The debate about whether dancing is a sport or art has been going on for a long time. There are many people on both sides of the argument, and each has its fair share of valid points.
So, is dancing a sport?
Dancing is definitely a sport because it requires a high level of coordination and physical exertion. Dancing, like any other sport, rewards those who are willing to put in the time to perfect their craft. The sport is also mentally intensive, which often gets overlooked.
Once you take a closer look at what dancing is and everything it involves, it becomes clear that it fits the general definition of a sport. In the following sections, I’ll go into some of the reasons why dancing is a sport.
Dancing Takes Lots of Skill
Like most sports, dancing requires participants to have a certain level of skill to do it well. You can’t just build these types of skills up overnight, either. They often take many years of work and many hundreds of hours to become good at them.
The difference between an experienced dancer and someone who just started is staggering. Over time, dancers practice and build up their skill set.
Not anyone can just walk up onto the stage and dance flawlessly the first time. It takes a lot of time to build up the skills needed to remember the dances, perform the different moves, and work alongside other dancers or directors.
Beautiful and graceful dancing is never an accident; dancers must put a lot of skill and time into creating, learning, and performing the dances.
Dancers Have to Practice Regularly
Every great athlete didn’t become amazing at their sport overnight. They often had to spend a lot of time practicing and had to do it very consistently and regularly. This principle of regular practice applies to dance as well.
To dance and become good at it, you have to practice very often.
Depending on what type of dance you are doing and for what purpose, sometimes you have to practice six or seven days per week. And these practices aren’t easy either, some of them are many hours long and very intensive.
Dancing requires a lot of commitment over a long period of time. Your skill level and competence as a dancer build up over many years of practice.
Like any sport, if you quit training for any amount of time, you lose some of the skill you had built up, and you have to start below where you were before.
Dancing Is Physically Difficult
One of the main things mentioned in the definition of a sport is that sports require physical effort. If there was ever a sport that required some physical exertion, dancing is one of them.
All of the regular training, practice, and performing that dancers have to go through is very physically difficult.
Besides having to regularly dance for long periods at a time, most of the moves and techniques required are difficult to pull off. It takes a lot of physical skill and effort to hold particular positions and perform most of the dance movements needed.
Many dancers make it look effortless when they dance as if they glide through the air and go through their routine with little to no effort.
While it might seem this way to an observer, the amount of physical exertion to pull off challenging moves is incredible.
Dancers Need to Have Good Endurance
Most of the reasons we have gone over so far about why dancing is a sport have highlighted that dancing requires a lot of time, skill, and effort. But one of the most critical pieces of dancing is endurance.
Football players need to play for quite some time and often run long distances. Throughout tennis matches, players must move around a lot and swing their racket repeatedly.
Dancing needs participants to train and perform challenging moves regularly in practice to perform well on stage.
Most sports require participants to have a fantastic amount of endurance, and dancing is no different.
Endurance is one of the essential things that separates excellent dancers from ones just starting. To become good at dancing, you inherently need to build up a lot of endurance to perform well.
Dancing Can Be Very Competitive
Just like almost any sport, dancing has a huge competitive element to it.
Sure, not all forms of dancing hold massive competitions where dancers compete for trophies. However, even those that don’t do that are still very competitive. Like most physical sports, there is always a desire to be the best.
Many dancing styles, such as ballet, hip-hop, and tap, hold competitive dance competitions where dancers compete before a group of judges to win trophies and medals.
The atmosphere at these sorts of events are often very competitive, and there is a high level of pressure to do well.
Other forms of dancing, such as jazz and modern, are more self-driven regarding being competitive, but they are very competitive. These dancing styles are more focused on being one of the best at a particular set or move and less about competitions and events.
While it might seem like dancing is not competitive in the slightest, you will see that the competitive element of dancing is quite prominent once you get into it.
Dancers Must Be Flexible
Flexibility and athleticism are crucial to a lot of sports. Sports require you to move around a lot and physically exert yourself. If you aren’t flexible, sports will become increasingly challenging.
For dancers, especially, flexibility is an essential quality to have. A lot of dancing styles include many moves that would be very difficult if you were not flexible.
One of the most popular movements in dancing that requires extreme flexibility is the splits.
A significant part of dancing is trying to make it seem as effortless as possible to the audience watching. Performing a dance routine to make it seem as effortless as possible is an aspect of dancing that people often overlook.
Still, many dancing styles emphasize it quite a bit.
One of the essential elements in allowing a dancer to appear more elegant and effortless on stage is flexibility. Being flexible will enable dancers to move with more grace and pull off some pretty tricky moves that they couldn’t perform otherwise.
Dancers Have to Stretch Before Performing
As we just talked about, flexibility is essential for dancing. There are many different styles of dancing, and each requires the dancers to have a certain level of flexibility to be able to accomplish some of the moves.
While it is nice to see the final result of a well-trained dancer moving gracefully through their routine, what you don’t see is the hours of stretching that they must do to perform the way they do.
Like most athletes, dancers must stretch to be able to perform and do well in their sport.
Stretching is essential for dancers to stay flexible enough to do the splits and other dance moves, but it is also vital to avoid injuries.
Overall, dancers must stretch quite a bit to perform, which is an essential part of almost any sport. It keeps them at the top of their game and allows them to make moves that sometimes seem impossible for the human body to pull off physically.
Dancers Receive Awards at Competitions
There are many styles of dancing with very competitive competitions and shows. These competitions give dancers a chance to become better performers and to be recognized for their skill.
Like almost all other sports, these dancing competitions often awards for winners.
At most of these events, there is a group of judges who judge each performance. The top-performing dancers receive their awards once all the contestants have performed, and the judges have finished scoring them.
Sometimes, there are also special awards at these dance competitions, such as “Best Choreography” and “Overall Performance,” among a few others.
Judges give out different types of awards, depending on the particular event and who hosts it. There are events for professional dancers and events put on by local dance clubs and schools where the atmosphere is a little more relaxed.
Dancers Can Get Injured While Dancing
An unfortunate reality that comes along with sports is the possibility of injuries. Almost every sport out there has the potential for its participants to get hurt, and dancing is no different.
Dancing is a bit of a unique sport because there is less chance that other dancers will injure you, and it’s more likely that you’ll hurt yourself while dancing.
There is constant pressure to always up the ante and practice more often in the dance community. Hence, it is hardly a surprise that dancers often get injured.
One of the significant areas where dancers injure themselves, is not surprisingly, the ankle and foot area. According to The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT), about 53% of dancing injuries occur in the ankle/foot area.
Also, the JOSPT found that over a five year period, 0.77 injuries occurred per 1000 hours of dance. All of this to say, injuries—like in most sports—are not uncommon while dancing.
Dancers Wear Uniforms
A huge part of sports is often the team’s image and branding. Sports fans and players emphasize team colors, mascots, and uniforms because it brings the team together and makes the sport more of a social and group event.
With dancing, the approach is a little bit different when it comes to uniforms and team branding, but the basic idea is still present.
Dancing uniforms come in many different forms, and it all depends on the style of dance and how many dancers are performing at one time. If a dance has a partner, the two people will often wear complementary or matching uniforms.
Dance groups also sometimes have specific attire that they all wear to bring uniformity to the team. Matching uniforms also applies to more classical dancing, such as ballet, where dancers often wear matching leotards.
While there are no hard and set rules for uniforms, dance sometimes takes some signals from more mainstream sports when it comes to outfits and team colors.
Dancing Requires a Lot of Discipline
Like any other sport, dancers are always working to become better at what they do and improve their skills. Becoming better takes a lot of time, effort, and discipline, and dancers have to put in a massive dose of all three things to achieve their goals.
Professional dancers and ones who want to improve their routines have to practice consistently and stay focused for a long time to build up and maintain the skills needed. To put so much time and effort into something takes a lot of discipline.
Any athlete will tell you that to become good at a sport, you have to put in a lot of time and effort, and that takes a ton of discipline. For dancing, especially, this is truer than you might realize.
Dancers are in a constant battle to become better and preserve what they are already able to accomplish. To keep this up over any amount of time is quite impressive, and rigorous self-discipline is necessary.
Dancers Have to Be Very Coordinated
Sports are a sort of dance between displays of human capabilities and strategies. Good hand-eye coordination and overall body control are extremely important and necessary to be good at any sport.
To perform at high levels in sports, athletes have to be well-coordinated. For dancers, this is especially true.
Dance is somewhat of a unique sport because it relies on the dancer to control their bodies with incredible precision.
Coordination plays an essential role in any sport, whether we focus on it or not. Still, for dancers, it is vitally important.
Depending on the dance style, dancers have to have ultimate control over what limbs and parts of their body move at certain times and what parts stay entirely still.
Dancing takes a lot of practice and repeated effort to get it right, but the level of coordination between your brain and limbs is also incredible.
Dancers Must Memorize Dances
When you watch someone perform a dance number, you often focus on the physical aspect of the sport. While what the dancer is physically doing is a significant component, dancers must pay attention and memorize much more than you might think.
This underappreciated mental aspect applies to more sports than you might think. For example, games such as football rely a lot on memorizing plays and taking into account the other team’s strengths and weaknesses.
People often overemphasize the physical aspect of dancing, but dancers must learn routines, assess moves, and do split-second calculations while performing. To dance well, you must be a quick thinker.
The mental side of dancing is often overlooked.
Dancing Requires Special Equipment
Baseball, soccer, football, tennis, and nearly any other popular sport you can think of use equipment unique to that sport. In dance, there is a surprising amount of specialized equipment that is necessary.
Some forms of dance require dancers to wear particular shoes and uniforms. In addition to just clothing, dancers often use props in their performances to change things up and create visual interest.
Dancers can use nearly anything as a prop in dance, but some of the most common items are scarves, hats, canes, and bandanas.
In specific competitions, the variety or number of props allowed is limited, but often dancers are free to use whatever they find useful or interesting.
Certain styles of dancing sometimes use their environment as a prop as well; chairs, tables, and anything else they can find can turn into an accessory for a performance.
Dancers Must Work Out to Become Stronger
A significant part of most sports is the physical character of the athletes. Many of the more physical sports, such as football and basketball, have athletes who are very muscular and on the larger side.
Dancing is unique in the sense that it’s a pretty physical sport, but the athletes generally aren’t and don’t have to be overly muscular.
The reason for dancers being more slight of frame is the simple fact that they need to be light on their feet and agile.
Dancing is very physically draining. It requires a ton of stamina and strength, so dancers still need to work out regularly to stay able to perform and go through their dance routines.
These workouts are less focused on making prominent muscles more significant and more focused on becoming stronger in the places needed to dance with ease.