RA Fitness Blog, Uncategorized

What Makes Dance and Sport Different From Each Other?

While we often find Dance in the PE curriculum within education, I believe it is fair to say that many would distinguish between both Dance and Sport. There is something intrinsic that makes them different, although both are a form of exercise and physical arousal. Both can also be used for the Sports Leaders Award, which you can see me working towards in the picture below.



Let’s start with some definitions:

Dance is to – “move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps” – already I have an objection to this definition but this is what google has given to us as a definition of dance.

Sport is – “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment” – here the definition for sport includes an element of competition.

These definitions may seem pretty far away from each other. But let’s take them a little further and see how they could possibly both relate to each other.


Taking the second part of the definition of dance “typically following a set sequence of steps”, this to me, could relate to sports as well. The idea of preplanning tactics that will get you in a better position to win is is essentially a set sequence of steps. First this, then that, and finally that will happen. Although a less formalised structure than dance as often the sequences need to happen at certain times or in a certain order it is possible to have a more informal structure.  It has been know of Cunningham’s choreography to be taught in sections and then only just before the performance are the dancers told which order sections will be performed. This is a little like ‘plays’ in sport, no one knows the order until in the game itself, there may be a preferred order but until the game starts there is a spontaneity that means anything could happen.  There are also rules and regulations within sports that can make sport professionals move in a set sequence, ie, in netball once I’ve caught the ball I can only move/pivot with one leg and am only allowed to be in the areas my position allows me to be in. These movements can become a sequence often people practise drills for shooting and passing so the sequence becomes ingrained within them, to pass you often start by having the ball, look for a teammate who wants the ball, then start drawing back the leg or piece of equipment, moving it forwards again with more power and finally striking the ball to make it move. This becomes a set sequence of steps, and again although not put in place that this needs to occur often x amount of time in the game, can still count.

Now let’s take the first part of the sport definition; “an activity involving physical exertion and skill”. Here it is perhaps quite obvious how this can relate to dance. Movement itself is physical exertion and when the movement continues for about an hour and a half it can also become exhausting. The skill part of this statement can also refer to dance, the skill involved in doing many of the movements; the turns, the jumps, the kicks and many more. Skill is also required in other aspects of the dance, often the performance of the piece requires skill, ie, holding your face in a perfect effortless smile while you are performing a part that requires so much concentration you just wish to screw up your face and think. There is also skill in the ability to remember the sequences and (sometimes) the musicality that is required to perform it correctly. Within sport the skill is often hand eye coordination, balance, stamina, speed and many more. But can also be the ability for teamwork and cooperation. There’s a term coined now that is ‘sportsmanship’ which is used to describe the way players should behave that is appropriate and polite. This can take skill. Once you’ve finished and won a game, I’m sure many just want to scream and shout but instead it is more appropriate to walk over to the other side and shake their hands, often including the terms, ‘well played’ or ‘good game’.

Now for the trickier parts of the definitions. The first part of the definition for dance refers to moving “rhythmically to music”. I find this hard to extrapolate to sport, not just because sport is rarely performed to music, but also because dance doesn’t need music to be dance. We could watch a movie without the atmospheric music and we would still see it as a movie. The same should be true of dance. While much of the popularised dance is set to music it should not be vital that it is. So here it would be true that a difference between dance and sport is the value it places on other stimuli. Sport can often stand just as a sport, you don’t place value on the other aspects, ie, the chefs preparing the food, the performers at half time and what the players are wearing. Whereas in dance we place a lot more value on things like costume, set and music as we seem that as a whole image.

Sport was described as having elements of competition within it; “an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”. Competition is perhaps another thing that sets the two disciplines apart. Dance is rarely about competition and more commonly about entertaining. While there are competitions where teams and individuals compete against each other, that is not the mainstream side of dance. The opposite can be true of sport, there is a large portion of sport that is about fitness and playing friendly games for fun. But this is not the mainstream publicised part of the sporting world. I think one element of competition can be true of both Dance and Sport though and that is the idea of competing against yourself. Always wanting to better what you did before. While this is a more internal competition it is perhaps true of professionals in both fields.


So we have competition with others and value of other stimuli as two differences between dance and sport, simply by discussing the definitions given by google. And while I do believe there are perhaps a few more I am drawing a blank. I was thinking perhaps the position/order of teammates but most dance companies have a hierarchy or certainly within each dance piece there will seem to be performers who are more important to the piece than others, and while that is not true of all companies it is possible to say it is true of most. There’s also tactics involved in both, in dance you make certain steps small to stay in the right spot, or set up things next to stage so you can be ready quicker. Practice is involved in both, coaches are needed for both. Managers can be interchanged with company director to get the dance equivalent.

I think one of the biggest differences though, is the public’s perception of the two disciplines. Too often I think dance is likened to being cultural and often rich whereas sport is more excepted as being for everyone. Perhaps this is because of the regularity it happens and the more passion people seem to feel for teams and players in the sporting world. People are often more willing to try a different type of sport, but when it comes to dance people seem to not understand it is an umbrella term for many other styles, just because you don’t enjoy ballet doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy hip-hop.


If there is anything you think I’ve missed off I’d love to have a read and let you know what I think.

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