It’s the age-old question – is dance a sport? Having recently been a part of the backstage crew for my school’s dance production I think I have the answer…
According to the dictionary a sport is ‘an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature,’ while dance is classified as an ‘art.’ This is very true as it is a very representative art, but find something in the definition that dance isn’t! Judging by how physically drained some of the performers were after 3 solid nights of high intensity dancing I think it is fair to say that it is very athletic, while it is plain to see that a good dancer has to be extremely skillful. Rather than just using certain parts of their body to execute a set few skills that are practiced every day and used for a whole career, as seen in cricket, dancers have to learn new routines for every dance they do, each with varying patterns and steps , not just using their feet but the whole body – the coordination a good dancer requires is absolutely phenomenal. And most dancers don’t just specialise in one type of dance but in several – there were some girls in the aforementioned dance production who were involved in six or seven dances, from tap to Irish to contemporary, each different style requiring a different set of skills. There is no other example of a sport where there is such a diversity of skillfulness that performers are required to master.
And in terms of dancing competitions, there are a number of different events every week in the UK and across the world for children, amateurs and professionals alike. There are even several categories of dance competition, including Open competitions where all types of dancing can be exhibited or Dancesport competitions such as Strictly Come Dancing where only a couple of disciplines are on show. Events can be regional, national or international, are very well structured with well-defined rules and attract hundreds or thousands of spectators, while there are actually 8 National Governing Bodies for the different dance disciplines. Not everyone wants to dance for competition but there are an increasing number who do and the provisions are all in place for those people.
Dance can, therefore, be classified as a sport but it can also be put under other headings. It can also be a performing art, where it is used to represent an image or a person, a cultural ritual and a leisure activity to boost health and fitness among others. I think it is this that questions whether dance is really a true sport. While most games such as rugby and football can be used to boost the physical and mental wellness of a participant the main aim is competition, but with dance this isn’t always the case. People don’t always dance to win trophies and for some this means that dance cannot be classified alongside the likes of cricket and netball.
The stereotypical view of dancers also doesn’t help the argument. For some dancing is only associated with girls and they ‘don’t do sport’ so therefore dance cannot be one, while ballroom dancers are often classified as being old and retired so they cannot be competitive. Dancing is also seen as very uncool, especially for men. But this is far from the case; for starters it is claimed by some that up to 50% of dancers are males, so if you are old-fashioned in your views and feel that only men can play sport then this shows that dance can be classified as one, while men who dance are often cooler than those who don’t. They have pretty girls all around them and at parties they can throw amazing moves even when they’re drunk without embarrassing themselves while having the rhythm, flexibility and coordination that most of us can only dream of. And in terms of ballroom dancers, if you watch ‘Strictly’ you will notice that all of the pro dancers are young, cool and rather attractive, as well as being arguably fitter than most other professional sportsmen and women due to the very physical nature of their activity. Fourthly, the idea that only men can do sport is crazy. Looking at the recent Olympics and Paralympics, the standard of female sport is rapidly rising and they are becoming as good as men in many events, so even if it is only women who dance that in no way means it isn’t a sport.
Finally, with the alarming rise in obesity levels in Great Britain I think dance should be used as one of the main ways to combat the problem. The fact it is so physically demanding means that in just a few sessions a performer can easily burn off more excess fat than they would do following a diet over a number of months. By decreasing your weight, the vital organs are under much less pressure to keep the body working so are less likely to fail, while also increasing the efficiency of both the CV and respiratory systems. Looking at all the performers in the dance production they were all very athletic and slim, while I have a couple of friends who are extremely good ballroom dancers and at the peak of their physical condition. It can significantly increase your health and reduce the risk of potential problems such as heart attacks or strokes. Zumba, for example, is a fantastic way of losing weight – it is a fun session that pushes you very hard – while taking up dance competitively means you have to be extremely fit in order to be swift across the dance floor.
The government really need to plug dance as a physical activity in order to keep our nation healthy, and hopefully in turn the population will realise that dance is as much a sport is everyone else and dispel all the unfair and untrue stereotypes it has.