Dancers Are Athletes Too

April 6, 2017
By , Miami Springs, FL

You men love your sports. You're obsessed, and with good reason. Picture yourself in a stadium or an arena, cheering on your home team, who you've followed since you were young, as they play in the championships. You're in awe of them. You know they've trained for years for this moment, practicing day and night until their muscles ache in order to perfect their talent. And when they win, you get this indescribable urge of pride knowing that your home team, no one else's, had won and taken home the championship title. All their hard work had paid off, and everything they showed on the playing field was the product of harsh training, intense determination, and unmovable dedication. You couldn't be prouder.

Now imagine if after all the hard work and dedication, someone came up to you and told you that what your team is doing is not considered a sport. How dare they say such a thing ? Did they not see the strenuous error your team had just gone through to win? Did they not know of the rigorous hours of training your team went through for months? Put yourself in that position and think about how you may feel.

You might think this kind of situation never happens. But in reality, it happens to me almost every single day of my life. Whenever I'm asked if I play a sport or not, I always answer by saying that I dance. And I always get the same response in return: "Oh, but that's not a sport." Just to be clear, a sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competed against another or others for entertainment. Obviously, baseball, basketball, soccer, and football all fit this criteria. But guess what ? So does dance ! Dance is a sport. You may think I sound quite a bit obsessive, but I have the right to be. Behind the statement "Dance isn't a sport" is the implication that dance is not an equal to other glorified sports, and that dancers do not deserve the title of athletes. I'm not fighting for the title of "sport", but rather for its meaning.

I want to begin by saying that dancers train just as hard as any basketball or football player does. Many of you say that dance is "just dancing", so let me enlighten you all. The same way that football players have training camps over the summer, dancers have summer intensive programs. Just like football players, dancers are constantly working out their bodies in order to build muscles and endurance. Besides our traditional technique classes, such as ballet, contemporary and jazz, we take strength and conditioning classes, cardio classes, yoga classes, and stretch classes. On top of that, we have any other additional classes we might take (ballroom, hip-hop, flamenco, belly dance, acro) and we have rehearsals for competitions and/or performances, which we participate in all year long. A prime example would be principle dancer for the American Ballet Theatre Misty Copeland, who, during rehearsal season, trains and practices for over eight exhaustive hours, five days a week. And during performance season, Copeland is at the theater from eleven in the morning to eleven at night, performing six times a week. Obviously, dance is a lot more than "just dancing."

Dance is also often not considered a sport because "it's not competitive." Even though people are aware that dance competitions do exist, they say it doesn't count as a sport because your success is based on what a judge thinks about your performance. If you are to make this argument, then you are saying that gymnastics is not a sport. But gymnastics is in the Olympics. Also, it is considered one of the most difficult sports to master. And it's a sport that is judged. Besides, we don't always listen to the judges. A dancer's greatest critic and competitor is themselves, and our goal is to do better than our previous performance. At the end of the day, how we feel about our dancing means much more than a shiny trophy. That being said, dance is extremely competitive because your are constantly trying to best yourself and be better or at the same level as other dancers to ensure that you pass an audition to land a job. Now, it is recognized that sometimes dance is just for pure entertainment. But the same applies to conventional sports. Two boys playing basketball during recess are doing it for their own amusement. Does this mean that they aren't engaging in a sport ? Of course not, and the same applies to dance.

The last argument against dance being a sport probably upsets me the most. The idea is that dance isn't a sport because it is a predominantly female activity and because it's to "feminine" to be a sport. To begin with, since when does the gender of an athlete determine whether or not their sport is a sport or not? Does that mean that known sports, such as softball, women's volleyball, and women's soccer are not sports ? No ! So why should it be any different when it comes to dance ? Besides, more and more men are becoming dancers. This whole claim also raises the question, What is femininity? The poster child for a feminine woman would be someone like Audrey Hepburn - thin and delicate. However, the bodies of almost all professional dancers are characterized by toned abdomens, broad shoulders, chiseled backs, and burly thighs. The whole "too feminine" argument is based on the erroneous idea that all dancers are pretty ballerinas who run around in their tutus and leotards all day. But this idea is preposterous because so many different styles of dance exist, and so many of them don't even fit the "girly" stereotype. For example, hip-hop is a style of dance that consists of popping, locking, and a variety of sharp, rapid, strong, and even robotic movements. It definitely doesn't match the image of a delicate ballerina that is associated with the word dance. Yet, it is a style of dancer and one of the most popular forms of dance today. Even ballet itself isn't all light and dainty all the time. One look at the intense ballet Carmen will attest to that.

 Albert Einstein himself said, "Dancers are the athletes of God." If one of the greatest minds of the 20th century was able to recognize that dancers are athletes, why is that the common man of the 21st century repudiates the idea of dance being a sport ? It's obvious that dancing is so much more than prancing around the stage in a tutu. Dance is an art, designed to dazzle the public with its beauty. This doesn't mean it can't be a sport as well, and that's what makes so intriguing. The art of dance is so difficult to master. It consumes your entire mind and body and sucks out every ounce of energy within you. By the end of a rehearsal, you feel as if every bone in your body is going to pop out of its socket, and your muscles throb like the constant beating of a drum. But the finished product is so stunning and awe-inspiring. It appears to be effortless, and that's the prime example of why dance is a sport - it takes a lot of effort to look effortless. Dance is a discipline. Dance builds character and teaches important life lessons. Dance is a means of expression. Dance is everything that basketball, baseball, soccer, and football are and more. It's undeniable - dance is a sport.

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