Is Ballet a Sport: Understanding Ballet Better


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Ballet is and has always been considered a dance. There was even a time when ballet was not accessible for everyone.

Fortunately, the world has changed. Ballet lessons are now offered in a lot of places, even in gyms and other fitness hubs.

That is why a lot of people are now thinking: “If we can work out by dancing ballet, is ballet a sport?

The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think, so we'll break it down for you.

The Practice of Ballet

Ballet has a long history. It was first documented being danced in the late seventeenth century, but we're not surprised if the practice actually goes earlier than that.

As mentioned, ballet was not originally accessible for anyone. It was originally practiced by the nobility to achieve elegance and grace in their movements.

The dance itself is composed of fast footwork, jumps, and turns, done in swift and exact motions.

It can take years of practice to perfect, but the results are stunning.

The performers look as lovely as divine beings that whoever compared them to swans is a perfect metaphor.

What Qualifies as a Sport?

Our main objective is to determine and answer, "Is ballet a sport or an art?"

Hence, we believe it's essential to define both of these terms first before jumping to any conclusion.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word sport means:

  • “Diversion, entertainment, fun”.
  • It is also “success, pleasure, or recreation derived from or afforded by an activity”.
  • “Participation in activities involving physical exertion and skill, especially competitive activities regulated by set rules or customs”.
  • Interestingly, it is also once defined as “a theatrical performance.”

What Qualifies as Art?

Allow us to define the word “art” as well. To keep both terms on a level playing field, we'll quote the following definitions from Oxford English Dictionary

The term art is defined as:

  • “A skill (and) its display or application”.
  • To be more specific, it is also “the application of skill to subjects of taste, as poetry, music, dancing, and the like.
  • It is also “the application of skill to the arts of imitation and design.”

We have chosen to quote the definitions directly to avoid influencing our answers with our own opinions.

It is also our objective to allow you to find the answer on your own.

Sport and Art Are the Same

Interestingly, if you really analyze the meanings that Oxford provided above, maybe we don’t really need to distinguish sport and art apart from each other after all.

If you take a step back and forget your preconceptions about sport and art, you will realize that they actually have a lot in common.

Both require discipline, practice, as in rehearsals to refine your skill, dedication, and mastery.

In this regard, you can say that athletes are artists of their sport.

What Does Science Say?

Beyond just semantics, we also want to present you with an answer to the question, “Is ballet considered a sport?”, according to science.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also looked into this topic. It established certain parameters of what activity we can consider as a sport.

For them, a sport is an activity that improves muscular strength, power, and endurance. It can also involve increasing flexibility and agility.

The results are interesting. They found ballet dancers to have increased muscular strength, power, and endurance comparable to an athlete.

The practice of ballet also boosts flexibility and agility.

The only factor that they have found different between ballet dancers and traditional athletes is the reason behind their practice.

Athletes do sports both for fitness and technique. Meanwhile, dancers practice ballet mostly for the technique.

The physical fitness that it provides is sometimes just a bonus. 

There are also times when dancers take physical conditioning classes, but not just to strengthen their bodies but mostly to achieve dance forms that they are currently unable to do so.

is ballet a sport or art

Is Ballet a Sport?

With that, we believe that we can finally answer the main question; whether or not ballet is a type of sport.

The Arguments

The answer is yes and no. Allow us to use the definitions to support our answer.

Fun and Entertaining

We consider ballet as a sport because it can be entertaining and fun.

Ballet performances are entertaining not just to the viewers, but we’d like to think that other dancers also find the practice fun.

Sense of Pleasure

We find that performing gives us a profound sense of pleasure.

The satisfaction we feel when we hear the applause, or even just seeing ourselves in the mirror performing a perfect arabesque after months of practice as a new dancer, is indescribable.

Multiple Requirements Similar to Athletes

Ballet requires incredible physical exertion, discipline, and skill. There are strict rules that you have to follow at all times.

Most of them have to do a lot about form and posture, but they are rules just the same.

It Is a Performance

Finally, we don’t even have to talk about the last definition presented by Oxford. It’s already a given. As mentioned, it also hits the parameters that differentiate sports from other activities.

More Reasons Why Ballet Is a Sport

We also want to share the answers that we have stumbled upon ourselves through years of dancing.

Yes, dance is more than just an art form, but is ballet a sport? Well, we consider it as one because:

Needs Athletic Practice

Say what you will, but the physical exertion required to dance can match any athletes' fitness practice.

Competitive

The competition that professional dancers have for each other is as intense as what athletes experience during an event.

In fact, it is even more so when it comes to ballet because we compete with each other even while off-stage. We live and breathe it.

Team Effort

Some sports are played in teams. It can be easy to see ballet as a solo pursuit, especially with the competition behind the curtains.

However, it is also a team event. Your performance is only as good as everyone else's performance on stage, even if you are better or worse than them.

One wrong move can mess up the event for all of you.

Requires a Coach

Finally, even the best athlete requires a coach. The same applies to ballet.

That responsibility falls into the hands of the ballet master or mistress.

Why Ballet Is Not Always a Sport

However, at the same time, no, ballet is not a sport. It is not a sport if you are only performing those physically challenging routines for their aesthetic value.

That is if you don’t recognize it as an opportunity to make your body more fit and healthy.

Is Ballet a Sport or an Art?

When practiced for its form or to give a performance, dance is first and foremost, an art form. It is not the only way to dance.

You can always dance to have fun even if you’re not a dancer, but if you do want to practice a genre more seriously, then you certainly can.

You can treat it as an artist would, with discipline and reverence. On the other hand, you can also practice ballet, or any dance for that matter, for fitness.

The great thing about doing so is it makes your workout routines fun and productive, especially if you’re practicing for a performance.

So, is ballet a sport or an art? Honestly, it can be both.

You can practice it for the pleasure of excellence and elegance, but at the same time, you can also appreciate that it can help strengthen your body, increase your flexibility, and boost your endurance.

In the end, it will all boil down to what you think of it. You may ask, is ballet considered a sport? If you do, then it is.