Ultimately dance can mean many things to many people, but there is a reason that it isn’t in the Olympics (and no, it is not due to lack of athleticism). Dance is first and foremost an art form, and here’s why:
Competition does not make it a Sport
Even though there are many prestigious competitions for every style from ballet, to hip-hop, competition does not make it a sport. You can compete as a singer, musician, or as a visual artist, but none of those fields are considered sports.
You can pretty much make a competition out of anything if you try hard enough, but that doesn’t mean that after taking part in a hotdog-eating contest you should start calling yourself a jock.
There is room for creative liberty
When athletes are entered into the Olympics or other tournaments there is always strict set of standards they have to follow in order to be considered for judgment.
In competitive figure skating there are restrictions on the style of music, choreography, and costume choice for both men and women.
There are also specific skills and tricks that must be demonstrated in a routine depending on the program. For instance in pair skating a duo must execute lifts, twist lifts, throw jumps, and spirals, while also incorporating single skating elements into their routine.
Dance competitions grant performers with a lot of free will.
There are never specific tricks that need to be demonstrated; it’s usually just a matter of bringing your best to the table whatever that may be.
Costumes can typically be anything. In the same category one dancer could be wearing a sequined leotard while another could be wearing a large old T-shirt. Typically as long as the costume is suited to the performer and their routine anything goes.
In most cases music doesn’t even have to be used.
The point being that if dance were a sport, there would need to be very specific restrictions to make judging easy and straight forward, which it isn’t.
Dancers may be Athletes but they are not Sportsmen/women
Dancers do not get enough credit for the sheer athleticism that a performance can require. I mean, not only do we have to execute skills that test our balance, flexibility, sense of rhythm, and strength, but we also have to perform them with a smile on our face as if nothing is happening. Seriously, if fouette turns, head spins, and crazy fast bachacatas don’t demonstrate athleticism I don’t know what does.
But athleticism does not make it a sport, and in fact sports don’t always require athleticism.
Croquet and Hot air ballooning were once considered Olympic sports, though neither are known to get your heart rate up (…unless maybe your anxious about the results of the competition).
If sports are defined as showing athleticism then hiking, yoga, and palates should also be considered sports.
Dance is a Form of Expression
Unlike sports, dance allows people to express themselves. It can allow someone to be vulnerable as their true selves or give them the opportunity to take on another persona. Certain styles can reflect an era, and represent a historical movement. Dance can be used to tell stories, and push boundaries. Dance is a language that can communicate what might not be able to be said with words. A great dance performance can make you question the world around you, and present the human experience through movement. Dance can be used in ritual, celebration, and even competition but it is always an art form.
If you enjoyed this post check out my previous posts on Auditioning as a Dancer for Disney, 5 Things to Learn from the Great Leslie Caron, and Dancing in the Middle East.