Effortless Athletes
'Dancers are most certainly athletes'
Grace Castle | 28 March 2017

The high degree of athleticism required by dancers to make their highly intricate routines appear effortless and elegant is something that is often overlooked, or at least not often understood. Why is this? Perhaps it is because dance is typically considered a performing art instead of a sport. Agility, endurance, and strength are three key attributes of dancers that are often concealed by the graceful demeanour in which they perform. Believe it or not, dancers and sportspeople are incredibly similar. Both ballet and football demand an incredible amount of core strength and fitness, alongside sheer determination and commitment to a relatively short-lived career.

A definite similarity between the two jobs is the training required to make it into the competitive world of football and ballet. Despite natural ability aiding those who choose to follow these paths, practice is key, and they are often found training for up to forty-five hours a week, maybe even more.

What you may not know is that some footballers and sportsmen and women have taken ballet classes, to strengthen muscles and joints to prevent injuries. Multiple American footballers have taken up classes to help their football careers and muscle tone, including Lynn Swan and Steve McLendon, with British football player Dion Dublin also taking up ballet. Even Rio Ferdinand used to dance, and was offered a place at Central School of Ballet for Sixth Form, before he decided to pursue a career in football.

Although the similarities are clear, dancers have the added job of making the hardest of steps look effortless, graceful, and light. Not only do dancers have to be incredibly strong, they have to be artists; ultimately hiding any pain and nerves to portray a narrative through emotions, clean movements, and extended lines. Every dancer’s artistry is increased and developed throughout their training and career, allowing them to bring an added depth and connection with the audience.

However, dancers are often shown to have more endurance, more determination, and are often stronger than many sports personalities. An annual study at Berkeley University in the USA, comparing dancers from San Francisco, and student athletes from the University of California, has shown that dancers are more agile, stronger, and faster. Another study by Harvard University, Massachusetts, has also found that the average ballet dancer is 98.7% more flexible, has 88.3% more endurance, is 88.4% stronger, and practises for 736 more hours than the average football player.


If carrying ten times a dancer’s body weight on the tips of their toes does not show the exuberant amount of tenacity to carry on with their passion, and prove that they are athletes, then what does?

 

Original Image by Izzie Hurst

James Routledge 2016