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Is ballet a sport?


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95 replies to this topic

#16 Xena

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 01:56 PM

I urge young people to stop counting fouettes and instead look for line, feeling, expression and that mysterious experience that can only happen at the Ballet.


here here Watermill.

But we also have to accept everyone is entitled to their opinion, and its up to the individual to seek more knowledge in order to see whether they want to change that opinion or not. Experience plays a great part in this.

If you liken the great art of ballet to the great art of music, have you ever heard of anyone even attempting to describe music as a sport? I haven't, (which doesn't mean that it hasn't been?).
Ballet dancers use their bodies as instruments, musicians use themselves (opera singers) or their fingers/toes whatever as an extension of theirselves. Have you ever done barre work and not thought of your body as an instrument being finely tuned?
and fine arts, is that a sport? here artists again use their bodies as an extension of themselves in order to portray a particular emotion at that time.
Gymnastics is a sport, as I watch the floor exercises, I can feel nothing about the individual, his/her emotions. Yes they perform great athletic feats,but I do not shed tears. Some of the great ballet dancers are capable of emoting tears. I cannot say that of any sport (cheerleading/ice skating/cricket/rugby) I have ever watched.

#17 Farrell Fan

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 04:19 PM

With all due respect, Xena, I don't think that whether ballet is a sport or an art is a matter of opinion. It's a matter of the dictionary. As for sports not evoking tears, fans of the New York Mets baseball team have been shedding tears for years. ;)

#18 Old Fashioned

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 04:42 PM

I've cried watching Plushenko (actually, more like laughed) and Kwan before, but I still understand figure skating is a sport because it's all about competition.

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 07:21 PM

If ballet were a sport, they'd find a brewery to sponsor it!;)

#20 Doris R

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 04:07 PM

Now that I can see, Iron City, the official beer of the Pittsburgh Ballet. Hmmmm?

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 04:13 AM

And for Christmas, Miss Frothingslosh as the Sugar Plum Fairy? Well, maybe Mother Ginger.;)

#22 Calliope

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 04:57 AM

NYC Ballet's release of a workout video certainly throws non-performance ballet into the exercise arena.

#23 mbjerk

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 06:38 AM

Joffrey summed it up, "Dancers are artistic athletes." People choose to focus on one or the other in this argument, but without both an artistic sensibility and an athletic capability good dancing does not exist.

Of course one could paraphrase to "Athletic artists" dependent on one's preference.

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 08:40 AM

I think one of the characteristics of late 20th century ballet is the exposure of the athletic side of ballet -- I doubt that the analogy would have occurred to people 100 years ago. Of course dance has a physical component and requires strength and coordination and agility (but so does playing a musical instrument). But we're in an Age of Sport and sports heroes are so worshipped (and so rich) that comparing dancers to athletes seems to give it status. Also, before 1950, the aesthetic was to hide effort. The steps, the effort, the training, the athleticism, were private. I think the last thing a dancer would have been wanted to be told (in public) was that he or she was an athlete. Now, it's the first.

#25 mbjerk

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 10:53 AM

I wonder how much of this athletism on the male side at least came with the Soviet performances in the West after WWII. The western men did not have nearly the technical ability nor the lift vocabulary by contemporary reports. I certainly grew up with the idea of showing no strain, and I think dancers still strive to make it look effortless, but the technial feats are much greater now and true to ALexandra's statement, audiences seek to watch such bodies show off.

One other observation - The overall cultural aesthetic is now one of defined bodies, where as in earlier times it was more of a fuller figure. Bodies across the board these days are stronger, taller, faster, etc. whether in sport or dance. I enjoy the physical side of dance when used to express emotion or freedom versus sustain tricks.

I do not care for limp, unphysical dancers as for me there is no emotion in the dance. If I want emotion in the face only, I can go to the movies. That is why I look to Bournonville as a test of how strong a dancer is - simple, physical, clean movement.

#26 citibob

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 07:17 PM

The goals of a sport are generally quantitative. The goals of ballet are qualitative.

That is, except when you do pirouette contests to see who can turn the most, regardless of form. Then you've made ballet into a sport.

#27 LDSdancer713

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 10:15 AM

my ballet teacher at school (danced with PA ballet)...said ballet...or any form of dance is only considered a sport if u compete it...like at dance competition...is that true?


---allie

#28 bart

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 11:07 AM

LSD, your post led me to read what others said about this issue back in 2003. So many interesting aspects of the question about dance/sport/artist/athlete are covered here.

Applying labels is always abitrary and always tricky, especially when comparing two activities that share some important attributes but also differ on others.

I liked dirac's point:

Ballet dancers have some things in common with athletes, in that their instruments are their bodies, for example, and both require special training regimens, the advice and direction of coaches, and so forth.

However, dancers and athletes have different goals. Aspiring dancers hope to become artists, and, with great luck, artist/stars. Athletes try to win games and competitions. (I should note that I am not saying one goal is better than the other, just different.) Often athletes are beautiful to watch, and that is part of their appeal. Likewise, part of what people like in ballet is the pleasure of watching dancers perform athletic feats such as jumps. But for dancers, physical virtuosity is a means, not an end.


I also liked Robert Joffrey's phrase, "artistic athletes," and mbjerk's suggestion that, with just a little switch in emphasis, "athletic artists" might apply even better.

Perhaps you and your classmates might come up with your own answers to these interesting questions. I hope that, if you do, you'll share them with us here.

#29 carbro

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 01:28 PM

I used to agree with your teacher, LDSdancer -- that competitions were detrimental to artistic development. But I am not so sure.

For many young dancers, the only exposure to ballet they get is in their studio, far from cities visited by major ballet companies. They may not get much opportunity to observe others dancing live. Competitions bring together dancers from many backgrounds, gives them an opportunity to compare their training and broaden their perspective on the art.

I'm sure that you and your friends have your own mini-competitions -- how many fouettes can you do? How long can you balance? These help you develop skills that widen the artistic choices you have when you are dancing. And if you gain those skills by trying to be better than the girl next to you, what's the harm?

Where I do agree with your teacher is that competition should not be the main motivation. Bart, by juxtaposing Mr. Joffrey's description and mbjerk's twist on it, placed the sport/art question firmly in an appropriate perspective.

I was lucky to attend the concluding galas of this years Youth America Grand Prix competition, which awarded scholarships to the winners. Now that's worth competing for! And while I expected a display of great technique, I was more astonished by the level of artistry achieved by such young artists. And there's no doubt, with their sensitivity to mood, nuance and musicality, that some are artists.

#30 omshanti

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 11:56 PM

This whole thread is very interesting and I enjoyed reading the posts, however I could not help thinking why categorize ballet? Why not just enjoy ballet as it is , as a dance. And dancing does not necessarily need to be artistic or athletic. Ballet is ballet. And also if there is really a need to categorize ballet, why only between art and sport? It could also be categorized as theater , circus or a craft (I used to think ballet is a craft since you learn and preserve a specialized skill from one generation to the next). Any way what is art? Can anybody define what art is?

Just to avoid misunderstanding , I am not trying to be offensive at all. I know it might be a touchy issue ,but I am just curious. I feel that people in USA have a tendency of comparing ballet and sport more than poeple from other places. And I do notice that in America people clap more to turns and jumps in ballet. What is it in the society and culture of USA that gives people a need to compare ballet with sports?Can anyone explain?


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