The dance world is full of debates, and one of the fiercest surrounds the question: is competitive dance a sport? There’s few questions like this one that will get such a spirited discussion going. Read on to dive into the arguments for and against this divisive question.
Is Competitive Dance a Sport? Yes, Competitive Dance Is a Sport
Proponents of considering competitive dance a sport believe that dance’s athleticism and its harsh physical demands of the body put it on equal ground with recognized sports like football, soccer and field hockey. A first point pro-sporters might mention is that dance is similar to other disciplines that share dance’s artistic spirit yet are still considered sports, such as gymnastics and ice skating. Others take this point to the next level by arguing that competitive dance, by its very nature, could be classified as an Olympic sport.
Alonni Reid, a dancer herself, lays out this very argument in an article for the Buffalo News. She wrote that according to the International Olympic Committee, to be considered as an official Olympic sport, the activity needs to fit the following criteria:
- Demonstrate clear emphasis on youth and development
- Have a judging system that ensures objectivity, fairness and transparency
- Be practiced by both men and women
- Have long-term development and viability
Competitive dance meets all these requirements, and Reid argued that it should therefore be considered a sport by the public.
The rise in popularity of competitive dance has also exposed millions more Americans to the hard work, sacrifice and physical skill that it takes to be a dancer. Dancers need stamina, flexibility and endurance and must to be in peak physical shape to excel, just like a football player or a long-distance runner. These intense demands on the human body – and the sacrifices dancers make to train and improve – are another major argument why competitive dance should be considered a sport.
In an article on the increasing popularity of competitive dance, the New York Times interviewed Dennis Spitzer, a physical therapist whose daughter had begun dancing competitively.
“I played sports all my life, and I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as they do,” Sptizer said. “They are going out there to win. If they don’t win, they feel as badly as we do when we lose. It’s not dance. It’s a sport.”
Is Competitive Dance a Sport? No, Competitive Dance Is Not a Sport
“It’s not dance. It’s a sport,” might be an incendiary statement to those firmly in the camp that dance is indeed not a sport. The argument against considering competitive dance a sport largely boils down to the firm conviction that dance is an art form above all else. And according to this group, the rise of competitive dance has, in fact, taken dance even further away from its true essence.
Dance’s purpose is to enchant the audience, express emotion and tell an affecting story, argued Brittanly Kottler in an article for the Huffington Post. It’s not the impressive physical skills and “tricks” that are the focal point of ballet, rather, it’s the artistry and creative expression.
“The choreographed routines [showcased on competitive dance TV shows] strive for the “wow!” factor while simultaneously removing basic ballet technique and artistic freedom that has been taught to dancers around the world for centuries,” Kottler wrote. “The true “wow!” factor of ballet comes from the entire performance as a whole.”
Those who believe dance is a sport frequently cite dancers’ fierce competitiveness as evidence, however, Kottler refuted this idea as well, writing that “ballerinas are competitive with each other in the same way artists, musicians and actors are.”
Where proponents of dance as a sport state that gymnastics and ice skating are “artistic disciplines” that are classified as sports, others refute this by pointing to the fact that competitive dance has a more subjective scoring system compared to these two sports. Unlike in gymnastics and ice skating, there are no specific moves that dancers are required to include in their routines.
“Although dancers must be as strong as athletes, they should never substitute tricks for art,” responded Joan Robinson Borchers to a poll by Dance Spirit Magazine on whether dance should be in the Olympics. “We see far too much of that at various competitions how many fouettés can you pull off, instead of what story you can tell us through your dance. Skating and gymnastics can be beautiful to watch, but are hamstrung by having to do all those tricks. A dancer can and should be above all, an artist.”
And the Verdict Is …
There’s no denying competitive dancers are athletes, and there’s a long list of benefits of being a competitive dancer, such as expressing yourself through movement, keeping your body in top physical shape and having the opportunity to become one of the best in your discipline. There’s no easy answer, since many of the characteristics of competitive dance blur the line between art and sport. It’s possible, then, that the debate may just have to rage on. What do you think – is competitive dance a sport? Let us know in the comments.