and for many it would mean a change in work opportunities. (When they are lucky - like me- they shall be able to become a choreographer or ballet master or keep doing something else in the arts, otherwise they shall have to try out a totally different job - like I do now I am in retirement, to take care of sufficient income.)

      @Kl1313 somehow there is always a form of (healthy) competition going on in the arts, because the work is limited and the public has to be won to have enough production opportunities. Secondly for the youngsters there are the important competitions like a.o. Lausanne and Varna.

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 

      5 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      I'll put my flamenco lessons up against a workout any day of the week and twice on Saturdays! (My flamenco teacher is particularly hard on us in the morning.) For me the best aspect is that it works the mind as well as the body. Thanks for a thought-provoking article! (Check out my flamenco hubs if you get a moment -- I'm curious if your dance instructors were like mine.)

    • Kl1313 profile imageAUTHOR

      Krissy Livingston 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thanks for your input! I see your point! Dance competitions among schools do have a division for ballet. Dancers compete against each other for top awards. But ... Yes a dance presentation or concert wouldn't fall into the sports category. I haven't seen the movie First Position yet but I have heard plenty about it. The competition has been around for years & the dancers that compete train harder than anyone I know.

      Dance , in general, is very competitive. There are so many dancers trying for so few "jobs".... Just like an athlete trying to get onto a pro ball team. Although ...again we come back to the element of competition. A pro ball player will play against another ( or team) whereas a dancer will now perform for the public. So until the element of competition comes in is dance not considered a sport? Something to think about....

    • Kl1313 profile imageAUTHOR

      Krissy Livingston 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thank Janine! Hope others enjoy it as well!!

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 

      5 years ago from NJ

      I agree with you about dancers being athletes, and about dance competitions being like sport competitions. The exception, as far as I know, would be ballet in the sense that a ballet production does not involve competition. Without competition or score keeping, how can anything be considered a sport?

      On the other hand, I recently reviewed a movie called First Position (ICBBMovies.com), a movie that is all about young ballet dancers preparing for the Youth America Grand Prix. So, competition definitely does exist in ballet among dancers, even if, by the time the dance presentation is offered to the public, the competitive elements have been subsumed into and turned into cooperation. From the most extreme acts of competition to sublime cooperation---I don't think we have a word for what that is. Wait, we do have a word: ballet.

      Mister Immortal

      P.S. Cathy told me about your post and I had to respond! :-)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      5 years ago from New York, New York

      Awesome article and definitely some real food for thought here. Have shared, voted way up and tweeted, too!!!

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