Is Dancing A Sport Like Football?

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Today's Teen Ink pick by Kristin S. asks if dancing is just as much a sport as football. What do you think?

What is the definition of a sport? A game played with a ball? Is it people in tight pants running around? How about "an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature"? That sounds more like it. Football, baseball, and track fit those definitions, but so does another recreational activity that is not typically considered a sport: dance.

Dance fits all those requirements. An athletic activity? Oh yeah! Requiring skill or physical prowess? Definitely! Often of a competitive nature? You bet! Dance is even recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. Then why is this "fine art" not considered a sport?
The sport of dance takes years of training and hard work to perfect. Yes, I said sport. Although some believe that dancing is nothing more than tutus and twirling, it is a mentally engaging and physically demanding activity.

Dance is actually quite similar to one of the most popular sports in the United States: football. In both activities, athletes are assigned specific jobs, roles, or positions. Each follows choreographed plays. Both types of athletes travel using certain steps or passes. Similar, right?

However, one difference between dance and most sports is the way the athletes present themselves. During a tennis match, the players grunt and groan when hitting the ball to show everyone how hard they are working. However, dancers must always look graceful and light as a feather. The best dancers can make the most difficult moves look effortless. It takes lots of practice to perfect those moves and make them look easy. This is why dance is a mental sport as well.

Dr. Jill McNitt-Gray, a professor in kinesiology (the scientific study of movement) at the University of Southern California, has worked with national champions and Olympic gold medalists. Through her work with professional ballroom dancers, she found that a dancer doing the jive can reach foot speeds of 15 miles an hour. In addition, a dancer can spin up to 180 times in a minute – four times faster than a record player!

Balance is a vital part of dance. Dancers must have strong core muscles. Men need strong shoulders for lifts, since they must not only support their own body weight but also their partner's. "Dancers are some of the toughest athletes in the world," claims Dr. McNitt-Gray.

Many ask, "How can dance be a sport? You can't judge on time and the scoring is subjective!" Just like figure skaters, competitive dancers are judged on many criteria: technique, posture, timing, line, hold, poise, togetherness, musicality and expression, presentation, power, foot and leg action, shape, floor craft, and intangibles. Dancers have a lot on their minds while performing. They are constantly asking themselves, Am I extending correctly? Is my technique right? Is my head facing the right direction?

Some people think dance involves less endurance than sports like cross-country running. However, these runners exert forces in only one direction but, as Dr. McNitt-Gray said, in dance, your hands, legs, and head are exerting forces in different directions all at the same time.

Dance is a cardiovascular, aerobic, challenging sport. Many professional athletes, including former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn Swann, dance to improve their flexibility. Dance fits all the requirements of a sport, and has the physical and mental challenges of a sport, as well.

If you are shaking your head thinking, This girl's crazy, get up off your chair and try it yourself. Meanwhile, I look forward to the day I might be able to stand on that Olympic platform and receive a gold medal for the sport of dance.

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