Dancesport In The Olympics?

Officially referred to as Dancesport many groups are trying to get ballroom dancing included in the Olympics.

Before we can even consider the issue of ballroom dancing as an Olympic sport, we must first address the issue of whether it can be considered a sport in any terms. The Olympic Commission defines a "sport" as "any activity that combines a physical effort with a certain amount of skill." Clearly dancing requires effort. A study by the University of Freiburg in Germany which was published in the November 3, 1997 issues of Forbes Magazine, showed that "a vigorous rumba burns up the same number of calories and requires the same exertion as a bicycle competition or a footrace over a similar period of time."

Ballroom dancing (or "Dancesport" which it is now officially called) is an extremely physical activity and at an advanced level dancers need to be very fit. They may not have the bulky look of a football player or the bulging biceps of a wrestler, but there is more to fitness than over-inflated muscles. Dancers are known for their aerobic fitness. As their level of competition increases so does their speed, balance and strength. In addition, Ballroom Dancing utilizes a variety of different muscles including, rear deltoids, rhombus, glutes and calves. Great strength is needed in the upper body to maintain the tension between partners. Also, many dancers cross train with a variety of sports to keep themselves in peak physical condition.

That takes care of the "physical effort" part of the definition...now what about skill? First of all, as with any activity that requires talent, not just any John Doe off the street can excel in competitive Ballroom Dancing. Everyone at some point has watched a ballroom couple glide effortlessly across the floor. They make it look so easy but the reality is very different. After all, what sport didn't look like it would be easy to master before you actually tried it?



So if dancing satisfies the requirements to be defined as a sport, then why is there so much debate about whether it should be an Olympic sport? Critics claim that no one is interested in watching Ballroom Dance in a competitive format. However a survey conducted through the Dancesport UK website revealed contrary results. The question was: "Should competitive dancing be an Olympic event?" 10,012 people took part in the survey with the following results: Yes - 9906 votes (98.95%), No - 93 votes (0.92%) Not sure - 13 votes (0.13%) . Granted, this survey is a bit biased considering that it was responded to primarily by fans of ballroom dance. However a nearly 99% in favor ratio in a group of that size is nothing to sneeze at.

In addition, people generally enjoy watching people move to music in an aesthetic way; Certainly no one can viably claim that Figure Skating and Gymnastics are not popular Olympic sporting events. It is not unusual for dancers to literally eat, drink and sleep dancing with continuous and strenuous practice and workouts...a regime that is commonly linked with athletes who compete in gymnastics and ice skating. In all actuality, ballroom dancing is figure skating without the ice.

The early days of ice skating were filled with Fred and Ginger-style ballroom dances on ice. In fact, in the 1920s and 1930s it was actually called "ice dance" rather than ice skating. The British lobbied for ice dancing's inclusion in World and Olympic competition, much like the International Dancesport Federation (IDSF) is doing now in the name of ballroom dancing. Ice skating is today one of the most watched popular and anticipated Olympic sports. Could danceport experience the same fate?

Actually, major strides have already been made on Dancesport's the journey to the Olympics. On September 4, 1997, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted full recognition to the International Dancesport Federation (IDSF) as the governing body of a sport. Actions to obtain IOC acceptance of Dancesport as a Program Sport are currently underway. Dancesport, however is not alone in its plight. It has joined a list of about 12 other recognized sports, including karate, squash and roller skating, which are currently waiting to be admitted to the official roster of the Olympic Games.

Declaring dancesport as an official Olympic event would dramatically increase the prestige and respectability of the sport. Many people are unaware of the strictness in competition that exists in dancesport. The elimination rounds, which usually contain about 4 or 5 dances, are danced in heats of about 22-24 couples. Each round reduces the entered couples by approximately half, until only about a half a dozen couples remain. These couples then dance the final round, where they are each placed against each other and a statistical analysis of these placings eventually decides the winners. The whole event can take seven rounds from start to finish.

There are plenty of people who assert that the very fact that competitions exist, puts dancing into a sporting category. They are aware that the physical requirements of fitness, stamina, strength, flexibility and above all, muscular control and balance, necessitate a harsh and rigorous training regime. Some events commence with entries of more than 600 couples. The structure of the sport completely revolves around winning - winning, while at the same time, entertaining the audience, is the purpose of ballroom dancing...as well as just about every sport in existence.

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