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An age old, controversial topic within the world of dance has long been whether dancers can be considered athletes. Through the definition of athletes and dancers, professional points of view, and the qualities of both dancers and athletes, dancers can be found as equal or even a little superior to the “standard” athlete. This argument has been debated for more than ten years, and much evidence has been found supporting both points of view, although the conclusion that dancers are indeed athletes, is much stronger, with better reasoning and superior proof. Dancers are actually the epitome of an artistic athlete as they encompass numerous traits of both an artist and an athlete. It is discreditable not to classify them as a sportsman, or to consider them as inferior to the recognized “athlete” such as a football or soccer player, as they share numerous defining characteristics in common. Although many people think that professional “athletes” such as Rob Gronkowski or LeBron James are worth more than dancers such as Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, or Mikhail Baryshnikov there are countless experts who believe these two have more similarities uniting them instead of segregating them. All of the qualities, abilities, and requirements you can unmistakably recognize from a “typical” athlete can be found when watching a dancer’s performance and training. Dancers should undoubtedly then be included in the category of “athletes” as they share a similar definition professional endorsement, and multiple, identical defining attributes and requirements.
Dancers and the “typical” athlete are quite alike once you observe the definition of their craft. A dancer is described as “a person who dances or who’s profession is dancing” (Google), and dance is expressed as “the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself” (Britannica). Meanwhile, an athlete is described as “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise” (Google), and sports are expressed as “physical contests pursued for the goals and challenges they entail. Sports are part of every culture’s past and present, but each culture has its own definition of sports. The most useful definitions are those that clarify the relationship of sports to play, games, and contests” (Britannica). As you can see the definition of an athlete, is simply described as being proficient in sports and physical exercise is very similar to the definitions of dance and the dancers. According to popular definition then, dance should be considered a sport as it is, without a doubt or reasonable argument, a physical action or movement that encourages the pursuing of goals and challenges, as well as the release of energy. Athletes, meanwhile, such as football or basketball players usually begin their sport with simple play, at school as a P.E. requirement or as a light hobby or street game, when they are children for 1 or 2 days a week, 1-2 hours each day until the age of 35 (Chrome (end of career average for athletes)). Once pre-professionals, dancers have a similar which are both extremely demanding. One of the differences involved are that dancers start younger than the typical athlete. Athletes and Dancers are both incredible as evident through their definition, therefore, dancers should positively be considered an athlete.
Numerous dance professionals and critics alike have agreed that a dancer should be considered an athlete as well as an artist and have provided significant evidence defending this claim. Dance critics such as Alastair Macaulay, the critic for New York Times, and Joan Acocella, the critic for The New Yorker, have described the dance world as ‘elegant and athletic’(DanceConsortium) and these dancers from successful dance companies like the NYC Ballet of Joffrey have commended on their ‘athletic beauty’ and ‘athletic feats’ (DanceConsortium). Dance professionals, such as Travis Wall and Many Moore have recognized the dancers for both their classical and technical ability as well as their athletic capability. Dancers and athletes both have the ability to wow an audience with their physical prowess and perform in a way like no other. These similarities in physical ability and athleticism supported and promoted by dance professionals exemplify the need to recognize and acknowledge dancers as athletes.
The attributes, career requirements, and career span of both athlete and dancer careers also provide us with additional information on why dancers should be considered athletes. Some of the qualities necessary to be a successful dancer are balance, mobility, agility, stamina, coordination, flexibility, a good work ethic, the ability to learn and retain a routine quickly, to name a few. Traditionally recognized athletes, such as football or baseball players, also require similar skills such as coordination, stamina, agility, mobility, strength and game play recollection and implementation to be a successful player. If compared, dancers actually need superior ability in the areas of balance, flexibility, work ethic, attitude, the ability to learn and retain quickly, and full body control. When considering the training aspects of both a “athlete” and a dancer, the conscientious dancer usually train from the ages of 3 or 4 for 5-6 hours a night 6-7 days a week until the end of their professional career, which usually culminates around the age of 35. Both athletes and dancers have a tough time achieving a professional job, and must reach an extremely high standard to be hired. Dancers go through a rigorous audition process for each company, which are few and far between, in the hopes of obtaining a one year contract. For dancers, “In auditions and competitions the technical skill of a dancer can be near to perfect but if they do not have the ability to evoke the viewers and dance with the music then they will not necessarily fulfil the criteria.” (DanceConsortium.com). Meanwhile, athletes have an equally difficult time finding a job. A large number of athletes dream of making the NFL, and about only 1.6% of athletes make it into a professional career, however that is not an easy task to accomplish (Sports Interactions). Both athletes and dancers also have approximately the same time frame to audition or try out for their career before it is too late and their bodies can no longer withstand the rigorous demands of their occupation. Athletes, and dancers eventually lose physical capability as well as qualities such as balance, agility, and speed as they age. Most dancers have a specific time they have to audition for a company, or else the directors feel they will not be able to mold them properly enough to fit their company’s vision. A dancer’s age then makes them less appealing adding increased pressure for a dancer to receive a good contract early on. Similar pressures can be found in the recognized “athletes” by the professional league and teams. As an athlete’s body ages, abilities start to fail or prove inferior to the young, faster, stronger “athletes”. In some circumstances dancers are superior to athletes. In addition to the skills dancers and recognized athletes share, dancers also have numerous skills usually unknown to professional athletes in recognized sports such as musicality, acting skills, the ability to portray emotion with movement, storytelling, artistry, flexibility, and whole body control. Although dancers have equal or better capabilities, they earn an extremely small salary while athletes like professional football players can earn more than one million dollars a year. If both dancers and athletes are so similar, then why are the athletes rewarded financially and are extremely overpaid for such a similar sport to dance. It is clear that athletes are strong, capable, people, and due to dancers’ physical features and abilities, and career requirements, dancers have similar athletic skills as the commended athletes as well as numerous supplementary abilities clearly placing them in a similar athletic category as any football, baseball, or soccer player.
Dancers and the recognized “athletes” have profound abilities that can be enjoyed by huge numbers of people every day. Dancers should be considered both artists and athletes, and not only the former. Dancers are the epitome of an athlete with additional artistic qualities and talents necessary for their success. Instead of viewing dancers as inferior to recognized “athletes” such as football or basketball players, one should appreciate and accept that dancer is, in fact, equally athletic than the standard “athlete”. Dancers have distinctly proven, over the years, that they deserve a place in the “athletes” category and should from now on be indisputably considered artists and athletes. A dancer’s blend of artistry and athletics intrigues many and the traditional “athletes” strength and agility attracts audiences as well. With these obvious similarities in definition, professional opinions and abilities and requirements, it is undeniable that dancers should be considered athletes.
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