Dance is a sport, dance is not a sport. The debate has been occurring for years on whether to classify dance as a hobby or as an athletic sport. This argument is even present here on the UNCG campus. Should dance be counted as a sport? And if so, does this mean dance majors should receive the same privileges as athletes on campus?
When someone thinks of dance, they might think about ballerinas such as Misty Copeland. They think of buns and the big tutus as they gracefully bourrée across the stage. Or perhaps they think of the instagram hip-hop dancers such as Kaycee Rice or Paris Goebel. What people do not think of are the countless hours spent training and perfecting the routines the public sees and thinks, “Wow, that looks so easy.”
Studio dancers train an average of four to five hours a day, five days a week after school along with weekend rehearsals. The practice times increase with higher education and professional dancers spend up to six to seven hours in the studio each day, five to six days a week.
Within these hours of training, dancers do more than work on perfecting routines. An average day of a UNCG dance major, for example, starts with an hour and forty-five minute ballet or contemporary class. Within these classes, dancers learn techniques that have been developing since the creation of classical dance, and the history behind the style.
Certain moves and concepts are repeated excessively until they are mastered. Once mastered, they are pushed to look effortless, no matter the physical toll required to perform the step.
Dance major Jo’Nekiya Elliott agreed that dance is a sport. “I feel that dance is a sport because it is just as much physical activity as any other sport. I feel maybe even more than some sports because on top of our physically demanding training, we have to look graceful and put on a performance as well.”
Elliot also felt that dance majors should receive the same priority as athletes here on campus such as early registration. “Just like UNCG is known for their athletics, they are also known for their rapidly growing dance program. [Dancers] contribute the same amount to this school as any athlete and we should be treated with the same respect.”
While most dance majors would agree that dance is a sport, dance medicine specialist Emily Morris has a different opinion. “I think there are avenues within dance that can be considered a sport – competitive dance, dance team programs, etc. Dance is very athletic and physically demanding, but dance is mostly a physical artform in my opinion. Dance technique, which is the foundation of dance, is just as physically demanding as any “regular” sport due to the cardiovascular demand, muscular strength and balance training required.”
Morris also spoke about the comparison of injuries between dancers and “regular” athletes. She goes onto state, “Compared to an athletic setting, dancers usually suffer from more chronic injuries at the back, hip and foot or ankle. Because of the repetitive nature that dance technique requires, these areas see the most damage.”
She continues, “On the other hand, dancers also suffer from acute and emergent injuries throughout all styles of dance. Just like with an athletic setting, dancers test the limits of the human body with the various shapes, positions and intensities in their movements, which ultimately leads to injuries. Dancers tend to have a higher level of flexibility than other sports, which can cause some injuries to appear differently in dancers than in ‘regular’ athletes.”
The dancers’ main goal when performing is to tell a story and make the audience believe that each step is simple and easy. This simple quality is what has drawn people toward dance for centuries.
Audiences have marveled at the stories and emotions portrayed by the dancers, while simultaneously executing the routine. People who claim that dance is not a sport have only been fooled by the dancer. If the audience believes that it takes no physical effort to perform, then the dancers have effectively done their job. While on the other hand, if you look at dance from a medicinal perspective, you can see the definitive difference that separates dance from other sports.
Ultimately, dancers push their bodies the same amount as any other athlete. However, the technical aspects of dance and the practice/performing atmosphere are extremely different than other traditional sports. There is a level of creativity that dancers need and strive for that is not present with other athletics.
Although dance today is still under the performing arts spectrum, as it should be, there is the ongoing argument on whether dancers are athletes as well.