Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an athlete as: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.
When you think about athletes, the first things that come to mind are those athletes you see on TV playing basketball, football, soccer, track, tennis, the list goes on. You don’t think about a ballerina, hip hop dancer or a tap dancer as an athlete. But dancing requires the same traits and possibly more than many traditional sports.
And we have to ask ourselves, why not? The thing about with dancing, particularly competitive dancing, is that it demands the same discipline, strength, stamina, coordination, and commitment as the sports-as-we-know-it. And dancers? They are not just athletes but artists, with innate musicality and the ability to emote while executing intricate steps…think about those football players studying and remembering playbooks.
Sports and Competitive Dance by Definition
Comparing the classic definition of sport and dance, they are quite similar. Sport is defined as a competitive physical activity that improves or maintains physical fitness. It is also defined as entertainment to participants who engage in such activities to showcase their physical athleticism or physical dexterity. Competitive dance is defined as a sport in which competitors perform dances of different genres, based on the requirements of the competition, making competitive dancers athletes.
Athletes are known to train for months leading up to a competition. Athletes must have the right physicality and mindset to perform depending on the sport. To achieve peak physicality, an athlete has to train hard and practice, practice, practice. A lot of discipline is required to stick to a program if you’re an athlete, something that dancers could relate to. Just like any athlete, dancers are expected to achieve their peak physical form before the competition. They practice for hours, days, weeks, and months to perfect their routines no matter what genre! Dancing is hard on one’s body, just like any other sport, and just like athletes, dancers train hard to win and be recognized for their hard work and artistry.
Athleticism and competitiveness go hand in hand. An athlete must have a strong desire to win to push one’s mind, body, and spirit into winning. The same thing is said for dancers, they push themselves hard to outperform and outlast the competition! The execution may be different between traditional sports and competitive dancing, but athletes and dancers share the same competitive spirit that compels them to train hard and perfect their performance.
In addition, the competition dance can be ruthless. Your mind, spirit, and body must work well together to achieve the optimal results for the highest marks from the judges. Athletes and dancers share the same unshakeable dedication to win a competition no matter the motivation.
Dancing isn’t just about dominating the stage with a flurry of graceful movements in tune with the music. Regardless if you are dancing solo, with a dance partner, or with a group of dancers, every successful performance requires teamwork. You have your dance coach, your choreographer, your support system (hi mom and dad!), people who are directly and indirectly involved in the whole process! The same thing can be said for athletes engaged in traditional sports. Winning does not rest on one athlete alone, it’s a group effort. Every team member has an important role to play in the team. One thing that is somewhat unique to dance competition, dance is one sport when you perform a solo, you are truly the only athlete on stage.
Training for long periods, the increased risk of injuries, the mental and physical toll of training, and the loneliness that comes with practicing for months. These are just some of the many sacrifices that athletes and dancers make to win a competition. Just like athletes, dancers have to work hard to push themselves to win. When they’re injured, they have to be patient and persevere until they are healed again. Athletes and dancers have to stay positive no matter how tough the going gets so they have the right mindset before and during the competition. Whatever motivation athletes or dancers have for training hard and winning, they make the same sacrifices every day.
No matter an athlete in a traditional sense or an established ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, highly likely they both started as a child with dreams of achieving their dreams. It is that passion that may drive one to become the next NBA Finals MVP or the featured ballerina with an exceptional fouetté. The arena may slightly differ, but they are both tremendous athletes.
So I ask you, are dancers athletes?