With the Rio Olympics drawing to a close, yet again there have been the discussions about what sports should be included and which aren’t really sports. Every Olympics means there are a handful of new sports introduced while others get dropped. I’m still asking why squash still hasn’t been included but that’s an argument for another day.
Discussions with colleagues have talked about getting rid of anything that involved judging rather than ‘higher, faster, longer’ based sports, anything involving dancing horses (or horses at all), and ‘sports’ where the person doesn’t get sweaty. On the latter basis, dancing would be in like a shot (unless it involves people who still look perfectly fresh after a 5 hour danceathon.
I’ve been thinking a lot about dance and my 5 year old son. I love dance and he enjoys dancing and moving to music (I can’t get him to go to the school discos though), but it would never occur to me to send him to dance classes. Until he starts doing dance in PE at school, or we go to a barn dance, it’s unlikely he’ll ever get into dance unless he has an epiphany or discovers clubbing later on in life.
This is where we need to have a change in mindset about dance. Nowadays more schools do teach dance as part of PE options – no more the country dancing of my youth, street dance is favoured by kids wanting to be cool. But there’s so many benefits to dance, it needs to be recognised more for its fitness benefits. Why not put it up against sport to try and encourage more boys and men to dance.
I have a hazy recollection of watching a film in my youth where a rugby or American football team (I said it was hazy) had to improve and they started dance classes. I can see them now ballet dancing in the mud. Yes, it’s a bit extreme, but dance can create a really good basic strength and body conditioning that is helpful for training for sports.
While dancers, especially beginners will benefit from having trained in sport the same is true in reverse. When you’re training your body to move in a certain way, improving muscle memory, and making use of the body in ways you wouldn’t otherwise, it’s going to help you pick up a new physical activity quicker than someone who isn’t trained in dance or sport.
While modern jive is never going to set the fitness world on fire when watching some people dancing, regular dance training is always going to help. It tones simply with the hours danced, and leg muscles used. I know if I go back to dancing after a time away, my arms also ache from adapting and dancing with different people. And most importantly it raises the heart rate which is good for improving general fitness levels.
A dance weekender is a marathon in itself. I wore my pedometer one weekender and ended up with nearly 40,000 steps from dancing (and the walking to and from the chalet and venues).
Competitive ballroom dancing is termed Dancesport. You can see why when people may be competing in 10 different dances, and including complicated lifts, spins and speed of steps.
The European Sports Charter says
“Sport means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.”Is dance a sport? Definition of sport includes physical activity aiming at improving physical fitness & mental well-being... Click To Tweet
Dance certainly fits into this definition, and it requires different skills at different levels depending on the dance style:
Flexibility, agility, speed, spatial awareness, focus, core strength, footwork, coordination, balance, dedication, passion, ambition to improve, team working, forward thinking.
All of these criteria can be used in sport of some kind – gymnastics for lines and grace, footwork on the football field, balance in most sports, spatial awareness in particular for team sports, coordination….well the list goes on.
Thankfully no-one’s mentioned it being suggested for the Olympics again (I recall mutterings years ago) but there’s certainly aspects where dance and sport overlap. For those who say it’s pure art, think about rhythmic gymnastics, ice skating or synchronised swimming – all require artistry and execution as much as the physical ability.
Personally I can see the sport argument, but I want to see it retaining the social side and pleasure rather than pure competition and sport. Whether to dance it yourself, or to watch it should about enjoyment.. Yes there are competitions, and it’s a great activity to improve fitness with pros at a physical peak at a level similar or better to athletes. But dance should be one of those unique activities which stands alone in straddling both sport and art.
Maybe though, in trying to encourage more people to dance classes, we should promote the ‘sporting’ aspect, in particular to get more men dancing. At the moment ‘dance based’ gym classes like Barre Fit and Zumba are on the rise. But we need to get those people to switch and try full dance classes rather than the snippets at the gym.To recruit new people especially men into dance, it should be related more closely to sport. Click To Tweet
Here’s the view of some other articles on the topic:
What are your thoughts? Should dancing be classed as a sport? Are you sporty as well as a dancer? How does dance fit into your fitness routine? Let me know in the comments