The artist, the athlete, the dancer

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Photo by Annelisa Leinbach.

While many might consider dance only a form of artistic expression, club sports teams at Yale that incorporate dance showcase both its artistry and its athleticism.

Dance and sports that contain dance elements require tremendous athletic ability. When combined with competition, in teams such as the Yale Ballroom Dance Team, dance can become a sport in itself. According to the artistic director of the Alliance for Dance at Yale, Amymarie Bartholomew ’13, athleticism and competition are the two factors that can make dance a sport.

“There are more athletic, vigorous types of dancing, in which you can also compete, which I think certainly could be seen as sports,” Bartholomew said. “The expertise dance requires is very similar to that required in a more traditional sport.”

Nineteen students out of 25 interviewed said they consider competitive dance a sport.

There are no varsity dance teams at Yale, and the only official club sport at Yale that incorporates dance is the Yale Ballroom Dance Team. Ballroom dance team captains Allen Granzberg ’13 and Natalie Drucker ’14 said the team considers itself a club sport because ballroom dancing contains a distinct competitive side. The team, in its 25th season, attends six to eight scored competitions each year.

“Competitions require the team to travel together, spend an entire day at the venue and compete in a variety of different dances, gaining points for each other as a team,” Drucker said. “The dances require the same discipline and focus as other sports. You have to practice every day, for the same amount of time, if you want to do well.”

The team’s practice schedule is intense, and requires a time commitment similar to that of other club sports. Advanced dancers have two to three lessons a week, and new dancers take two. The dancers teach each other and bring in two coaches about once a week, and the entire group comes together on Fridays to practice, Drucker said.

Granzberg who described the sport as “very strenuous,” emphasized that like other sports, ballroom dance requires strength, flexibility and endurance.

“The best ballroom dancers are also runners, gymnasts and acrobats,” he said. “Ballroom dancers must be physically fit and able to execute speed changes in their movements.”

For Drucker and Granzberg, ballroom dancing is definitely a sport.

While not all dancers consider themeselves athletes, ballroom dance is not alone in the dance sport category. Theater studies professor Deborah Margolin pointed out that break dancing incorporates extremely athletic movement.

“Movements set to rap music can be beautiful, strenuous and very demanding of the dancer. In break dancing, I see sport and dance coming together very directly,” she said.

While ballroom and break dancing are examples of dance that incorporate athleticism, some sports also incorporate dance. Two members of Yale’s Club Figure Skating Team said their sport contains many elements of dance and artistry as well as physical training.

“While figure skating requires athletic abilities like core strength and endurance, it also demands a high level of artistry. Skaters must look artistic in all their movements, and not look like they are putting any physical effort into their routines,” team member Allison Mandeville ’15 said.

Sharon Yin, the team’s captain, added that specific types of dance may find their way into skating routines. (Yin is a staff reporter and staff photographer for the News.)

Skating routines often utilize dance music such as tango, Riverdance, bolero or folk music, Yin said, adding that that skaters and choreographers often watch videos of the off-ice dances before they begin choreographing their programs.

Despite the intersection of dance and sport in ballroom dancing, break dancing and figure skating, some professional dancers maintain that dance is an art and not a sport.

“People perform dance for different reasons than they do sports,”Lacaina Coulibaly, a professor in the dance studies program, said in an interview in French. “Dancers must concern themselves more with what the audience and is feeling, and how movement can arouse emotion in viewers.”

Bartholomew also pointed out that some types of dance are judged visually, and much less objectively, than traditional sports. Most dance groups at Yale stress artistic elements and perform productions rather than compete.

Within the Alliance for Dance at Yale, there are 24 different dance groups at Yale.

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