Are Ballroom Dancers True Athletes?

Published in  
Ballroom Dance
January 28, 2020
Can we easily compare Ballroom Dancers to Marathon Runners or Wrestlers in athleticism? True Athletes is an article that I wrote to discuss the physical, mental and social aspects of being a Professional Dancer.

Can we compare Ballroom Dancers to Marathon Runners or Wrestlers in athleticism?

True Athletes is an article that I wrote for the World Dance Council’s Education Department back in 2013.

Disclaimer: The article below is redacted due to change in my view of things and the emphasis I would to put on the matter. You can check out the original by clicking the link below. Sorry, about some of the typos and grammar mistakes.

My original Article looked at Ballroom Dancers vs. Athletes. How and where we could improve. It had a lot of scientific information about what we should do in terms of diet and lifestyle, but I decided to take that part out since there is so much information on the internet already.

Ballroom Dancers as Athletes?

In our Ballroom Dance community, there is one question that is being asked ALL THE TIME. “Do you consider Ballroom dancing a sport or a form of art?” Really? Why does it matter? What is more important is what Ballroom dancing has become regardless of what you chose to call it.

Everyone can agree that more often than not, watching a ballroom dance competition, we happen to be spectators of a sporting event like the Olympic games. The only difference is that our adjudicators are not holding stopwatches but pocket computers or sheets of paper.  

We are required to have a lot of stamina; be more athletic and faster, more precise than the other competitors are. These are, indeed, characteristics that describe an athlete. But do we as Ballroom dancers qualify and fit that description?

“Pro Athletes Influence Society More Than Pastors”

Okay, let’s define what an athlete is. “An exceptionally physically fit person who actively participates in physical sports, possibly highly skilled in sports.” ( GREAT, we as ballroom dancers fit this definition, at least at first glance, we are “athletes.” So far, so good. What if we look at it from another perspective? “Pro Athletes Influence Society More Than Pastors” (Jeremy Weber,

Why would people look at athletes with such admiration and take them as deep inspiration? A simple answer: Because of their physical and mental strength, endurance, will power, motivation for success. Society looks at them as “Gods” because of their lifestyle (typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture.-­‐ and health condition. A sportsman is a mirror look of a healthy person who is very determined to achieve great heights and who can suffer significant pain thanks to their high determination and motivation.

A typical day of a professional athlete is entirely different from the one of a lawyer, for example. They have individual training plans, such as training for speed, endurance, explosive muscle contraction, muscle building programs. These definitions seem to resemble a lot of a ballroom dancer’s practice routine. We practice nearly every day; we do have different practices- one for endurance and stamina, one for technique, one for partnering, one for physical preparation, musical interpretation, etc.

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Digging deeper. Your body as a tool for creating mastery.

Have you ever thought about the only thing, which you are destined to live with throughout your entire life? Yes! It is your body. The body is the most powerful tool of a man. Everyone has a body, so... everyone is an athlete?! Indeed!

What if we think that we are craftsmen and our bodies are the tools and machines used for achieving perfection in producing, let's say a crystal vase? We know that craft masters take exceptional care for the tools and devices they are working with because they earn them their living. If tools are dirty, not well-oiled, or even broken, they would not be able to make money.

Recovery for Ballroom Dancers

Most professional athletes know this very well and work hard to preserve the best condition of their bodies throughout their entire career. Do we as Ballroom Dancers?

Now you might think that I am only referring to being fit? Well, it is not just about being visually fit, which, of course, is more pleasing to the eye and can give you an advantage as a ballroom dancer for sure.

An athlete’s body needs to be like a Rolex watch- “Crafted from the finest raw materials and assemble with scrupulous attention to every detail,” which is why Rolex is a Rolex, maybe the best watch out there, one of the most expensive, delivering the best possible performance.

The thing that made me write this article is that I don't believe that we (ballroom dancers) act like professional athletes. Most of the dancers are not paying enough attention when it comes to preparing their bodies for the training process and achieving peak performance. Part of the time, this is the result of the social stigma around Ballroom Dancing as being a hobby. Hobbies generally don't require a "peak performance."

Nowadays, I see dancers indulge in unhealthy habits the day before a major competition. Then they go out there dance four, five rounds, make the final, somehow dance through it, doesn’t feel right, fight with your partner, decide they need to practice more (which is probably true), go home, and repeat. No recovery practices, no massages, no physical therapy.

But something there is not right; something is missing. The sharpening of your tool for producing mastery is not there.

Recently Dance Magazine posted an article about the most demanding jobs in the U.S. Not surprisingly; Dance is number one. You can read the article below.

Dance Ranked Most Physically Demanding Job in the U.S.

Thinking about it all- I don't believe that this is only competitors' fault; it is our coaches and teachers we should turn to because we lack knowledge about these aspects of an athlete's life.

I really what to emphasize on the health aspect of it all. Having a healthy body is of vital importance for every human and for everyone determined to achieve peak performance, no matter if it's winning a World, European title, or feel good about your dancing.

Healthy diet for Ballroom Dancers

So how can we, as Ballroom dancers become real athletes who take a lot of things into consideration for their well-being? Simple- respect for ourselves, our bodies, and the craft come first.

Then we should educate ourselves-­ both coaches and competitors. As a teacher, not only a competitor now, I can see it. It all starts with us- the teachers of the young. If we show them the light, they can see it. We should pursue knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and the science of nutrition.

Reading this, you are going to think that I am writing about all this only because Ballroom dancing, and any type of dancing really, is a very visual sport and it matters how we look, but it’s not. What I want you to get out of this blog is that we need to shift our perspective towards healthier and responsible use of our primary tool for producing the art of Ballroom Dancing - our body.

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