We have all heard someone say “Dance is not a sport.” The art of dance is beautiful and interpretive for sure. However, even with the grace, poise, and the beauty of the elaborate costumes, preparing for a competition or a showcase is very similar to how you prepare for any sport match or tournament. From the way you prepare yourself mentally and physically to the discipline and structure you set for yourself to prepare for each competition, you will find it to be similar to any other competitive sport you have done. Ballroom Dancing is a sport because it requires athleticism, practice, dedication and skill, and matches or outdoes in its competitiveness any other sport.
1) Physical: Lets face it…ballroom dancing is a full body workout. And just like any sport you want to get better in, you have to prepare your body and perfect your techniques to where you can adapt it to muscle memory. Think about playing golf, tennis, or even hockey; when you are striking the ball or the puck, you don’t just use your arms…you use your WHOLE body to get the greatest speed or distance. However, that doesn’t come naturally at first. You have to go out to the driving range, tennis court, or rink and practice your hit over and over until you gain consistency. However, in order to get really good, you may invest in getting a personal coach to help further develop your techniques so you don’t hurt yourself and make you even better! This, in turn, will help you not only commit the action to muscle memory, but will also continue to strengthen the more often you practice. The same exact practices go into your ballroom dance training. Your dance instructor helps you develop your techniques and helps you figure out how your body is supposed to move and what muscles work at what times to create the body action. And, just like any other sport, the more you practice it both in and outside the ballroom, the faster and more consistent your technique will improve and the less you will have to think about it.
2) Mental: The last thing you want to do when you participate in any sports tournament is to be in your head about what you are going to do to when you step up to play against your opponent. That is why you practice over and over to where you feel confident no matter who you are going up against and you can bring your best to the court! Now, people will argue and say that competitive ballroom dancing isn’t a sport because the people are actually smiling and seem energetic and excited. But THAT is a unique skill that trained dancers must learn for when they walk out onto the dance floor. We as ballroom dancers want every move to look effortless and smooth. That does NOT mean that we are exerting any less energy than any other sport. If anything, it matches or even exceeds the amount of energy of other sports. The women must look elegant and graceful and the men must look masculine yet move with the same fluidity and grace as the lady. And ON TOP OF THAT…we have to smile?! Talk about a lot of mental energy! So, what do we do? We practice every routine until it is ingrained in our brain and we can think about the character and emotion we want to portray for the judges on the dance floor!
3) Equipment: Every sport has specific equipment that is used. You may wear different shoes for golf than what you would wear for running track and field. You wear different protective wear for hockey than you would for baseball or football. You need to wear different uniforms for tennis than swimming…and ballroom dancing is no different. Sure, the ladies have flashy dresses and the gentlemen have suits on…but there is certain attire and shoes that are worn based on which style of dance you are competing in. A smooth dress and a rhythm dress are very different in looks and serve a different purpose. A closed toe shoe is worn for Waltz, Tango, and Foxtrot whereas an open toe sandal with a higher heel would be worn for Rumba, Cha Cha, and Swing. The gentleman may wear a nice dance suit for the smooth dances and wear something a little more relaxed looking for the rhythm dances. But NO ONE would ever go out there in just everyday clothes and dance their routines. In order to be successful, you must dress the part and have all of the necessary tools and equipment to do so. You would never catch a football player out on the field of a championship game with his street clothes on and no helmet…and you won’t catch a ballroom dancer on the competition floor without their glitz, glam, and poise.
4) Training: Athletes are CONSTANTLY training! When they aren’t on the field or the court, they are in the gym strengthening their body, eating healthy, or even scrimmaging to better themselves and be at their peak for each game. Some Olympic athletes even say all they do is eat, sleep, and train. In order to be the best at anything, you have to dedicate yourself and immerse yourself into what it is you want and push yourself to do better every time. Competitive ballroom training is no different. Ballroom dancers are constantly practicing both on and off the dance floor; whether it be in their head or actually moving through the routines. They take advantage of any coaches brought into the studio to get expert advice on how to better their dancing. They take multiple lessons a week to further strengthen their connection and partnership with their dance partner. The dedication it takes to become a great athlete and a ballroom dancer is no different; the more you want it, the more you have to work for it!
Dancers require skill, structure, and discipline, sweat, blood, and tears…dedication to their sport just like any other athlete…but the best part is…ballroom dancers look a whole lot better doing it!