By Kate Lewis ’18
Growing up as dancer, while my friends played soccer and softball and field hockey, I was often asked if dance is my “sport.” When I was younger, I would reply yes, because I considered it to be just as difficult as any sport I saw my friends doing. And there were those kids who would taunt me and say that it’s not a sport, and trust me, they weren’t calling it an art either. They genuinely didn’t believe it was hard enough to be a sport. Little did they know that Dr. James A. Nicholas in Journal of Sports Medicine deemed ballet the most physically and mentally demanding out of 61 physical activities.
But as I’ve gotten older and have come to better understand the craft, I would now classify dance as an art, or more specifically, a performing art. Though dance is just as, if not more, physically and mentally demanding as sports like field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, etc, I wouldn’t put it in the same category as them.
Dance is effective and tells a story. A dancer must convey emotion, passion and artistry through their dancing, which is already challenging in and of itself. Ballet, for example, is picturesque and beautiful in telling a story, while jazz or theater dance, while still an art, tell a story in a different way.
The performance element of dance is just as important as the physical element. During a game of tennis, your main focus is hitting the ball with your racket over to the other side. Basically, your main focus is playing (and hopefully winning) the game. But in dance, not only do you have to focus on nailing all the movement and technique, but you have to make sure your facial expressions are just as perfect. Dance isn’t meant to look hard. A dancer could be performing the hardest piece ever, but they must make it look effortless.
But all of this being said, dance is certainly just as difficult as any sport. A dancer must be able to use every part of the body. And not only do they have to use every muscle and bone, but the positions and movement can be extremely unnatural for the human body. For example for a ballerina, turnout of the hips and standing out your toes are two vital, yet extremely unnatural techniques for a ballet dancer. And flexibility, for any type of dancer, strains the body to its limits.
Aside from the physical aspect, the mental challenges for a dancer are just as taxing. Competition between dancers from the same company or studio can get into a dancer’s head. And beyond that, as a dancer, one is constantly in competition with oneself. Everyday they walk into a studio lined by mirrors, ready to critique every flaw and misstep.
Whether dance is a sport or an art will always be up for debate. But no matter the label, something I’m sure all dancers can agree on is that dance is as challenging as a sport and as beautiful as art.