Sport vs. Art


Staff member
Here's a quote from another forum I participate in...what does everyone here think? The olympic side of the story may be on hold, at least for a while, but the sport vs. art debate is certainly alive and kicking (see, for instance, the "'ruining' salsa" thread over in the salsa forum)!

Forgetting about the sorry state of ballroom judging and the current obvious conflict of interest, is there anyone else besides myself who is uncomfortable with the idea of treating ballroom as more sport than art? I'm not saying it doesn't require huge amounts of training, stamina, and physical fitness, but the joy of dance is in the artistry, not in simple physical ability. I've heard complaints before that figure skating doesn't belong in the Olympics because judging artistry is too subjective. I think in ballroom it's worse.

Getting ballroom more exposure would probably make it more popular, but what type of ballroom are you trying to promote and why? Competitive or social? To bring people joy and better health, to increase the competition fields, or to pad someone's wallet? It's all well and good to want to encourage people to dance, but is watching top notch competition going to suck them in or scare them off?

It's going to be a long, hard road to ever get ballroom in the Olympics and I personally prefer to enjoy my less competitive view of dance and think of less intimidating ways to expose people to its joys.


One thing I think would help is more exposure in theaters and movies. Remember, ballroom was popular in vaudeville and then in the movies (Fred Astaire). On a smaller scale I think studios should be more involved in taking dancing outside of their studio so others may see and appreciate it.

I think ballroom dance as a sport is someone peaking right now while ballroom as an art is extremely lacking. What do others think? :?:


Well-Known Member
I think it's both sport and art, and can be appreciated as both.

The person quoted in the first post uses a very good illustration in referencing figure skating. Art? No doubt about it. But look at the physicality required, and at the level of mental discipline required in order to really excel. So let's compare that to dance. Yes, it's artistic, and it's beautiful. But, then, who can say that a well-executed jump shot in basketball is not beautiful, in its own way. The lines and symmetry are beautiful. So does that make basketball a sport, or an art? Fuzzy line.

What is a sport, and what is art after all? I looked them both up, and came up with these definitions (

Sport: Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively

Art: The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty.

Looks to me like ballroom dance fits neatly into either category.

What do you think?
Jumping to put the ball in the hoop may be perceived artistically, but the outcome of the game depends on an objective fact, not a subjective interpretation. Either the ball went through the hoop, or not.
Hmm, the basketball analogy both works and doesn't in my mind.

I do think there is a trend towards ballroom becoming more sport-like, with an emphasis on achieving specific things - getting the ball through the hoop so to speak.

While a lot of artistry in dancing is choreography and expression, I think some of it is also in the very movement. This is akin to caring about how the ball comes to sail through the hoop - particularly the movement of the athlete's body in launching it.

And that's where the analogy breaks down for me. While I suppose it would be possible to play basketball with a really wild style (and I'm sure someone can find examples), to a large degree more artistic motions may be favored because they are in fact more reliable ways of putting the ball through the hoop.

Contrast in ballroom, where there are ways of 'putting the ball through the hoop' that are, to be frank, downright ugly. This is because they neglect another goal of ballroom: doing it in cooperation with your partner. I think there is something of a trend towards sacrificing the integrity of the partnership in order to achieve more of the assumed objective goals.

But in actuality, I think partnership integrity in ballroom motions can also be judged objectively - you just have to make a habit of looking for it. To the novice observer, watching videos frame by frame is increadibly revealing, in terms of understanding where the dancers moved together, and where they are willing to loose position on eachother in search of an objective goal such as greater shape or more travel.


Active Member
pygmalion said:
What is a sport, and what is art after all? I looked them both up, and came up with these definitions (

Sport: Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively

Art: The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty.

Looks to me like ballroom dance fits neatly into either category.

What do you think?
It seems to me like it could depend on the person dancing. I know I've seen many people dancing in ways that are certainly NOT athletic, and these also seem to be those whose dancing is the least artistic.

It seems to me that there is (in general - i know there are many exceptions to this) a correlation between people who view dancing as being athletic being the ones putting the most artistry into it. Does this make sense? It works the other way, too - the people who are dancing the most artistically are those dancing most athletically (sp?), and those who are more or less devoid of one seem to be lacking the other, also.

At least IMESHO (that being my ever-so-humble opinion :wink: ), they seem to be very closely tied, as opposed to being very seperate categories.


Well-Known Member
I'm in the "art" camp.

Sure--using the basketball analogy--you have specific ways of moving on the court, and specific movements when shooting the ball. But all endeavors have these, because they have been determined to be the most efficient, with respect to the objective. But ultimately, the result is not something that is subjective. The ball goes in the hoop or it doesn't. The only time you have a question is a slam-dunk contest, say, at the NBA All-Star game, which is judged. And I'm sure some of the players feel they got robbed. But in basketball the slam-dunk contest isn't the main objective. In ballroom it's the entire objective.


Active Member
This may muddy the water, but as a non-competitive street (salsa) dancer, I tend to see dancing neither as art (pursuit of beauty) nor sport (competitive physical activity); it's primarily a social activity. The art vs. sport question may be relevant to competitors and professional dancers, but social dancers -- even serious social dancers who go out dancing 5, 6, 7 nights a week -- dance to get their "fix", the buzz of dancing, which is not connected to the artistic merits of their dance or to winning competitions.
Yes, YES, Macmoto, SOCIAL here, for me at least, is the key word! Well said!

I used to think(purely from an observer/outsider's view) that ballroom was romantic, gentle and smooth, but the stuff I see now is downright HARD, tense and acrobatic, especially the latin! This form of dance has certainly evolved and I'm no one to judge, since I 1)haven't been around since the evolution of latin nor 2) don't dance latin ballroom, but bejeezus, things are changing! I appreciate the athletics in it as I LOVE hardcore sports, but should a line be drawn at dance & sport?
I sort of agree with you MacMoto, that dance is more of a social thing and certainly the art vs. sport thing is more relevent to competitions, but I definitely think dance is undeniably artisitic. I mean when you hear 'art' whether at school art programs or your own artistic (creative) ability what do you think of? I usually think of physical drawing art, music, poetry and writing even, and then dance. Hip-hop jazz, ballroom, salsa, it's all artisitic and creative in the same kinda way. I don't think ballet would be considered a social kinda thing, so just take that, tweak it a little, add a partner, and POW, salsa y merengue 8)
I'll chime in with my $.03.....

I think that DanceSport can be such and judged objectively - if - and only if - all competitors are on a level playing field. Reminds me of the ESPN competition where the couples went out individually and had to incorporate XYZ movements in the routine and had to dance to 2 or 3 different styles of music that segued into each other.


Well-Known Member
I feel MacMoto and Cocodrilo make a good point. Dance can definitely be looked at as being social rather then artistic or athletic by those not involved with competition. That's certainly how I started by viewing it as a social skill to be used at social events. My competive perspective came afterwards.

My competitive interest is actually being used as a focal point to improve my dancing skills to be used in a social context. Using competitve opportunities as goals, forces me to spend more time improving my skills then I might otherwise do. Then the artisitic and athletic skills become more important, although I must admit, it is more the artisitic side that interests me then the athletic.

And when I dance socially, it is more the artistic side that is in my conciousness. Yet it is the athletic side that determines how long I can dance, and how much endurance I have for the artistic side to continue throughout the evening.

Thanks to Mac and Coco for triggering my contemplation of these things!

Warren J. Dew

Well-Known Member
I think it's different things to different people. People who see competitive ballroom dancing as "DanceSport" seem to value the 'sport' aspects over the 'art' aspects. People who like "Showdance" competitions probably are more interested in the artistic aspects.

To me, what most distinguishes ballroom dance from other activities is the partnering, the lead and follow connection, being completely in tune with one's partner. But that aspect of ballroom dance doesn't fit into either the 'sport' or 'art' categories.

That's okay, though - I don't feel a need to try to fit ballroom into predefined categories designed for other activities. It's enough for me that ballroom dance is ballroom dance.

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