The BIG Debate: Is Dance a Sport?

Is Dance a sport?
YES!! It’s part of the National Curriculum for Sport and PE lessons. NO!! Because it’s not one of the sports in the Olympics. These are just a couple of frequent arguments I hear on this topic. But which side are you on?! This post attempts to answer the question which has been tormenting dancers for years… WARNING: some of the answers, including “Dance is just a hobby, it’s not a sport”, may be infuriating to dance lovers worldwide!

Dancers in Basketball costumes at the Welsh Street Dance Championships 2013

Dancers in Basketball costumes at the Welsh Street Dance Championships 2013. Photographer: Laura Kenyon

I posed this question to a number of different people of varying ages and sporting backgrounds. The responses I got from the general public in Cardiff city centre predictably reflected a divided view. Some said “yes, of course dance is a sport” while others laughed saying “gardening is physical, does that mean gardening is a sport?!”.  While the shoppers on Cardiff’s Queen Street were both informed and entertaining, I decided to get the opinions of two sporting professionals. One, a British and Irish Lions and Wales international Rugby Union player, Alex Cuthbert. And the other, a dance teacher and choreographer who has danced her whole life, Cheryl Loxton.

Alex, a six foot six inch, one hundred and four kilogram rugby union player, understandably had a sceptical view of dance as a sport. But even he couldn’t deny that both Rugby and Dance have similarities. Have a listen.

Picture courtesy of Alex Cuthbert 

Meanwhile, Cheryl has grown up competing in dance competitions across the UK and is now a fully qualified dance teacher. She says that dance possesses all the necessary qualities to be classified as a sport.

Picture courtesy of Cheryl Loxton 

This subject of what constitutes a sport can really provoke some fiery debate, especially from those who are passionate about the activity that they participate in. So it’s a brave person who can tell a dancer that Dance is essentially not a sport. Sport England themselves recognise that defining what is and what isn’t a sport is tricky business. They do in fact recognise Dance as a sport and refer to the Council of Europe’s European Sports Charter 1993 definition of sport:

“Sport means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organized participation, at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels”

For many people, what it ultimately comes down to is… is there that element of competition? If not, then dance is an art and not a sport.

Tweets on "Is Dance a sport?"

Tweets on “Is Dance a sport?”

Well I would point out that dancers regularly compete in competitions across the UK and here’s a list of just some of them:

  • Imperial Classical Ballet Awards
  • ISTD Janet Cram Awards (Modern Dance)
  • Marjorie Davies Tap Awards
  • UDO’s European & World Street Dance Championships
  • The All-England Dance Competition
  • UK Street Dance Championships
  • Association of Dance Freestyle Professionals competitions

Saying that, these competitions are usually “amateur”, using the word “amateur” very loosely considering the amount of training many of the competitors have had. When dancers enter the professional world, this is when the competition element often ends. Dancers perform on stage, at events, in music videos etc and routines take on a purely aesthetic purpose. Is dance still a sport then? It’s lost it’s competitive edge so many would so no. Yet often dance shows will be critiqued in a similar way that a football team’s performance is analysed and critiqued by the pundits. So in that case, are Dance and a sport like Football so different after all?

Clearly it’s a contentious subject. This is clear from the volume of online discussions on this topic ranging from internet debate forums to other blog posts like debate page Is Dance a Sport? , the TeenLife blog post The Great Debate: Is Dance a Sport? , Huffington Post’s article Is Dance a Sport or an Art? and Eugene Daily News post Dance As Sport.

But what all people do seem to agree on is that it requires an exceptionally high level of physical fitness and athleticism as well as intricate technique. Some styles of dance are also more easily associated with sport and these are often the more physically explosive styles that incorporate elements of gymnastics, for example street dance, break dancing and freestyle. But even dance styles such as ballet and contemporary require huge amounts of physical exertion and the body to be at the peak of muscular strength. When you compare the physiques of the average professional ballet dancer with that of a pro darts player, it’s difficult to comprehend why darts would be a sport and not ballet. This is the view of one person on social media:

Facebook user on "Is Dance a Sport?"

Facebook user on “Is Dance a Sport?”

So overall, lots of people have mixed views on the status of Dance as a sport. And what it comes down to is people’s subjective vision. What do you think? Have your vote in my poll at the end of the post. Still not sure? Then have a watch of the following video to see what a handful of people in Cardiff think.

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