Tutus and Twirling This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 26, 2009
What is the definition of a sport? A game played with a ball? Is it people in tight pants running around? How about “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”? That sounds more like it. Football, baseball, and track fit those definitions, but so does another recreational activity that is not typically considered a sport: dance.

Dance fits all those requirements. An athletic activity? Oh yeah! Requiring skill or physical prowess? Definitely! Often of a competitive nature? You bet! Dance is even recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. Then why is this “fine art” not considered a sport?

The sport of dance takes years of training and hard work to perfect. Yes, I said sport. Although some believe that dancing is nothing more than tutus and twirling, it is a mentally engaging and physically demanding activity.

Dance is actually quite similar to one of the most popular sports in the United States: football. In both activities, athletes are assigned specific jobs, roles, or positions. Each follows choreographed plays. Both types of athletes travel using certain steps or passes. Similar, right?

However, one difference between dance and most sports is the way the athletes present themselves. During a tennis match, the players grunt and groan when hitting the ball to show everyone how hard they are working. However, dancers must always look graceful and light as a feather. The best dancers can make the most difficult moves look effortless. It takes lots of practice to perfect those moves and make them look easy. This is why dance is a mental sport as well.

Dr. Jill McNitt-Gray, a professor in kinesiology (the scientific study of movement) at the University of Southern California, has worked with national champions and Olympic gold medalists. Through her work with professional ballroom dancers, she found that a dancer doing the jive can reach foot speeds of 15 miles an hour. In addition, a dancer can spin up to 180 times in a minute – four times faster than a record player!

Balance is a vital part of dance. Dancers must have strong core muscles. Men need strong shoulders for lifts, since they must not only support their own body weight but also their partner's. “Dancers are some of the toughest athletes in the world,” claims Dr. McNitt-Gray.

Many ask, “How can dance be a sport? You can't judge on time and the scoring is subjective!” Just like figure skaters, competitive dancers are judged on many criteria: technique, posture, timing, line, hold, poise, togetherness, musicality and expression, presentation, power, foot and leg action, shape, floor craft, and intangibles. Dancers have a lot on their minds while performing. They are constantly asking themselves, Am I extending correctly? Is my technique right? Is my head facing the right direction?

Some people think dance involves less endurance than sports like cross-country running. However, these runners exert forces in only one direction but, as Dr. McNitt-Gray said, in dance, your hands, legs, and head are exerting forces in different directions all at the same time.

Dance is a cardiovascular, aerobic, challenging sport. Many professional athletes, including former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn Swann, dance to improve their flexibility. Dance fits all the requirements of a sport, and has the physical and mental challenges of a sport, as well.

If you are shaking your head thinking, This girl's crazy, get up off your chair and try it yourself. Meanwhile, I look forward to the day I might be able to stand on that Olympic platform and receive a gold medal for the sport of dance.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 42 comments. Post your own now!

Dancingmeggles said...
Oct. 22, 2016 at 7:48 am
Wow this absolutely blew me away!!! Hope you don't mind if I show this to some of my non dancer friends who don't believe dance is a sport!
DancingDiva said...
Dec. 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm
I absolutely love this article. It is straight to the point and acquires all the imformation to persuade someone to believe your argument. I am a dancer of 13 years and a competitive dancer of 8 years, so I can totally relate to your article. Great work!
maryrose_roseytoes said...
Aug. 14, 2013 at 10:44 am
Wonderful article. I have been dancing for 14 years and have come across many people who are eager to say that dance is not a sport. This used to frustrate me until I realized that dance is much more than a sport: it is an art. Now whenever anyone says that dance isn't a sport I reply with, "You're right. It isn't a sport. It is an art form. Something you wouldn't understand." Check out my opinion piece on dance; "Tricks or Tendus" and let me know wh... (more »)
beautifulspirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 16, 2012 at 6:47 am
Of course dance is a sport. In my opinion, it's one of the toughest out there---having to endure excruciating pain, while giving others the appearance of grace. You are judged on so many different levels. As mentioned in the article---technique, timing, precision, aesthetics... In ballet, your feet bleed for example. Anyone who says otherwise---put them through ballet training and watch how they fumble. Only those familiar with dance actually know the measures and lengths dancers go to to be the... (more »)
soph said...
Jan. 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm
omg dance is totally a sport i liked her speech...it was totally convincing
KScott811 said...
Jan. 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm
I have been a dancer for just about 12 years now, I mean some of it was little kid ballet where you do absolutely nothing graceful, but still... I definitely agree with the majority of your argument, but for me, I prefer to regard dance as more than a sport. It is athletic, as any sport should be, but it is also one of the most elegant forms of art and expression. To me, saying dance is a sport neglects the aesthetic aspects that it requires. Your points are all valid, dance is a sport, but i... (more »)
normgrl said...
Mar. 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm
Girl, that was really something. :D What I loved most about you article was the fact that it was very informative and you were able to support your topic - that dance is a sport - with various details like including the thoughts of an actual expert on the subject. This was awesome! And as an athlete myself, I found it very beneficial.
iluvchocolate said...
Mar. 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm
Thank you so much for writing this article! It bugs me so much when  people say dance isn't a sport. I used to be in basketball, but switched over to dance (danceline & jazz)  just this year. Dance is both more physically, and mentally demanding. 
PurplePointeShoes said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm
I absolutely loooovvveee this article!!! People honestly don't realize how much effort is put in to what we do, and you summed it up perfectly :)
PointeWriter said...
Jan. 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm
Thank you for writing this article, because I completely agree. The only difference between dance and football is that we have to work hard while still looking beautiful
Phantom_Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Football players throw a two pound ball in the air.

Male dancers throw a 110 pound girl in the air, catch her, hold her, put her down while spinning, and manage to look graceful when doing it.

Which is more of a sport? You decide.

YourDad said...
Dec. 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm
i likeeeeee giant oreo pies .
SpringRayyn said...
Nov. 4, 2010 at 4:42 pm
 I love this and really agree! No one thinks that dance is a sport, but really I'd just love to tell them, "Okay, you try and do a fuate (spelling? I've been in ballet so long yet I can't spell anything) turn correctly AND land that while your there." It's not easy! (I finally landed one yesterday) (: But yeah, my pointe (haha, pun!!!). I'm glad you got people to beleive you. C:
SpringRayyn replied...
Nov. 4, 2010 at 4:44 pm
BTW, would you look at my article "The Language of Dance" Please? It's one of my new ones.
normgrl replied...
Mar. 31, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Wow, ballet for ten years! That's so cool. There was a ballet school right across from the street I lived in and always wondered what it felt like. Even now I still wish I have a coordination and rhythm of a dancer but instead, I was granted the love for soccer. Oh well.

Sorry for ranting :P

conversegirl23 said...
Aug. 5, 2010 at 12:35 am
I completely agree! I've been a dancer for 10 years and I get the same criticism.
guitargirl said...
Jul. 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Great article! I've been doing gymnastics for 12 years and I often get similar comments saying that it's not really a "sport".  Just from experiencing the small amount of dance we do, I know how incredibly hard dancers have to work and I have the utmost respect for them.  Good job =)
Petra S. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm
thepreechyteenager said...
Jun. 27, 2010 at 8:47 pm
If you think about it from a worldwide standpoint, dance is probebly considered more of a sport than football!  WHAT NOW, M???
PinkDimond16 said...
May 17, 2010 at 10:41 am
Dance is a sport anything that requires movement such as dance, tap, twirling, stuff like that is a sport. I Like This artical=)
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