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primaballerina13

Is ballet a sport?

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I don't think there's any reason to attach a gender to an art form except to irritate and divide. Ballet isn't feminine any more than it is masculine, and it's the same with music, drama, and the visual arts. To state otherwise is, to me, unenlightened and offensive, and it serves only to further alienate those who already think of ballet as outmoded and irrelevant.

I couldn't agree more. This thread is taking some twists and turns that are only leading to "unproductive" areas (I'll leave the stronger terms to Hans, but I agree with his statement fully)

Richard

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I don't think there's any reason to attach a gender to an art form except to irritate and divide. Ballet isn't feminine any more than it is masculine, and it's the same with music, drama, and the visual arts. To state otherwise is, to me, unenlightened and offensive, and it serves only to further alienate those who already think of ballet as outmoded and irrelevant.

I did not mean this to 'irritate and divide,' which I think is obvious enough from the tone and context of the rest of what I wrote. If anything, it was not terribly well expressed, even though such 'genders' are often used for the Arts by great intellectuals and philosophers, but it may be a matter of context that determines when that sort of talk is considered okay. I was actually referring to something along the lines of Balachine's interest in the 'ideal feminine' or 'ideal woman', and also the fact that the feminine aspect of ballet can specifically interest me when expressed by male or female. I certainly agree that it is also extremely masculine, so that perhaps the word 'essentially' was misplaced. In any case, my obvious point was that some aspects of the feminine specifically expressed or embodied by the male dancers is what I think is one of the most beautiful aspects of what ballet is--although when in the moment of watching the more explicitly masculine expressions, there is also great satisfaction and a sense of the full range of ballet. The sexes have to be enhanced and sometimes even exaggerated in ballet, which is part of what makes it so sensual (but not only sensual, of course.)

Another thing I was trying to say was that the perceptions of ballet as 'feminine' or better, by those who wish to decry it, as 'effeminate,' are negative perceptions of the same aspects I find positive. But then I don't find anything negative per se about ballet. I was trying to explain that you cannot overcome hardened-off prejudices against something, that you cannot try to cultivate the respect of those who are very deeply predisposed to oppose ballet.

If that was unclear, even given what I think the rest of what I wrote so obviously espoused, I hope now you may understand that I just may have articulated that one part somewhat awkwardly. Ballet is not 'essentially feminine,' but the part of it that is feminine is that part that cannot be gotten respect for by certain people who are predisposed to look at it as a mere extension of what they think of as 'fey' or 'unmanly', especially in the feminine aspects that men also become a part of.

My point was really that you can't change the atmosphere and nature of ballet to please an audience which accepts the more obviously entirely different milieux of certain sports--best exemplified by football. If you look at the extremes, you can hardly miss the lines of demarcation. These lines of demarcation protect ballet, and too-vigorous attempts to 'appeal' to some of those audiences is probably not very realistic.

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Probably pound-for-pound the greatest boxer of all time, the late great Sugar Ray Robinson was described as an artist in the ring. In part for his graceful (and lethal) style of boxing.
Yes, but the beauty of his movements was incidental, a synthesis of the athlete's coordination, skill and conformation. No coach said, "Okay, Ray, your punches are effective, but let's see if you can make them more graceful."

The fact of great beauty is not necessarily an indicator of artistry.

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Yes, but the beauty of his movements was incidental, a synthesis of the athlete's coordination, skill and conformation. No coach said, "Okay, Ray, your punches are effective, but let's see if you can make them more graceful."

Yes, that--and also no one had composed the movements prior to them. They came out of necessity and happened to be beautiful.

It's also of interest that, obviously, the question 'is music a sport?' would not occur as it does with ballet. But is ballet closer to arts like music than it is to football and boxing? To me, that's one of the reasons I love ballet, but perhaps it's those musical dancers that can tell us the authentic answer. There's one that I'd almost wager would rather listen to Bach or Palestrina than go to the FSU games (I never once thought of football when I saw her dance), although I can't prove it. I had to go to FSU games as a child, but I got back to the piano and record player soon enough, I guess.

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Papeetepatrick, thank you for elucidating your point, even the parts you thought were already obvious.

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even the parts you thought were already obvious.

LOL! I realize I was cattily obvious or obviously catty or both. It's therefore obvious I shall need to choose from either of two White Cat and Puss 'n' Boots to watch as a nightcap. I so adore that cat face in the RB tape, so I think it will obviously be that one..

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I was trying to explain that you cannot overcome hardened-off prejudices against something, that you cannot try to cultivate the respect of those who are very deeply predisposed to oppose ballet.

papeetepatrick,

I completely agree. I had a very similar reaction as yours when I read Helene's comment below (which is the one I believe you were responding to):

I think the underlying concern here is that athletes and sports people get general respect and ballet dancers do not, particularly the men......Perhaps if they can be categorized as the equivalents of athletes in their fitness levels, the physical demands of their profession, and the toll dancing takes on their bodies, that will do the trick.

I didn't take the time to respond at the time, but I was glad you did (I may not agree with all you say, but I do find your ability to express yourself quite amazing.....so no more of that "I may not express it well" stuff :))

I learn more here from Helene than from anyone. She is the only poster (so far) that I specifically read regardless of which forum that post is in (I tend to look only at the PNB forum). I normally agree with her analysis right down the line, but not in this case. I, like you, think it pointless to attempt to "rearrange the deck chairs" to assuage the low life that has the kind of bigoted, prejudical world view that would disrespect the men in ballet as "girlie men" worthy of scorn. Such folks get the ultimate punishment for their narrowness anyway.....they must forego the pleasure of watching these great athletes perform :P.

I've gone to see Jewels 3 times this week as well as watching the Dallas/Phoenix basketball Western Conference playoffs (yes, all 6 games). As much as I admire the atheticism of Nowitzki or Nash, I admire what I saw this week by the men in Diamonds or Rubies more. I want no part in modifying the public's perception of ballet to make it more "acceptable" to such ignorant bigots who refuse to see what I plainly see by simply looking.

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I don't recall anyone stating that ballet ought to be modified to suit those who dislike it. IMO, ballet has already become far too athletic, and I suspect that's actually part of the reason it's driving audiences away.

Note: Sandy later edited his/her post above to clarify the point on which I disagreed in my first sentence. Thank you, Sandy! :P

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Bellevue Community College has had an active dance program for over 25 years.....

sandik,

First, thank you for the informed education. I have no knowledge of these things. OTOH, don't misunderstand me. I was not discrediting Bellevue Community College's dance program by saying that BCC didn't have a "serious dance program". I have no idea what kind of dance program BCC has. It was only a rhetorical remark I made as a counterpoint to Helene's suggestion that the UW might not list Ballet as one of its official SPORTS simply because they happen to have a "serious dance program" (her words not mine) and so listed it else than a SPORT.

I still don't think any college, with or without a dance program, would seriously list Ballet as one of its recognized sports programs. Of course, many colleges may put ballet in the Physcial Education dept (for all I know), but the point isn't how a college administers the program; the point is whether any communication occurs in the general public by calling Ballet a SPORT. To me such a claim is misleading given what the term SPORT means to the vast majority of people. Communication is better served in my judgment by pointing out the athleticism of ballet, and the physical rigors it demands, than thinking someone is going to "get the idea" by calling Ballet a SPORT.

BTW, Helene, you asked how "Ballet competetions" fit if Ballet is not a sport. It occured to me this weekend, as I listened to a music performance, that pianists have competetions all the time (witness the famous Van Cliburn story); and I really can't see the cause of better communications being served by calling piano competetions a SPORT.

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IMO, ballet has already become far too athletic.....

Frankly, I don't see "athletic" and "art" as a zero sum game. Perhaps ballet has become more athletic -- I'm not smart enough to know (tho I have been watching it for 40 years). But I don't think a dancer must somehow choose btwn the two. I think there is a place for both; they can even compliment each other. And frankly, I don't see how you can describe the sort of men's pyrotechnics I saw this week in Jewls as anything but artistic human movement with a large measure of athleticism involved. In fact, I will be so bold as to say that this was as true in Russia in 1890 as much as it is true today. (But remember I don't know what I'm talking about.....not at the level of the people around here anyway :P)

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That's very kind, but it's only because I've been so well-taught by other people on the board and from danceviewtimes and Ballet Review, etc. You need to get out of that PNB forum more often :P

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You need to get out of that PNB forum more often

I'm trying.....

I'm certainly clogging this one up today :) :)

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Perhaps ballet has become more athletic -- I'm not smart enough to know (tho I have been watching it for 40 years). But I don't think a dancer must somehow choose btwn the two. I think there is a place for both; they can even compliment each other.
This is interesting because I'm very slowing reading Ivor Guest's history on the Paris Opera Ballet -- at this rate, it will take a year -- and so far, up through the 1870's, the emphasis is either cyclical or between two competing schools. Taglioni vs. Elssler, the Tebaldi vs. Callas of their time, wasn't close to the first time in the history of the Company where there was a clash of aesthetics.

I know I'm taking a little detour here, but one of the more curious passages I read was this:

Fanny Elssler's interpretation of the Sylphide captivated Théophile Gautier, who was just embarking on his career as a theatre critic and was inspired to make the famous analogy of her and Taglioni as being respectively a pagan and a Christian dancer. However, such a presumption infuriated Taglioni's admirers; and when Elssler appeared in La Fille du Danube, a riot broke out in the theatre that had to be quelled by the police.

The lesson to be learned was to be true to one's genre...

Yikes.

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BTW, Helene, you asked how "Ballet competetions" fit if Ballet is not a sport. It occured to me this weekend, as I listened to a music performance, that pianists have competetions all the time (witness the famous Van Cliburn story); and I really can't see the cause of better communications being served by calling piano competetions a SPORT.

I don't think competitions themselves make ballet a sport, but I think they have two ways in which they intersect judged sports: focus on the pyrotechnic and the idea that artistic performances can be scored and stack-ranked, with winner and losers. Which is why I dislike ballet competitions, although I do find one aspect mesmerizing: the round in which every dancer or every couple performs the same choreography. I once saw at least a dozen couples perform the second theme in The Four Temperaments. What makes this tolerable for me is that the piece is pre-chosen for the competitors, and it's a gift to see so many people interpret the same choreography all in a row. But that's why the Compulsory Dance is my favorite round of Ice Dancing (except for the uniformly awful music...)

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::Donning Moderator's beanie::

May I remind people that one of the pleasures of this board is the civil exchange of ideas.

Please assume that once you have made a point, it is made, and that if another poster disagrees, it does not necessarily mean they are ineducable and you must repeat what you've already stated. Just accept that there may be a valid opinion other than your own.

We'd all love to get the last word. Life -- and BalletTalk -- don't work that way.

Thanks for treating your fellow BT members with respect and for toning down the rhetoric!

::Doffing beanie::

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You need to get out of that PNB forum more often

Thanks Helene

But given the quote below, that's probably the last time I try it. (I don't like censorship.)

Please assume that once you have made a point, it is made, and that if another poster disagrees, it does not necessarily mean they are ineducable and you must repeat what you've already stated. Just accept that there may be a valid opinion other than your own.

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Only to elucidate, I think we can all agree that this discussion, stimulating as it has been, has become very repetitive. It seems, in this case, clarification is necessary, and I apologize for not having written your citation absolutely without ambiguity. I don't think anyone wants to read something that amounts to "Is not!" "Is too!" "Is not!" "Is too!", etc., ad nauseum.

We do want posts that move the discussion forward.

Apologies if my writing is too muddy to be understood. I also apologize for the interruption.

And, by the way, I don't like censorship, either.

If anyone wants to contribute to the matter of this thread ("Is Ballet a Sport?"), please do. :beg:

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I don't think of ballet or dance as a sport. The key to sport is that it about competition, piting individuals against each others in games with rules, and scoring and it is objectively "easy" to determine the winner.. the goal of sport.

Dance and bellet although physical and involving physical training and discipline is not a competition and scored usually as far as I know.

Things like skating has become a sport because it is now "scored" on diffuculty in executing "moves" or whatever they do... triple toe loops and so on... It can look like dance but it it seems to be very much more limited and confined.

One may need atheletic skill to dance, but this does not make it a sport.

WHo do you think will wind the world cup? Boshoi or the ABT? hahaha

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From today's NYTimes Opinionator, here's the other side of the question:

'In “The Fray,” Slate’s reader forum, pseudonymous poster “kurtosis” responds to Bryan Curtis’s examination of soccer as a cosmopolitan affection among youngish American intellectuals: “I actually enjoy the World Cup, but this tendency in the U.S. to view it as some sort of refined art is bizarre. It is as if we were to one day hear that French intellectuals had developed a fascination with NASCAR racing or the Super Bowl.” '

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The June 14 International Herald Tribune has an article by Blair Tindall (NY Times) which addresses this issue. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find a link and don't know whether it was ever published in the Times.

The headline is: "For dancers, a new athleticism -- at what price?" Tindall appears to be interested in connecting ballet and professional sports largely through the use or non-use of performance-enhancing chemicals.

Here's the intro:

What do the Sugar Plum Fairy and slulgger Barry Bonds have in common? Both top the list of elite athletes, according to a 1975 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine, which ranked ballet the most chalenging of 61 sports. However, only the baseball player has fallen under suspicion of using drdugs to power his late-career winning streak. [...]

Dance is primarily viewed as an art form rather than a sports event. But as North American dance companies devlop a new athleticism, their dancers jump higher, spin faster, and stay impossibly thin. Could they, too, be doping?

'I know of no current data substantiating the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs by professional dancers,' said Gary Wadler, an expert in performance enhancing drdugs at the NY University School of Medicine and lead author of "Drugs and the Athlete." 'But in the current climate of drug use, you can never be totally dismissive of the possibility, whether with performance-enhancing or social drugs.'

Tindall contrasts professional athletes and dancers in one important regard:

For athletes, the possibility of lucrative product endorsements or team contracts would fuel a willingness to risk health for world records.

Dancers hae few quantitative measures of success, and tend to focus on career longevity rather than risking all for one moment of glory. They earn modest pay from troupes classified as nonprofit charity organizations, and even dance stars like Michael Baryshnikov -- despite his appearance on '"Sex and the City" -- can't lend the same cachet to ad campaigns as Michael Jordan.

Tindall quotes a study (American Journal of Sports Medicine) that says ballet companies report an annual injury rate of 67 to 95 percent. [Personally, I find this hard to credit. Could the data be based on the practice of making reports of all injuries in case something might require that the dancer go on disability??]

He quotes Llinda Hamilton, "wellness consultant of the NY City Ballet": "Dancers are reinforced for being stoic from an early age, and often continue dancing because they theink of injuries as a sign of weakness."

Tindall also refers briefly to weight-control issues, the ideal body type for female ballet dancrs, the death in 1997 of Boston Ballet dancer Heidi Guenther, the use of recreational drugs by Gelsey Kirkland, the suicide of Patrick Bisssell, and other familiar stories.

'I wish I had racier stories for you,' said Linnette Roe, who saw little substance abause during her 12 years as a dancer with the Pacific North Ballet [sic]. 'But the number one performance-enchancing drug today is coffee.'

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It is obvious that dancing is athletic in that it involves the training and development of the body and atheletic movement. As far as I know all sports have one thing in common - they are competitive games with winners and losers.. With the exception of dance competitions, I see no basis for calling ballet a competitive sport.

I see all dancers as glorious winners!

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