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!

Ashlynrae said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm
 I love how someone was finally able to put facts behind the statement I am always saying, "Dance is a sport!" Great work!
ReadingFanatic said...
Mar. 20, 2010 at 10:06 am
I love dance, I take Modern, Ballet, Tap, and Jazz. I also noticed you live in the same town as me. What dance studio do you go too?? I go to the Dance Floor
HermoineGranger said...
Dec. 28, 2009 at 8:53 pm
Awesome artical! I am also a dancer and people don't understand the sweat and even blood that goes into it. Dancing caused me to fracture my spine! You put up a very good argument.
Phantom_Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm

You know, they say the most common sports injuries in females come from cheerleading and dance.

These sports would probably caue more sports injuries in boys too, but everyone knows guys aren't tough enough to be cheerleaders! :D Jk.

Sunshineyday said...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 5:41 pm
it is definitely extremely cahllenging and one can argue with learning new routines and performing, danicng is actually harder than some sports, but dancing is not really like other sports for 2 reasons.
1- it is a performance activity.
2- it is entirely choreographed
it is kind of in it's own category, I'd call it a "kinesthetic art form". and I mean that in the most endearing way. (i love watching dancers perfrom) : )
Lauren W. replied...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 8:39 pm
there is competitive dance teams, and freestyling is a popular style of dance nowadays. Also, it takes a lot of effort to choreograph, just like making a play in football. isn't baseball pretty closely choreographed as well.
Sunshineyday replied...
Nov. 24, 2009 at 5:33 pm
I would still call it more of an 'athletic art', but I see where you are coming from. and I strongly agree that it is very challenging, can be very competitive, and the detailed, precise choreography IS THE REASON WHY it probably is HARDER than a sport such as basketball.( 'ball' sports are usually only loosely choreographed). I have MAD RESPERCT for dancers ( just look & see who's on my profile pic!), and I feel dancing is a category all it's own, and doesn... (more »)
Lauren W. replied...
Nov. 24, 2009 at 7:53 pm
Cool. I like that you gave it its own category. I will have to think about that.
Kristin S. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 29, 2009 at 6:09 pm
I see your argument, and definitely respect it. I like the term "athletic art". I may not fully agree with it, but I respect it. :)
Jake G. said...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm
All dancers have the same old cry,
"No dance is really a sport!" Yes I agree that it might be hard, and require physical work but at most it is a recreational activity (stick with fine art, it sounds better). You also compare the activity to the deffinition of a sport. Who makes the deffinition of a category so broad? That means if love didn't fit under the deffinition of love in the dictionary, guess what guys, it must not be love. Haa thats hilarious. You also keep refer... (more »)
Lauren W. replied...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm
hey. You do have a good arguement, I'm not going to lie, but I spend 11 hours a week at my dance studio. That seems pretty close to the hours people spend at after school sports practices. Also, poms at my school is considered a sport. I have one more question. So you think she can't prove dance is a sport, but please prove that football, or base-ball is a sport.
Venus18 replied...
Jul. 28, 2010 at 6:40 pm
At my school they don't concider dance a sport they call it a 'club'. After spending 10 months training 5 nights a week for 2 & 1/2 hours or more and getting upsometime as early as 3 to leave for competitions, I totally argee. The hard work and dedication put into dance by the team and the coach is endless. Thanks for writing this it's great!!
ShrimpyBB said...
Nov. 6, 2009 at 10:59 pm
I love this article. I am a dancer as well, and totally agree. A bunch of my friends say that dance is not a sport, but it is. It so is.
**BABII** replied...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 7:25 pm
maragrace said...
Nov. 3, 2009 at 8:49 pm
As a dancer I love this, it's accurate and believable. It's also a fantastic read and definitely gets a point across.
Lauren W. said...
Jun. 19, 2009 at 12:13 am
You don't know how many boys I want to make dance just so they can see it is not as easy as it looks.
StellaBlue said...
Jun. 17, 2009 at 10:32 pm
I totally agree with this article.
P.S. How great is So You Think You Can Dance for introducing the TV watching public to the variety and awesomeness of dance?!
Queenfan said...
Jun. 17, 2009 at 7:52 pm
I love this article! There are so many sports that aren't as challenging as dance, but they are recognized everywhere and in the Olympics. I mean curling, you push a rock and then sweep in front of it, not as challenging as a calypso, or a perfect set of fuetes, right? I had this one dance teacher for two hours on satuday, and every sinday, it was all I could do to get out of bed and walk down the stairs. I even complained saying "Why must we live in a two story house." People with sport... (more »)
Hallie M. said...
Jun. 4, 2009 at 4:35 am
wow, that brings up a really great point. At my HS, dance is an activity, like an after school club type thing but like you said, it truly is a hard gritty sport, even though when watched everyone looks graceful and elegant, in some types. Incredible editorial!
Em D. said...
Jun. 4, 2009 at 3:18 am
I'm totally with you on this. I'm currently taking ballet classes, and I love them! I used to do soccer, but I quit to do dance. I've found that dance is just as challenging and as physically exhausting as any school sport. Great article, keep up the good work.
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