Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Is ballet a "dance sport"?


  • Please log in to reply
14 replies to this topic

#1 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 07 April 2009 - 11:36 AM

Recently, while Googling in preparation for local appearances by Rasta Thomas's Bad Boys of Dance, I came across the following on Wikipedia.

The USA International Ballet Competition, or USA IBC, is one of the world's top competitions for the dance sport of ballet. Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this competition draws the top dancers from all over the world to compete for their country for a bronze, silver, or gold medal in a variety of ballet categories in an Olympic-style competition.


I confess to being surprised by the rather casual use of the phrase "dance sport of ballet." I don't follow the international competitions, so I never really thought about this. More to the point, I am rather conflicted as to how I feel about it.

Is "dance sport" used widely and on a regular basis in connection with this big competitions? Are these events really compatible with what goes on at the Olympics in, let's say, gymnastics, skating, etc.?

#2 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,476 posts

Posted 07 April 2009 - 11:51 AM

Hmm, considering that there are many people who believe that judged Olympic events like figure skating aren't even sports, it's hard to imagine ballet being one. I think there is general confusion between "sport" and "competition". Poker is a competition. Dance competitions are competitions. They may have scoring structures that are similar to sports, and compulsory rounds where each contestant performs the same piece for apples-to-apples comparisons, but one thing that distinguishes most music and dance competitions from sport is the use of a jury, who may or may not award prizes, or may declare co-winners. In judged sported, the judges are expected to work independently and score immediately, and the only interaction is generally for post-performance reviews.

#3 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 07 April 2009 - 05:39 PM

The wiki language is hype. And like all hype, it must be taken with whatever size grain of salt you feel appropriate. It's grounds for challenging the factuality of the article. That's how wiki winnows out intemperate language or bad facts.

Ballet is an art, however, art has near zero pop appeal if it's not tarted up a bit in the ads. There may be such a thing as "dance sport". I just would have a lot of reservations about it. Rather like Dr. Johnson's "Worth seeing, but not worth GOING to see." :P

#4 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 07 April 2009 - 05:46 PM

Rather like Dr. Johnson's "Worth seeing, but not worth GOING to see." :P


Oh, that is the best! It's sounds familiar, but I don't see how I could have forgotten it. I intend using it as frequently as possible.

#5 Paul Parish

Paul Parish

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,925 posts

Posted 07 April 2009 - 11:20 PM

Bart, this is not a new idea. you might want to read "Dance is a Contact Sport: a Season with the New York City Ballet," written by Joseph Mazo in 1974 -- which is 25 years ago. the book was published by EP Dutton: Saturday review Press. It's not crackpot.

The term "Art/Sport" rose in the 70s with the post-modern dancers, but for a long time Balanchine's ballets had already been moving in opposition to the genteel tradition in the direction of unsentimental, directly physical action, and he'd incorporated "acrobacy" (Lincoln Kirstein's term) as early as Apollo. Other choreographers had taken the hint, in a cruder way, and there were many flat-out athletic ballets hitting hte boards by the 70's -- some by Gerald Arpino, some by Bejart...ballets in 'nude' tights for bare-chested men. I'm sure you can picture one if you think about it. (And in Russia, frankly athletic displays like hte soldiers in ballets like Spartacus by Grigorovich furthered the idea of Socialist realism -- but it's the wame trend) Then by the time you get to Twyla Tharp,, well aerobic ballets were all over the place in the dance boom, and "In the Upper Room' qualifies as an art-sport ballet that's really pretty good stuff --

Read Mazo's book -- it's a good start on this subject..

#6 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 03:37 AM

Sport portrayed in ballet is nothing new. Nijinsky did it with "Jeux", although it was the socialization in tennis that was depicted instead of the game. And his sister presented athletes in her "Les Biches", giving her men hunky posturing and some vigorous vocabulary. One guy does, what, 18 double tours? But this isn't sport. The audience might have to be provided with scorecards which they could hold up for it to get there - I can see it now, 8.7,7.9,8.1,8.1,3.4.... :P

#7 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 05:38 AM

Helene, thanks for the distinction between "sport" and "competition," and for the insights into "judged sport."

Paul, thank you for reminding me of the Mazo book. I got it down from the shelf and began skimming. Mazo, although he talks about the physical and athletic demands of ballet, never really develops the "sport" theme. I wonder if it wasn't just something an editor picked because he thought it would help sales.

The term "Art/sport" rose in the 70s with the post-modern dancers, but for a long time Balanchine's ballets had already been moving in opposition to the genteel tradition in the direction of unsentimental, directly physical action, and he'd incorporated "acrobacy" (Lincoln Kirstein's term) as early as Apollo. Other choreographers had taken the hint, in a cruder way, and there were many flat-out athletic ballets hitting hte boards by the 70's -- some by gerald Arpino, some by Bejart.... ballets in 'nude' tights for bare-chested men. i'm sure you can picture one if you think about it.


You're right! It seems like a self-conscious process of what we might call "de-etherealization" was going on. Balanchine, on the whole, disguised the enormous physical effort required. Arpino and others called attention to it, as do the fouette-counters (1, 2, 3, 4-5 (a double!) .... 32) . Ditto those who, as Mel mentions, aim at 18 tours en l'air.

I wonder if the use of "sport" in this context isn't partly to make "ballet" more culturally acceptible to a masculine audience. Mazo opens his book by assuring us about his all-guy credentials: "I have a habit of falling in love with women I've never met, especially ballerinas." To insist that ballet is a sport could be an attempt to disassociate oneself from the older image of ballet -- and its fans -- as primarily feminine and effete. (?)

#8 SandyMcKean

SandyMcKean

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 945 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 10:29 AM

Paul, thank you for reminding me of the Mazo book. I got it down from the shelf and began skimming. Mazo, although he talks about the physical and athletic demands of ballet, never really develops the "sport" theme. I wonder if it wasn't just something an editor picked because he thought it would help sales.


As it happens I just read Mazo's book a month or two ago (highly recommended). With this relatively fresh memory, I can't think of a single place that Mazo compares ballet to sport in any way. About as close as the title gets to reflecting something in the book is that Mazo makes quite clear just how often dancers get injured due to the extraordinary physical feats they do on a daily basis.

P.S. As has been mentioned, the book was written in 1973 when Mazo "ate, drank, and slept" with the company for 6 months or so (including some remarkable access to Balanchine). As I read it, I couldn't help but wonder how amazing the "Stravinsky Festival" chapter would have been had Mazo been there a year earlier when the Stravinsky Festival was done.

#9 SanderO

SanderO

    Silver Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 621 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 02:36 PM

I think of competition when I think sports. I think art when I think ballet. But then there is all that ballroom stuff which is more sport than dance from my POV. Ballet is not a sport for me.

#10 EvilNinjaX

EvilNinjaX

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 268 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 03:38 PM

I thought that "Dance Sport" is an actual term that is used in conjunction with Ballroom Dancing and using it in conjunction with ballet would seem a malapropism.

and i think wikipedia agrees with me:
http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Dancesport


-goro-

#11 MCBallet

MCBallet

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts

Posted 25 April 2009 - 10:42 PM

Dance is not a sport, Dance is an art. Dancers are not athletes, Dancers are artists.

#12 Sacto1654

Sacto1654

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 201 posts

Posted 26 April 2009 - 04:43 AM

Dance is not a sport, Dance is an art. Dancers are not athletes, Dancers are artists.


However, ballet dancers have to extremely good physical shape to do their moves. In fact, soloists probably have to be in better physical shape than any top-flight professional athlete you can name.

#13 32tendu

32tendu

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 82 posts

Posted 26 April 2009 - 05:06 AM

ballet = art
physicality & conditioning= exceeds most professional sports

#14 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,841 posts

Posted 26 April 2009 - 10:47 AM

Sport portrayed in ballet is nothing new. Nijinsky did it with "Jeux", although it was the socialization in tennis that was depicted instead of the game....


And Asaf Messerer made a solo for himself as a soccer player, in his early days as a performer.

One of the fundamental things about dance is its malleability -- it is used in many ways, and fills many needs for human beings. It can be worship, it can be instruction, it can be art and it can be a form of competition (thanks Helene for pointing out that distinction) It's used as a metaphor for change, for compatibility, for negotiation, and for contest. It doesn't surprise me at all to find dance used in sports writing, and that the term ballet is used interchangeably with it.

Paul makes a good point about the rise of sport metaphors in post-modern dance. Steve Paxton, one of the developers of Contact Improvisation and a central person at the beginning of post-modernism, often talks about CI being similar to basketball (a sport he played) -- that a good player or a good dancer would work to internalize certain movements, would practice skills methodically, but that in the actual performing or playing, the goal was to do the dance or play the game, and the skills came into use unconsciously. Technique is a tool, whatever the context. This is as true in ballet as it is for any other physical practice.

Tangentially, at one point applicants for Rhodes Scholarships were advised to list a sport or some other kind of activity as proof of their physical fitness (a criterion for the award) -- one of the first women to get a scholarship in the 1970s was Rachel Klevit (from my college!), and her "sport" was ballet.

#15 Nanarina

Nanarina

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 565 posts

Posted 26 April 2009 - 01:35 PM

:wink: I have not read the book mentioned, but to class Ballet as a Dance Sport does not seem to be correct, it is after all one of "The Major Arts", Art, Dance and Music. One can say in this technically brilliant age, that Dancers are very "Athletic" considering the lifts and jumps they perform. But taking Sport into account, just think how Balletic some of the Gymnasts that perform the floor excercises have become.
Performing very often to Ballet music. Though in this case you could not compare it to a peformance of a Ballet.
There is even an element of grace and beauty within the Circus world, which could have been helped by the performers taking Ballet classes. But surely the different genre's should be kept separate., even if elements of each creep into another.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):