The endless debate between the dance world and the sports world is trying to decide where dance fits in. Dance does require athletic ability for the technique needed. However, dance does not fit completely into what is typically considered a sport. Some people say it cannot be called a sport and that it is an art instead. In this argument, it is important to distinguish what type of dancing is being discussed, as there are many different types of varying levels of difficulty. Paige Abrams puts it this way: “You can dance at a club for fun, as a hobby, as a serious passion, or you can dance as a career” (2).
Just as a person can play catch, which has some of the basic components as baseball, it is not considered a sport alongside baseball. In the same way, dancing for fun at a party or a club or even just dancing as a hobby cannot be categorized along with competitive or professional dance. In trying to label dance as an art or a sport, the definition of what a sport is must first be established. However, defining what qualifies an activity as a sport is not an easy task. With so many different types of sports, each with its own set of rules it is hard to say what they all have in common.
According to Dictionary. com, a sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature” (qtd in Rice 1). Paige Abrams defines sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others” (2). These definitions are good at including every sport in the definitions, however they are not specific. There are other activities that are not considered sports that might qualify according to these definitions.
One example would be a jump rope competition between two children at recess. It would be a physical activity that requires skill and they would be competing against each other, yet a jump rope completion is not considered a sport. So, there must be other restrictions on what a sport is. The problem with a more specific definition, however, is that, besides the characteristics of physical ability, skill, and competition, not all sports have the same characteristics. Some might consider a sport a game with a ball and a goal, but neither swimming nor track have either.
There is also the idea that a sport must have two teams directly competing and interacting with each other, however archery and power lifting depend only on the athletes own ability to perform as they take turns, not in direct, head-to-head competition, where the teams affect the other team’s performance. Another common defining feature that is not always true is the method of scoring. It is believed by some that a sport is won by scoring the most goals, or doing a task the fastest or the most accurate. Not many sports are judged by a panel of judges.
The winner in gymnastics, however, is determined in this way. They perform individually and are scored by a panel of judges, yet gymnastics is considered a sport and is even in the Olympics. A definition of what a sport is that doesn’t leave any activity out or have any flaws is incredibly hard to obtain. Steven McLain found that some people see sports as “competitive athletic events that tend to inspire feelings of solidarity…sports serve a societal function – by creating bonds of loyalty between people” (1).
According to this, sports should bring people together, whether it’s through being on a team together, or uniting to support a team. Another way to limit the definition of a sport is to define what qualifies a person as an athlete. The Merriam Webster Dictionary states that an athlete is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina” (qtd in James 2). So, an athlete is simply someone who is in good condition and whose sport has given them “strength, agility, or stamina” (James 2).
A sport, therefore, is an activity that requires physical exertion and skill, is competitive, brings people together, and fosters strength, agility, and stamina in its participants. When using this definition of what a sport is, there is no doubt that dance fills these requirements. The first requirement is that it uses physical exertion and dance is extremely physically demanding. The amount of athleticism required to perform many of the dance moves is astounding. According to an article on aarp.
com “a workout that involves jumping and turning repeatedly for over ten minutes creates a workout similar to running a mile” (qtd in Rice 1). Most dancers don’t just dance for ten minutes: Paige Abrams states, “Teams practice for more than twenty hours a week” (2) and Aubree James says, “Many competitive dancers practice for five hours a day to perfect their technique, while some rep hockey teams [only] practice five hours a week” (2). In addition to the actual dancing at practices, dance requires a lot of additional conditioning.
Lauren Allaire said, “We condition every rehearsal, which includes a six minute plank, three hundred sit ups, fifty burpees, we run laps, and a lot more” (qtd in Abrams 2) In my own experience, just conditioning in class still isn’t enough to keep a dancers body as strong or as flexible as it needs to be. Staying in shape requires stretching and working out every night. The next requirement needed to be a sport is skill. Not everyone can start dancing and automatically be great at it.
Aubree James says that “if you were to ask Sydney Crosby (Canadian professional ice hockey player) to do a pirouette, he’d fall out of it, or even an arabesque or a penche” (2). Even though he is an athlete and very strong and in shape, dance requires a control over the body that requires practice and skill. I’ve had football players come take ballet with me before and they couldn’t even stand correctly at the barre, much less execute any of the dance steps. The third thing needed by an activity to make it a sport is competition.
What many people don’t know is that “competitions are held throughout the country, where dance studios can come show off their talent” (Abrams 2) Aubree James says that “dance is a competitive sport. It has a set of rules. You can compete in a large group, as a soloist or in a duet or trio as well” (2). I go to dance competitions with my dance studio and compete against other studios. We train extremely hard so we will excel at the competitions. Competitions are separated into categories by age and by group size so that the judging is more fair.
A group of judges gives each dance a score based on technique, synchronization, and artistry. Dance is just as competitive as football, baseball, or soccer so it shouldn’t be discredited because it isn’t competitive. The next requirement of being considered a sport is that it brings people together. This can be done by creating bonds within a team or through supporting a team. Dance enables both of these situations. I have relationships that I will always cherish with my fellow dancers. The girls that I dance with are some of my best friends and dancing has brought us together.
Our parents and other friends who come to watch us dance have also united in their support for us. Many parents become friends with other parents from being together at the dance studio and dance competitions watching their kids dance together. The last requirement according to my definition of a sport is that it fosters strength, agility, and stamina in its participants. Dancers need all of these traits in order to perform competitively. Molly Wagner says that in dance there “lies and incredible demand for athleticism” (5).
She says that this athleticism is where her artistry comes from. So the basis of dance is the athletic ability. She also says that she feels an “overwhelming sense of fatigue in the body” (5) which helps her passion for dance. This sense of fatigue comes from the stress placed on a dancers body. Acquiring the strength needed to execute the moves in competitive dances is incredibly hard and takes much dedication. On top of the strength, a dancer needs the stamina to do the moves in a dance flawlessly.
Most dances are very aerobic and require much energy. Many dancers also do multiple dances in a competition, so they need the stamina and the endurance to dance continuously all day long or sometimes all weekend long. Some dances are also fast paced and require agility to get from one move to the next seamlessly. Agility comes in especially handy in tap numbers where a dancers feet are making many different sounds and movements that are all incredibly fast and complicated. With these attributes of dance also comes the bad side to all sports.
Many athletes are injured because of their sports and almost all sports have some risk factor. Dance is no exception. Erica Lynn Martin states, “Dance incorporates basically every part of the body and requires it to make movements beyond what it is ordinarily used to” (1) Because of this, almost any part of the body is susceptible to injury, but especially the feet and ankles. The feet and ankles are the most easily injured because so much stress is placed on the bones in the feet and ankles from the releve and plie positions (Martin 1).
Martin also says that “evidence has shown that just about as many dancers and athletes get the same amount of injuries in their foot and ankles (statistics showed the number of ankle injuries was even more among dancers)” (2). This shows how dancers are injured all of the time just like athletes, showing yet another similarity between the two. Just because what someone normally thinks of as a sport is football, baseball, or basketball, does not mean that other sports don’t exist either.
Maybe dance isn’t what someone normally thinks of when sports are brought up, but dance should be considered as much of a sport as diving or gymnastics. For those who believe that dance is not a sport because it is an art, I believe it is both. Dance uses all of the athleticism required of a sport and makes it beautiful. Dance competitions do judge on skills that are needed in other sports as well as artistic things. Dancers take all of the rough and tough athletes out there and show them that they are just as athletic as them, but they make it look easy (even though dance is as far from easy as you can get) and graceful.
That is why dance isn’t just an art. There has never been any doubt as to whether dance is artistic. However, no one should forget that dance is a sport too. If anything, dance takes all of the basics of a sport and puts them to good use in telling a story and getting a point across with its artistic side creating an equal balance between dance and art.
Works Cited Abrams, Paige. “The Great Debate: Is Dance a Sport?. ” Teen Life. Santa Rosa High, 2 Mar 2012. Web. Web. 3 March, 2013. James, Aubree.
“Dance-Is it a Sport?. ” Mibba. N. p. , 2010. Web. Web. 28 March, 2013. Martin, Erica Lynn. “Dance IS a Sport… at Least in Terms of Injury. ” SiOWfa12: Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy. SC200, 26 Oct 2012. Web. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. McLain, Steven. “How do we Define Sport. ” Daily Barometer. 26 Feb 2013: 1-2. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. Rice, Madison. “Is Dance a Sport?. ” Grizzly Gazette. 31 Jan 2012: 1. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. Wagner, Molly. “Why I Dance: Molly Wagner. ” Dance Magazine. Mar 2013: 4-5. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.