The Athleticism Of Dance

November 3rd, 2011 | By admin No Comments

So you think you can dance? Think again, say world class athletes who spend years honing their physiques to play better, run faster, jump higher and be stronger than anyone else in the arena. Dance requires the same – or, arguably, more – physical ability as other sports, and a couple of traits that are not always remembered … grace and beauty.

We ooh and aah over a football player leaping above the pile to break the plane of the end zone with the ball … we exclaim over the sight of a hoopster flying from the free throw line to roundhouse the ball into the cylinder … and we shake our heads in amazement when a baseball soars 503 yards into the top tier of seats from one might swing of the bat. When was the last time we had a jaw-dropping moment watching ballet, jazz, hip-hop or ballroom dancing?

For those of us who attend dance performances, those moments are common, but not taken for granted. For those who do not … well, you should. At the very least, tune in to watch former Cardinal Kurt Warner try his hand (and feet) at the sport in Dancing with the Stars this season. He’ll tell you that dancing is not only a sport, it’s a tough one!

Erin Nurss, Miss Arizona 2008, started dancing at the tender age of two. If you ask her (and we did) if she believes dance is ‘sport’ or ‘recreation’ she’ll tell you this: “It’s both. It requires physical ability, technical training, coordination and skill development, but you also have to combine the athleticism with the art of entertainment. I have danced competitively which, by my own definition, makes it a sport. Now I dance for my own enjoyment as well as the health benefits – maintaining and increasing flexibility, athleticism, cardio workout, and more.”

Erin also cites the academic success that often goes hand-in-hand with those who pursue dance as a sport. “There are incredible benefits of dance, including the brain’s ability to learn step sequences, to learn, to develop cognitively. And then there are the emotional benefits – learning determination, dedication, sportsmanship, commitment. For me, dance also provided a release from the stress of adolescence; social struggles disappeared in the studio.”

Movies and television have played a key role in promoting dance for both enjoyment and health. Dance is being promoted as a sport at most colleges and universities now, with scholarships available and academic credit parallel to physical education courses. Shows like DWTS and So You Think You Can Dance have ramped up viewing of dance nation- and worldwide, and as Erin says, “So You Think You Can Dance has really opened the average person’s eyes to what is required of dancers.”

Debbie Chandler is a member of the board of directors for Ballet Tucson. When we asked her whether she believes dance is sport or recreation, she said with conviction, “I think it is seen as recreational in many people’s eyes, but dancers that work at it see it as a sport. Their bodies are stong, incredibly, and they make it look so easy. They use their bodies to do performing arts, and ballet, for example, is a performing art that requires the body to be a 9 or 10 athletically.”

Dance also comes in many forms. With sports, we generally find one set of rules, a specific venue, one standard uniform and basic goals. With dance, though, the playing field is open to interpretation. One can dance anywhere, wearing anything, using props or just one’s own body, and the different uses of the body in terms of poses and musical interpretation are infinite.

Says Debbie, “Many see ballet as an individual sport – and it is to some degree – but when it comes to a performance it is diffidently team all the way with the precision of the corporate dance.” Erin adds, “Dance has taken me from the cheerleading squad to the studio to national television. “

When you think about dance, do you envision ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom? How about hip-hop, Irish step, musical theatre? For me, dance has all these personalities, and a few more … dancing in my living room, at the local club, at my sons’ grade school mother-son dance. Dance is a joyful expression of life itself

Dance is the healthy interaction of your body with itself or with a partner or group. If you or your child is drawn to music, dance could be a fabulous avenue to fitness and fun. It could also lead to a career – just as Mikhail Baryshnikov or Derek Hough. Wherever it takes you and your family, it will lead to enjoyment, entertainment and a healthier life.

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