Dance IS a Sport

What do football and dance have in common? Endless hours of practice, mentally exhausting training, and risk injuries are just some aspects that are native to both activities. Despite all of the parallels drawn between dance and any sport, dance is neglected as a sport and dismissed as either a hobby or fun activity. I’m here to say that dance is a sport.

I started dancing when I was three years old and fully dedicated myself to it when I was only eight years old. Throughout middle and high school, I would go straight to dance right after school and train for nearly four hours every day before going home to finish schoolwork. This culminated in around 15-20 hours of dance every week – excluding the weeks I had performances, competitions or traveled during the weekends to take 8 consecutive hours of masterclasses at conventions. Most people associate dance today with a delicate ballet like the Nutcracker or the novice-level dancing shown on reality TV shows such as Dance Moms. While reality TV reveals a slice of the commitment of dancers, the focus is mostly placed on exploiting the teachers, the moms and their daughters through drama they are expected to produce. Regardless of which type of dance people watch, there is always one consistent aspect about it: the competition.

Dance is one of the most competitive and selective activities possible; there are blood, sweat and tears put into this sport. When I trained at dance studios, I had to treat every class like it was an audition. My directors and teachers would walk in during class to watch us and our performance determined where we would stand in group dances, which other dancers we would dance with in duets and trios, and who would choreograph our solos. It did not matter whether we were in a technique class or learning a short combination for class – we all wanted to impress the teachers. Competition and convention weekends were some of the most exhausting yet rewarding weekends of my life. I would wake up before sunrise and be done with the day late at night – sometimes awards lasted until 1 a.m. when we danced around midnight. This can take a toll on not only your physical health but also your mental health because you work on the same dances for a long time and sometimes receive only a standard adjudication award and nothing more. Competition becomes a learning process and teaches you how to handle rejection. I learned to accept it and did not let it bring me down or damage my self-esteem.

I do not write this to discredit any other sport. I want people to know that dance is not easy and that it requires diligence, discipline and strength. It also requires versatility; I trained in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, and even some ballroom. If you want to be successful and optimize your opportunities for most dance jobs, you have to take classes in all styles.

Dance is demanding in every regard – physically, mentally and emotionally. It is extremely special because it doubles as an art and sport. Dancers train as athletes but do not always receive the recognition. They put as much heart and soul into dance as athletes do with their sports, which culminates in emotionally and physically challenging performances.