When dance fans are asked, “Is dancing a sport?” you can see the wheels turning. Many aspects of dancing parallel other sports, but there’s also an artistic interpretation to dancing that some other sports seem to be short on.
A sport pertains to a human activity necessitating skill and physical exertion, where individuals or teams compete against one another for entertainment. It, therefore, also features competition and social participation, with rules and patterns that exist formally through organizations.
This brings us to the question: is dancing a sport or an art form? Some would even argue it’s merely a hobby or fitness trend. Let’s hover over some aspects of dancing to decide.
Dancing and Its Sports-Like Attributes
Below are some features of dancing that can help distinguish it as a sport rather than an art.
Dancing Demands Skill
Like other sports, dancers are expected to have a specific skill level, which can’t be harnessed or built overnight. They, therefore, spend years perfecting particular styles of dancing, be it ballet, ballroom, contemporary, or jazz.
This practice, in turn, allows them to dance flawlessly on stage and perform various moves with ease. What isn’t visible is the creation, learning, and practice spent on achieving this skill level.
However, dancing cannot be considered a skill purely, as it does teach other features, like the ones below.
Dancing is Competitive
Like basketball, baseball, and soccer, dancing has a massive competition element. Although numerous dance forms don’t hold competitions, there is always a desire to be the best among dancers.
Some styles, like tap dance, hip hop, and ballet, hold massive competitive dance competitions. Here, dancers compete directly before judges for trophies, medals, and other awards. This forms a highly competitive and stressful environment, like the NBA and MLB.
Jazz and modern, however, are self-driven, with a greater focus on being the best at a specific move, than on events. These are, nevertheless, prominently competitive.
With competition comes “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” This competition, not only competing against your best self but also against others, makes dancing very much like traditional sports.
Dancing is Physically Difficult
A sport entails physical exertion and skill, and dancing lives up to the definition. Professional dancers must train for a significant amount of time, and most start before high school. This gives an idea of the physical and mental exertion they have to endure before they become worthy of competitive dance.
As well as that, most dance moves require dancers to perform physically demanding dance movements and hold particular positions. This takes immense physical strength and skill, and even moves that seem effortless, like en pointe and tango, are a massive accomplishment for dancers.
Typical Day for an Elite Dancer: Diet and Regiment
Waking at 7:30 a.m., dancers might begin their day with cereal and fruits. That is typically followed by a Pilates workout, class, and three hours of rehearsal for the show being performed. A high-carb meal is served three hours before the performance, perhaps followed by a short rest or nap. A barre warm-up, followed by the show itself. The dancer hydrates and ices post-show before heading home for a light snack and in bed by midnight.
Famous dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, and Fred Astaire worked on fundamentals, various dance styles, and specific routines. Their commitment to their craft rivals, if not exceeds the practice routines of athletes in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey.
Dancers Yearn For Flexibility
Athleticism and flexibility are crucial elements of numerous sports, requiring movement and physical exertion. For dancers, flexibility is imperative to performing smoothly and avoiding injuries.
The most popular dancing moves are splints, which require utter physical flexibility. This element, additionally, helps make dancing seem effortless and dancers elegant and graceful. Therefore, nearly all dance forms emphasize it quite a bit.
Dancers can Get Injured While Performing
Like in all sports, dancers remain vulnerable to injuries despite years of training and skill development. However, it is unique because dancers are less likely to injure one another.
There is always constant physical pressure when dancing, especially on the ankle. In fact, according to JOSPT, 53% of dance injuries occur in the foot or ankle.
Moreover, although skill and age impact the frequency and extent of injuries, they are common in nearly all styles.
Dancing Requires Lots of Discipline
Dancers, like all athletes, are constantly working on enhancing their skills. This takes a lot of effort, time, and discipline, as they have to perform regularly and practice vigorously.
Professional dancers, especially, have set routines, and consistency is key to their improvement. This, in turn, demands more discipline than any other sport, as even a slight slip can mean the end of the dancing career.
Therefore, dancers constantly battle to preserve what they have accomplished in the past and become better in the future. And maintaining this over a more extended period is no little feat.
Dancers and the Mental Game
While physical effort is a significant part of dancing, it also has a mental toll. Dancers often have to pay close attention and memorize tons of moves.
This is especially the case in complicated genres like ballet. In ballet, dancers memorize numerous positions and must learn routines, and perform split-second calculations when performing.
They also need to be aware of their competitors’ common strategies and the rules of various competitions. Therefore, as unregarded and underappreciated as it is, dancing, like other sports, has a significant mental aspect to it.
Dancers Work Out for Physical Strength
A crucial part of sports is the physical character of athletes. Soccer and basketball are amazing examples of sports which necessitate a muscular build.
While dancing also has a physical component, dancers aren’t usually overly muscular. Instead, they are expected to be agile and light on their feet.
Nevertheless, dancers build immense strength and stamina to cope with the physical drain. They usually have a set routine focusing on the foot, ankle, and hip muscles.
Dancing is also a great fitness practice, helping dancers maintain their weight, coordination, and balance. This is why it is often regarded as a fitness trend as well.
Dancers Require Special Equipment
All sports use special equipment unique to that sport, be it a baseball bat, a basketball, or tennis rackets. Similarly, dancing uses a considerable amount of highly specialized equipment.
Dancers, for instance, have to wear particular shoes and uniforms, like the pointe shoes for ballet. Props, like canes, hats, bandanas, and scarves, are also used during performances for immersive visuals.
Some forms of dance also require using items in the surrounding environment as props, including chairs, tables, and even pillars.
Dancers Receive Tons of Awards
There are many competitive competitions and shows in the US, including America’s Got Talent, American Dance Awards, and World of Dance. These give dancers the chance to perform better and be recognized for their skills.
Like other sports, these dance events also award the winners, with the decision falling upon a group of judges. Some of the most desired dance awards in the US include the Hall of Fame, Bessie Awards, Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography, and Flo-Bert Award.
Sometimes, there are also special awards, like “Best Choreography,” “Best Visuals,” and “Overall Performance.” All these competitions and awards point toward dancing being a sport.
Our Verdict: Dancing is a Sport
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, it must be a duck! Considering the aspects of dancing mentioned above, it is evident that dancing is a sport. It demands physical and mental strength, flexibility, skill, and coordination.
Dancing is not easily slotted into just one category of activity. You see, the sport of dance is also a fitness trend, an art form, and a hobby for some.
The aims and objectives of these dancers vary. While it is a fun activity for some, others regularly work towards recognition through competitions. It is a sport that so many of us can enjoy.
By Kris Hanson
Kris writes about dance, gymnastics, and aerobic sports.
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