You should be dancing – it may just save your life

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.

The ultimate farce

The unforgettable 2012 Olympics have given our nation an amazing legacy and also seem to have cured the problem (at least short-term) of a lack of youngesters participating in sport. The Games, however, have created a big dilemma – what on earth is going to happen with the stadium?

So far the suggestions have been it could host football, F1 or NFL, but everyone seems to have ignored what I think is the perfect solution – athletics! Why build a stadium with a running track and sandpits if you’re not going to use them? They say that this idea isn’t feasible but surely the greatest Games ever (not debatable) must have gone a fair way to paying it off… It should be used to host the British leg of the Diamond League every season instead of going up to Birmingham where all it does is rain. It could also play host to national championships and suchlike to give youngsters a feel of what they could be doing in the future. Also, there will be loads of people who will want to visit it having not got tickets and visit the place where Mo, Jess and Greg took us by storm so why change its purpose?

But we decide to ignore the simple solution with least hassle and try to fit a round peg in a square hole as us British not having the same normal brain structure as everyone else! Tottenham, Leyton Orient and West Ham are the football teams who have all bidded but their plans all have significant flaws! To start with, Spurs are based in an entirely different part of London so every home fixture will feel like an away game while Leyton Orient struggle to attract more than 2 fans so will bankrupt themselves and the nation! West Ham seem the best option because of the proximity but does their football deserve such a great arena?

Still, at least football is a relatively logical solution. Bernie Ecclestone finally seems to have lost it – he thinks London’s streets could play host to an F1 race with the stadium incorporated in it somewhere! That final part is so vague though – does he mean drive through the stadium itself or drive along a section of the circuit where drivers can see it for about a second? It would also mean having to close some of London’s roads, which really isn’t sensible as the they are already a nightmare (hence the Congestion Charge Bernie). By closing them all you are doing is turning more commuters into miserable and angry people. What I would like to see, though, is an F1 race with traffic still flowing through the circuit – now that would be entertainment!

And finally, even thinking about hosting NFL games in the stadium is an insult! How can a stadium that played host to some of the greatest sporting moments ever, where every athlete was participating for their nation, now be a home for a sport where nationality doesn’t exist and a player’s bank balance is the size of Luxembourg? Despite the fact that I was impressed that Boris knew what American Football was, his suggestion is rather worrying? Can he not see that this is the USA’s final step towards colonising us? Firstly, they gave us McDonalds to make us fat and slow, then it was Apple to bamboozle our poor minds and now they’re sending their ‘beefcakes’ over to finish the job!

Over to you chef…

So, Alistair Cook is the new England Test captain with the job of taking England back to the number 1 spot in the long format. But I think he has a greater job in trying to stop the team becoming the laughing stock of international cricket, where we are currently heading. This isn’t a criticism of anyone in particular but there are a number of factors that seriously need to be addressed.

The first is that England fans need to stop moaning about other teams and focus on their own. Yes, India have taken a slightly cheeky step in that they have not played any out-and-out spin bowlers in the recent warm-up match so England will be under-prepared going into the first Test, but surely that’s England’s own fault for making it so plainly obvious that they rubbish against spin? Having said that, why is it that our batsmen can make spinners such as Saeed Ajmal look like an absolute donkey one minute and then make him look like an Asian terminator the next? Just because he has a bent elbow when he bowls it doesn’t mean that he has turned into Murali overnight! And it’s not as if we don’t exploit home advantages during our summer of cricket by making maximum use of swing bowling against sides who come from countries where wind and clouds are as rare as a sunny day is over here, therefore putting them at a disadvantage. All India are trying to do is win a series against a team who they see as a massive threat, so we as fans should stop being bigger hypocrites than our government and do all we can to help our players do the impossible and actually win down in India.

England’s deficiency against spin is very worrying, however, and Kevin Pietersen has inadvertently not helped the situation in any way. In 2008 he branded India’s Yuvraj Singh a ‘piechucker,’ which is quite an insult for a spinner (I know this from personal experience having been called it a few times), yet just yesterday he took 5 wickets for an India A side against a full strength England XI, including KP. We have recalled the man, arguably the best batsman in the country, to bolster an inexperienced batting line up and he is getting out to a bowler who he reckons shouldn’t be playing Sunday League cricket – what on earth is this saying about our side? If our best player is getting out to a second-rate, part-time bowler then we are well and truly stuffed when the Test series starts in two weeks, with Ravi Ashwin and Praveen Ojha picking up 15 out of 20 New Zealand wickets not long ago. Cook needs to tell his players to keep quiet to avoid any more embarrassing situations such as this!

Finally, Cook and the selectors need to stop picking players with ridiculous names if we want to reverse our fortunes! There are so many English players whose names are also nouns and verbs – Cook, Trott, Bell, Onions, Swann… Thank God Phil Mustard isn’t in the team anymore otherwise we’d have most of the ingredients for a hot dog rather than a cricket team! Some of the names are highly appropriate though – Jonathon Trott rarely bats with any intensity while Stephen Finn can scare opponents like a great white when he feels like it, which isn’t seemingly going to be soon after he hurt his thigh over-stretching his ostrich-like legs trying to stop the ball. Even head coach Andy Flower’s name reflects his tenure in charge – he took over the team from the bottom, set some really strong foundations and made them big and strong before they have wilted away recently. And with Joe Root looking to firmly set himself at the top of the England order and Jos Buttler opening a door for himself in the middle order the trend that has spanned decades looks set to continue. In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s Geoffrey Boycott seemed to think that running would get him nowhere except for the local A&E department so avoided it like the Plague while ‘keeper-bastman Alan Knott used to bamboozle opponents with his extravagance in front and behind the stumps. Yet England have never had any real long-term cricketing success and I think this could be why!  Our players need sexy, stylish names such as AB de Villiers or Shane Watson, not Graeme Swann, if we want to dominate the world! Still, I suppose the name Pat Cummins could worse…

So, here we go then…

My first post then – it’s much more daunting than it seems! I am here to offer a light-hearted and witty insight into some sporting issues that people take way too seriously. However, although I like to think I am, many people I know would like to argue that I am in fact not witty but just very immature… Anyway I hope you all enjoy my blog and please feel free to leave constructive comments if you want, or even make suggestions as to what you may like me to talk about. First real post should be up by the end of the week!