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Dance: balancing art and athleticism

The strength of a dancer is often hidden behind the gentle grace in which she performs, but unquestionably it is still there. The degree of athleticism needed to make dance look easy can become underestimated because dancing is considered a performing art, rather than a sport.

Most athletes engage in daily practice sessions lasting a little more than a few hours, but dancers routinely participate in technique classes during the day, followed by rehearsals in the afternoons and evenings. They feel an obligation to perfect their art.

Healthcare professionals corroborate the intense psyche these athletic artists possess. Ballet dancers, in particular, exhibit a passion for dance, which makes a decision to stop dancing for injury exceedingly difficult, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The comparison of whether standard sports or dance is harder or more difficult should not be argued; rather, both athletes and dancers should be praised for their technical feats. Therefore, ORU should allow dance majors to count dancing as HPE, even though they are not NCAA Division I athletes, and not require them to register for elementary physical education classes.

“If you tried to get a basketball player to do what a dancer does, it would be laughable,” said Fritz Huber, chair of the Health, Leisure, and Sport Science department. “They are both demanding, and it takes lots of practice to be great at either.”

Huber encourages any physical activity, including house cleaning, to be counted as aerobic points as long as students check their heart rate periodically. Dance can be used for the 50 aerobic points students need to get a week, but dancers, unlike volleyball or soccer players, cannot receive class credit for dancing alone.

Because dancers are required to enroll in HPE courses, they have to run the two-mile field test.

“I think the key to running for dancers is moderation,” said former professional dancer Allison Pringle. “Dancers are physically and mentally strong athletes and look for other forms of exercise to challenge themselves. Dancers have to be so well-rounded. We have to be physically strong. We have to be mentally strong, and we have to have endurance. We are half physical strength, half flexibility.”

A ballet enthusiast will watch the perfected steps dancers take as they cross the stage, but what the audience won’t see is the stark contrast between performance and rehearsals. They won’t hear the sharp criticisms from choreographers or see the sweat-soaked leotards and quivering muscles from repeated combinations. They don’t realize the pain a female ballet dancer goes through just to be en pointe as she glides her swollen, bleeding feet across a stage as though she is effortlessly floating on air.

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Great flexibility is necessary for dancers to remain nimble, effortless and resist injury.

“As athletes, dancers experience soreness and pain after a long day of rehearsals,” said Pringle. “For me, my best friend became an ice pack for my feet and ankles every single night.”

The difference between a dancer and an athlete is the artistic ability to make movements look easy without the extra grunts.

Dancers spend years perfecting their trade. A man can hold a 120 pound girl above his head in intricate lifts, and a girl can hold her entire body weight on two toes. They are intense, unrecog- nized athletes.

Dance is as demanding as any other sport, and ORU, along with the HLSS department, should recognize this while also respecting dancers for what they are: artistic athletes.

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