The Athleticism of Dance

January 4th, 2012 | By Marjie No Comments

photography by | simply elle|

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 mighty 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 athletes like

Kurt Warner, Apolo Ohno and Hope Solo try their hand (and feet) at the sport in Dancing with the Stars. They’ll tell you that dancing is not only a sport, it’s a tough one!

Cassidy Carson of The Studio Dance Academy here in Athens, says, “There is a misconception that dance is not a team sport, but those of us involved in dance know that it is imperative for everyone to show up and learn a responsibility to their team. They need to learn to eat and drink correctly, to manage their time and steadily increase their skills. They also understand that preparation of their bodies is critical.”

Coaches and athletes alike will tell you that dance is both ‘sport’ and ‘recreation.’ They know it requires physical ability, technical training, coordination and skill development, but you also have to combine the athleticism with the art of entertainment. Even by nature of its competitive opportunities, dance can be defined as sport. And dancers enjoy tremendous health benefits – maintaining and increasing flexibility, athleticism, cardio workout, and more.

Educators and parents also cite 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 and to develop cognitively. And there are emotional benefits – learning determination, dedication, sportsmanship, commitment. Dance can also provide a release from the stress of adolescence; social struggles disappeared in the studio.

The Studio Dance Academy has one student who has been struggling to get Bs & As. The girl and her parents initially decided to cut back on dance in order to give her more time and focus for her grades. However, as Carson met with the parents, they all felt that this was the last thing she needed to do. Dance gave her time management skills that would be helpful in getting her through the study time and dance time. “In fact,” says Carson, “I have seen time and time again that cutting back on dance can have adverse effects on grades. As life skills go, dance is an activity that can really make a difference for students.”

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.

Dance also comes in many forms. With sports, we generally find one set of rules, a specific venue, one standard uniform and basic goal. 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.

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 ask 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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