by Denis Kojinov
Sports, an important part of American society, constitute a multi-billion-dollar business, attract millions of participants, gather stadiums of followers and attract large amount of media attention. From time to time, a new athletic activity gains enough popularity to be considered a “sport”. In recent years, Ballroom Dancing has increased in popularity with the help of mass media and shows such as Dancing with the Stars . The show has attracted such famous athletes as Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Shawn Johnson, Kristi Yamaguchi and many others. However, despite many statements by these renowned athletes that Ballroom Dance is as difficult, or more so, as football or ice skating, there is still a wide debate as to whether competitive Ballroom Dance is a sport. Educating young people that competitive Ballroom Dance is a sport will attract new capable participants to this challenging, yet fun activity.
Many view Ballroom Dance as an art form. This perspective emphasizes the elegance and beauty of dance. However, even though competitive Ballroom Dance certainly has some elements of art, the athleticism it possesses makes up the larger part. Therefore, competitive Ballroom Dancing is a sport because it requires athleticism, practice, dedication and skill, and matches or outdoes in its competitiveness any other sport.
Criteria that define sport include athleticism, training, dedication, competition and rules to ensure fair competition. A physical activity that is a sport has to meet all those characteristics. In the following pages I will demonstrate that competitive Ballroom Dance meets these criteria.
First, athleticism is a basic element of any sport. Sport involves physical exercise and requires a certain level of skill. For example, football players during game spend a lot of energy running on the field and hitting each other. They sweat and get tired. This is what is perceived to be sport. Similarly, in Competitive Ballroom Dancing, dancers exert a lot of energy performing their routines. Often, judging is based on who appears to be stronger and faster. Some people argue that Ballroom Dancing is not that difficult because dancers always look happy and appear not tired. Unlike conventional sports, acting happy and energetic is a part of performance in Ballroom Dancing. Dancers that look tired are not considered good and may not be recalled into the next round. Therefore, based on athleticism criterion, competitive Ballroom Dancing is a Sport.
Great athletes have to train hard to win in sports. Many Olympic winners claim that the only things they do in life are “sleep, eat, and train”. Athletes have to prepare well before to be at the peak of performance during a sporting event. Their training includes daily practices, coaching sessions with trainers, and other organized daily activities. Like any other sport, competitive Ballroom Dancers have to go through intense physical and mental training in order to master skills and be ready to perform at competitions. Dance training includes routine daily practices for several hours and lessons with local or visiting coaches who are known as experts in the field. In addition to dance training, many higher level dancers utilize cross-training to increase their aerobic ability or physical strength. Thus, due to this hard training, competitive Ballroom Dancing is a sport.
Dedication is required to win a sporting contest. Athletes have to posses a high level of dedication to overcome setbacks and obstacles on their way to winning a competition. Every team member must give their best in order for the team to succeed. Many people underestimate the level of dedication competitive Ballroom Dancers need to have in order to achieve good results. For a Ballroom Dance couple, a team of only two people, it is crucial that both partners are very dedicated to achieving their goal. Thus, because of the high level of dedication Competitive Ballroom Dancing is a sport.
An element of competition is crucial for an athletic activity to be considered sport. Competition is when two or more athletes are being compared based on certain criteria to determine who is better. During a marathon, people are trying to get to the finish line as fast as possible. The one who gets there first wins. Unlike marathon runners, joggers run for the sake of their health. Some get in groups and run in parks simply to get exercise. They are not concerned which one of them will finish first. In this example, running a marathon is a sport, while jogging is a nice pastime. Like marathon runners, Ballroom Dancers are trying to determine who the best is during a dance competition. Therefore, because Ballroom Dancing is so competitive, it is a sport.
Finally, to ensure fair competition, we need rules and a means of enforcing them. In football, there is certain field size, number of players on team, duration of game, uniform and protective gear and officials to observe the event. Similarly, competitive Ballroom Dancing has its rules too. During competition, dancers have to convey the character of the dance, perform with the required technique, and follow the appropriate rhythm and musicality. On the technical side, there are specific dance floor requirements, certain costume rules and specific allowed music tempi. In addition, events are normally adjudicated by certified judges who are considered experts. Thus, due to high level of structure, competitive Ballroom Dancing is sport.
Competitive Ballroom Dancing meets all the criteria we defined for a sport. However, there are still people who believe that ballroom dance is an art. We need to acknowledge that Ballroom Dancing possesses elements of artistry. For example, achieving visually pleasing lines through choreography and music expression is a form of art. However, art itself is not competitive. Artists are not normally trying to determine who is better since art appreciation varies greatly from person to person. Unlike arts, sports are more structured in order to make it easier to determine the winner. Therefore, the combination of athleticism and structure differentiates sport from art. As a result, competitive Ballroom Dancing is a sport, since it requires athleticism, practice, dedication and skill, and possesses structure, necessary for conducting competitive events.
In the beginning of 21 st century there were a handful of people doing Ballroom Dancing in our country. Dancing with the Stars popularized this activity by using celebrities and athletes as role models. As a result, participation in competitive Ballroom Dancing, known as DanceSport, increased dramatically. People of all ages, from kids to seniors, find this new sport fun and exciting and are reaping its health and mental benefits. Many new people have decided to start Ballroom Dance because they see it as athletic activity. Thus, we can continue to increase participation in competitive Ballroom Dance by recognizing it as a sport.