Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Dance a Sport?

My school paper recently published an article concerning whether or not dancers should be allowed athletic health insurance coverage from the university. This brings up an interesting question that I've heard a lot in the past few years: is Dance considered a sport, and are dancers athletes?

Here's my answer: No, dance is not a sport. Yes, dancers are athletes. Let me explain myself.

Why is dance not a sport?
I defend dance as a sport sometimes because it can be competitive. There are dance competitions, it can be considered a "team" effort, and there is an audience and a "court," but dance is not essentially an athletic event. Sports have an ultimate goal, like getting a ball into a net, or scoring a certain number of points. Beyond having a biased referee, there are rules in a sport and they're followed objectively. In dance, there are no rules, no opponents, and almost everything is subjective.

How can dancers be athletes if dance isn't a sport?
People can be athletic without playing a sport. The girl next door who jogs for half an hour every day can be just as athletic as any "real athlete." Dance isn't as aerobic of an activity as many sports are (I mean, we don't run back and forth and purposefully tackle people for long periods of time), but dance requires motor skills, coordination, balance, and physicality like any other sport. Plus, have you seen the videos on SYTYCD dancers being tested at the Gatorade sports center? Dancers' reflexes and agility are better than even some basketball players. Every athlete's instrument is his or her body - there's nothing else that really does your work for you.

Should dancers be offered athletic health insurance?
Yep, I definitely think so. Dancers often have as many if not more complex injuries than athletes in sports. Sure, we don't have as many concussions as football players do (although, I've seen at least 5 concussions in my department of 100+ people in the past year, so that's debatable). But rotated pelvises, ribs, vertebrae? Sprained ankles, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis? Probably just as common in dance as in other sports.

Dance is a hybrid between a sport and an art. That's not to say there aren't others: what about figure skating? Figure skating has been an Olympic sport since the early 20th century. Ice skaters are judged in both technical capability/execution as well as artistic performance, just like dancers in dance competitions. There's little debate about whether figure skating is a sport, so should dance be one as well?

Those are my thoughts. What do you think?