Ballroom Dancing Art or Sport
Date added to ADN: Wed,
December 14, 2011
Originally Published: Wed, November 01, 2006
by Christine Zona
Many dancers feel that what they do is a work of art, while others feel they are truly sportsmen. Still others think the combination of these two worlds, art and sport, make the finished product perfection. With the imminent inclusion of dancesport in the Olympics, we posed the question, “Ballroom Dancing… Art or Sport?” to amateur and professional competitors and judges. We found their views to be most interesting.
Eddie Ares Georgia
Sport, because of the physical conditioning that goes behind it. It takes a lot of energy, stamina, hard work and mental concentration, which is equal to any athletic sport.
Katusha Demidova New York
I always view it as a sport because of the training and time we put into it. It has an artistic side, but definitely a sport. In Russia it's a sport. They would say, “You are a sportsman - treat it like that.”
Maria Fiora Connecticut
Art, because it gives you a chance to express your own feelings about what the dance means to you. It’s a sport because you’re competing, but it’s really your own feelings and opinions about it. No one can really say you’re first or second. It’s your own interpretation that matters.
Vitaly Logishev Delaware
Art, because it’s your feelings. Dancing is communication and expression between two people.
Michael Mead California
It’s an athletic endeavor but in the competition setting it’s more of an art. It relies on a subjective opinion rather than objective measure like running a foot race. The first one over the line is the winner. There’s no disputing that. With dancesport it’s based on someone’s opinion of whether they liked one particular interpretation opposed to someone else’s interpretation.
Shalene Archer Tennessee
I believe it’s an art first. There’s definitely sport involved especially in how it’s progressed in the last twenty years. It’s become much more of a sport, much more demanding of the body. But what separates us from the other sports is movement to music. It has to come more from the heart than who crosses the finish line first.
Ben Ermis Tennessee
I think that maybe there is a better balance of art and sport in what we do than anything else. I’m not a pure die hard that thinks it belongs in the Olympics and it’s pure sport. I’m happy if recognizing dancing as a sport will help it get a broader appeal to the masses. I still think it’s more art than sport. I don’t think the ballet dancers have the right to argue that their dancing is a sport.
Randy Ferguson Texas
There’s a little bit of both. I think it’s more artistic than sport. Accept it for what it is and don’t try to make it only a sport.
Lynn Ferguson Texas
It’s an art from, it’s subjective. I feel like I can say this because I’ve done both. I’ve been an athlete and I’m in the dancing. I use my athleticism in the dancing. But it’s more artistic. One of the things that I get hammered on a lot is I have too much power in the wrong places. I guess that comes from sport – “Do this faster, do this harder, do this stronger.” I had to learn to marshmallow out to do these things on the floor, and to me that’s an art. The way Michael Jordan shoots a basket is art. When somebody else does it, it’s not as neat to watch. I’d love to see it get in the Olympics because that would be great exposure for us.
Donald Johnson California
Both. You have to be artistic in any kind of movement to make it appealing to watch, and you have to be athletic in your movement to make the artistic part come across. If you’re not moving yourself from point to point there are no dynamics. If you’re not physical with it to a certain point it’s dull to watch. You have to be strong and athletic. Someone told me once that the strongest strength you’ll ever see is ultimately light, and the softest thing you’ll ever feel or see is ultimately strong.
Danny Carter Florida
It’s an art and a sport. It’s an athletic sport and we are fortunate to be able to add artistry with the music, the choreography, the expression and the passion that comes from within. Instead of just running a race we get to run a race doing the quickstep with emotion, direction, artistry, flow and music. So we’re very lucky. That’s the benefit and the beauty of ballroom dancing.
Tom Delflore Florida
Both. You can say golf is an art too because of the technique in the strokes. Dancing has a lot of emotion but the other sports have emotion too, like basketball, but you’re not portraying emotion. That is what makes dancing so unique. All the senses are involved. Ballet dancers are the greatest athletes of all. They have the flexibility, the stamina, and the speed. Our profession is becoming the same way.
Paul Holmes New York
I think a little bit of both. You have to obviously be very fit, which I don’t think people on the outside realize. When they see it on television, they only see the finals. They don’t realize the competition has been going on for hours. It’s also an art form because of the musical interpretation and the choreography.
Michael Nadtochy New Jersey
I think dance is as much an art as a sport. It requires good body conditioning because the body is the instrument we use for dancing. We also don’t want to look like a machine or like we’re passing an exam. So it’s necessary to think of it as an art to bring the expression of dance to the audience.
Jukka Haapalainen Finland
Dance as a competition form, especially in the early stages of a dancer’s career, can be considered as sport, owing to the fact that physically dancing is quite demanding. When a dancer develops and acquires a better technique, he or she becomes freer to express oneself artistically. For us, however, the true freedom of expression lies in solid understanding of fundamentals and never ending training that makes sure that a dancer’s facility is being taken good care of and taken further. In that sense we could say that the training of a dancer is very much like training of an athlete. In it’s highest level the result, however, is more like a piece of art.
Louis van Amstel New York
It is a combination. I do believe that it’s a good sport but I also believe it is a very good art form. Everything besides what happens on the dance floor at the competition is all sport. What happens on the floor is art. Five hours of practice is sport. Stamina training and stretches are sport. What I create on the floor is art, but doing five rounds and two minutes of each dance is the sport part. It’s a shame the general public doesn’t perceive it is so. They look at the gowns and make-up as primary, and the dancing as secondary. I think we should change that. It is hard because I think that 70% of the dancers are not educated trained dancers. They’re at the right spot at the right time. If you take away the outside, there’s nothing left on the inside. So these people will always say, “No, we need the glitter and the glamour.” There are also the people that say, “I’m going on the floor with a simple black dress beautifully fitted, and make-up just as natural as possible.”
Maja Servé California
I consider it a sport. In 1966, DanceSport, (as it’s called in Denmark where I am from originally), was admitted to the Sports Association of Denmark. So it’s been a sport all my life. It was always in the sport section of the newspapers and on television in Denmark.
John Swick Oklahoma
I consider it an art, but I think in a lot of ways we need to address it as a sport to get the government to pay proper attention. In America we put billions of dollars every year into sports but continue to cut arts programs. Dancing is an art because all art is communication. You have to tell me a story. Otherwise why are you doing it and why would we want to come watch you do it, unless we get a message from you? We all go to theatre and events to live vicariously through whoever is living that moment. And it must be something we’re interested in or we didn’t do or wished we had done. There are a lot of arts that aren’t necessarily as physically endurance and strength oriented, but that doesn’t mean an art can’t be a sport or a sport can’t be an art. Your performance has the responsibility to make us happy. The easiest way to make us happy is for you to be happy because then we live your joy. And it becomes our joy, then we’re connected and that’s art. There is an art to being a magnificent sportsman.
Corky Ballas Texas and England
I consider ballroom dancing to be an art. The reason is that in dancing we have three approaches. We have a showy approach, which is more concerned with facial gesturing. Then there is a sport approach, which is more concerned with the athleticism of it, the strength, the power, the line of it. And the artistic approach, which is more concerned with the actual movement, the stretch, the sensing, feeling the dynamic of the movement. So it depends on what approach the person takes. The borderline problem is when you have to do eight rounds in one day -- you have to be physically fit. Why we get confused is the ballet dancers, like Baryshnikov, are extremely fit and healthy. What is the difference? He practices nine or ten hours a day. So why is what they do art and what we do not?
Nadia Eftedal California
I consider ballroom dancing an art with sportsman like qualities. Of course we share many of the same physical training regiments like other competitive sports; however, I believe that ultimately, those that attain the highest championship levels are beyond the physicality of dance and seek more artistic developments such as musicality, expression and creating a performance that builds a rapport with the audience.
Geoffrey Fells Hawaii
I consider ballroom dancing an art, because it is creative. It creates form and beauty to music and demands skill as do ballet, jazz, tap, adagio, hula, (and these are certainly not classed as sports). I also feel that figure skating and ice dancing are not sports. It can be a true spectacle and compelling theatre and it is quite obviously athletic as dancers and skaters pursue their careers no less passionately than say, Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. The judging is too subjective to be a sport. A sport needs a clock or a scorecard that can be followed by the spectators, and all competitors should at least have the opportunity to take another competitor out. When I check out the sports pages in the daily newspaper with many stories and pictures of athletes and sport people in football, soccer, baseball, volleyball, golf, boxing, I cannot believe that one day they will be writing about and showing pictures of ‘athletes’ dressed like dinner mints.
Patrick Johnson Florida
Both. We are athletes and dancing is very strenuous, so we have to be in good shape. But it’s very artistic so it brings out the artistic lifelines we have inside us.
Enrique Ramon Texas
An art form that is a sport. You have to be very artistic to be good at ballroom dancing but it’s also a sport because of the high standards that are taught today in dancing.
Pat Traymore Virginia
Art means something pretty and dancing is very pretty. But I think that it is also athletic. It requires muscle, so I think it’s an art form of sport. It’s not a muscle sport or a show of strength but it is of balance, of endurance, of two people together -- like ice dancing. If we want to go to the Olympics we need to think of it as a sport.
Keith Todd Florida
I started as a competitor when I was eight. It was definitely not a social pastime and it wasn’t art. It was a sport certainly for the children. We were there to compete and win. So from that perspective I would say it’s a sport.
Wayne Eng Nevada
I would say both. If you look at our world the dancers are very artistic. However, it does take stamina to dance many rounds of four or five dances in a row. That’s athletic. So it is a sport also. What is unique is that you have to be artistic and athletic. That makes us unique and it takes a lot of talent to do both.
Gilbert Wenham Texas
Both. It takes artistic creation to create your choreography. And the serious dancers take ballet and jazz. They study very seriously and they practice as if they’re athletes. And certainly, if they go four or five or six rounds it’s like running a marathon.
Ray Rivers California
I have been dancing for forty-three years, and when I started it was an art. So even to this day I’m really not sure. I know that we’re possibly half way between, but I don’t think that we’re all the way a sport. I think there’s too much in ballroom dancing that is artistic; but then again the skaters think they’re a sport and they’re probably exactly the same as us.
Rickey Geiger Virginia
It’s really both, isn’t it? It’s extremely artistic but it’s highly competitive. If it weren’t so competitive it wouldn’t be a sport. Sport is about the leader of the pack… who’s the best. So why people keep on insisting on separating it I don’t understand. It’s an artistic sport. Why does it have to be separated? You can’t take art away from dancing. But we have to move with it and say that now we are so highly competitive and so highly athletic, that dancers need sports trainers for their bodies.
Benoit and Lorraine Drolet Canada
Ballroom Dancing has a very special status in the competitive world. It is neither completely a sport but to call it an art would deny its definite competitive element which would be wrong. Having said that, in spite of the extensive efforts that have been made to sell our discipline as a sport in its own right, we do believe that dancing is not measurable with enough accuracy to give it credibility, compared with other Olympic disciplines, for example.
Dan Messenger Wisconsin
I think it is both. It is a visual sport. There is no goal line or end zone to determine who the winner is so it requires judges to watch and make their decisions based on what they see. Because it involves choreography and musical interpretation and it can be demonstrated in more than one setting, i.e. theatre or stage etc., it can also be considered a form of art.
Brian Torner Germany
Dancesport, or ballroom dancing as it once was called, is the ideal mixture of show, sport and art.
Pierre Dulaine New York
I respect and commend people for trying to get ballroom dancing into the Olympics, but I really don’t think dancing is a sport. I think it’s social. People started learning dancing as a hobby. I think it’s boring to watch after a while. There’s no degree of difficulty, like in diving or skating (how many revolutions, twists, turns, jumps, etc.). Latin dancers are what they always show, and Latin dancing now is all about speed. If you have no speed then you’re not going to be seen. It’s about how fast you can go, and to make it easier for the competitors they’re slowing all the music down. It is ballroom dancing that we teach. I don’t teach dancesport. I don’t think it [the Olympics] will be good for the industry. I’ve always been an outsider and I’m sure many people are disagreeing with me as I speak. I stand by what I believe is right.
Lester Smith Texas
Sport, a difficult sport. It takes a lot of hard work and you have to practice. If you have talent it makes it easier but it’s a lot of work. To be successful in the principles of dance is the same as being successful in a business venture. You have to be very dedicated, very focused and you have to work very hard and have blinders on.
Wendy Sherman New York
I consider it an art. It offends me to consider it a sport. It’s competitive but when I’m competing I feel I’m performing. It involves music and expression of music. I know it’s been compared to figure skating, and I’m happy about that, because I don’t think professional ballroom dancers have gotten the recognition or the money that they deserve. And if it’s on television and in the Olympics they’ll get the money and the recognition they’ve never gotten. So I’ll go along with it.
Jim Clark Nevada
Both. Its athleticism and its competitiveness definitely make it a sport. In the theatre it can be more like an art. This sport is very unique. You compete with six to twelve other couples on the floor at the same time. So your ability to be successful not only depends on how good a dancer you are but also your ability to manage yourself on the dance floor without interfering with other people or having them interfere with you. It’s very unique to dancesport.
Peggy Kobusch Missouri
It demands both. If it weren’t both it would lose a great deal of its total, its everything.
Marika Kovacs Pennsylvania
Both, because you need physical endurance in order to keep up with it and also you have to have some kind of agility. But the expression part and the emotional part is artistic. In sports like tennis you don’t have to express your emotions. You just have to be strong.
Lea Turner Arizona
Both. It combines the best of the art of dancing with the competition aspect of the sport. I think it’s the best of both worlds because it allows the individual dancer to be expressive as they push themselves to further levels of excellence amongst their peers.
Leah Hughes Texas
Being a competitive collegiate athlete I believe it is both. You have to be in shape. It’s physically taxing and some of the same things I learned in basketball about how my body moves through space are the same things I learn in dancing. But it’s also an art form because you have to present and represent what the music is saying.
Eugene Katsevman New York
It is art and sport mixed together. It’s a sport because we want to win, but it’s artistic because it’s individual and not about who jumps higher or swims faster. It’s about artistic expression that helps you to win.
Jerry Freiberg Pennsylvania
I still think of dancing as fundamentally recreational. Something you go out and do at night and have fun when you’re not competing against anyone. If you’re asking if dancesport is an art or sport I think it’s primarily a sport with some overtones of art to it. You are in there to try and do better than the other dancers and you can do so in part with artistic methods.
Originally published in DanceNotes on Nov/Dec 2006 by Christine Zona
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