Dance – Art, Sport or Both?

Dance – Art, Sport or Both?


Many people see ballet and ‘dance’ as a fun but not proper form of exercise. Those who have never danced properly (at a dance school or on a dance course) have very little understanding of just how physically and emotionally demanding it can be. Dance has always been categorised as an ‘art’ rather than a ‘sport’, however this mindset is changing in many, leading dance to become one of the few physical activities that can sit comfortably in both categories.

Yes, dance is undeniably an art, as it allows creative expression, emotion and freedom of movement to create a desired masterpiece, but the sheer physicality of all dance forms must allow it to be also considered a sport. It sits alongside many forms of sport such as swimming, tennis and even football in its construction and how the dancer must train her body to perform the task.

We can look more closely at ballet specifically to demonstrate this argument alongside tennis and football:

All the elements below make up the training for all 3 physical activities: 

  • Cardio Training & Stamina
  • Muscle Endurance
  • Patterns, Footwork and Rhythms
  • Hours of Training Each Week
  • Knowledge of Anatomy & Physiology
  • Physical Effort and Skill

In addition to these elements of training, ballet dancers must also understand and train for:

  • Flexibility
  • Time Signatures and How to Count (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8 etc.)
  • How to Explain Each Exercise AND Count It
  • Understand WHY Each Exercise Has Been Designed and The Benefits to the Dancer
  • Recognise the Developments from Simpler Movements into Complex Ones as the Dancer Progresses Through Higher Grades
  • Understand and Demonstrate Musicality and Emotive Connections Between Movement and Music


All these elements are not only required at professional level but also at every local dance school, in every class across the world. Without a student learning and developing on all the above elements, they will struggle to progress onto higher and more complex grade work.

“Sport”, as defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary is:

“a game, competition, or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job”

And “Art”, as defined by Cambridge English Dictionary is:

“the making or showing or performance of painting, acting, dancing, and music”


It seems fairly clear to us that the traditional ways of looking at dance are shifting, and we are making way for new ideas within dance and what it really is. What do you think about this modern argument? Do you feel that dance should be able to straddle both categories or does it sit firmly in one or the other? Why do you feel that way and what experiences have led you to your decision?



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