Are dancers artists or athletes?

Caitlyn Walsh
Often, the question that arises is whether dance should be considered as a physical activity or whether it should be considered as pure cultural expression. Oxford Dictionaries define art as the application of a “creative skill” to produce a visual image that is satisfying to look at or that invokes emotion. Sport, on the other hand, is considered to be a physical activity for individuals or teams, that can also be a source of entertainment and competition.

Both of these definitions fit the idea of dancing, as dance is a form of expression used to invoke emotion and displays a satisfying visual, while it also requires large amounts of physical exertion.

According to the Royal Opera House, some may argue that the definition lies in the reasoning behind why individuals participate in dance. The decision to do so is the cause of the differentiation between sport and dance. The website also adds that many believe that the point of sport, and the physical exertion it requires, is ultimately to win whatever sporting event is being participated in. The point of dancing, however, is to express one’s self in a creative manner with physical activity and exertion. This idea is questionable, as many dancers partake in dance competitions with a purpose to crown a winner.

“Sport can trigger emotional responses [such as] nail-biting tension, awe, surprise and euphoria”, says the Royal Opera House, and dance can trigger the exact same reactions. It is argued, however, that these emotions and reactions triggered only last during sporting events, whereas art and cultural events can stir up emotions that may last longer than the initial moment of action. Sport is considered to be more about following a set of rules and keeping within the lines, whereas dancing and art is about bending the rules and breaking boundaries.

If following the exact definition of art and sport, one may consider dancing to be both a sport and art. If one is considering the technicalities behind a sporting activity and behind art, one may consider dancing to be purely art or sport. Some believe that whether dancers are athletes or artists, should depend ultimately on the dancer, what they choose to be, and the reason behind that choice.


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