Dancing, sports share common ground
Thursday, February 09, 2017
Footwork, tempo, rhythm, pivot, crossover. That terminology turns up regularly in sports practice. Or was it dance rehearsal?
The disciplines of sports and dancing share more than language, experts say. Each activity can benefit participants in the other field, according to Maria Royals, the Dance Department Chair at George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology.
"Dance can help athletes develop flexibility, balance, rhythm and coordination. Athletics can help dancers develop cardiovascular endurance, spatial awareness, and is useful for cross training of specific muscle groups," said Royals, who was recognized as the 2016 Dance Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America — the Society of Health and Physical Educators.
Some athletes already realize this. Many pro athletes have engaged in dancing, for fitness and for fun — beyond end zone gyrations.
Numerous studies have proven the health benefits of dancing, including studies on specific forms such as salsa dancing. Similar results have been determined for athletics and physical activity in general.
Non-scholarly anecdotal support for the ties between the two also are prevalent. One dance instructor, in teaching the frame to a couple, compared the handhold to the "50-yard line." A sportswriter acquaintance, after seeing a live performance by famed ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, noted the Russian's athleticism by declaring that "Baryshnikov could dunk!"
Dancing and athletics share other common ground, said instructor Scott Williams.
"I talk with my students quite often about how strategies, tactics and physical attributes cross over into various sports and exercise," said Williams, owner and founder of Camp4Real. "This is true with dance as it promotes balance, flexibility and agility among many other attributes."
Tennis great Serena Williams would rather work out in the offseason by dancing instead of hitting the gym or the treadmill, the superstar told People magazine last year. It's hard to argue with the results. She's won 72 singles tournament titles, including 22 majors — with seven of those coming at Wimbledon.
Royals explained the link between sports and dance while noting the difference.
"To me, an athlete is one who develops specific physical skills in order to compete with others. Athletes develop strength, endurance and coordination in order to master a specific sport or athletic endeavor. Dancers do likewise," she said. "What differentiates dance from athletics is purpose. Dancers attempt to communicate an idea, event or emotion, while athletes attempt to win a game or overcome others."
Massachusetts girls basketball coach Paul Keenan turns to dance to help the high school basketball team that he coaches. His team at Burncoat High School saw significant improvement this season, which the coach and players attribute to dance workouts.
Team captain Maire Gallagher, one of four players in the school's dance magnet program, told the Telegram that with dance "a lot of what we do helps with balance and strength. I think we come into the season feeling like we're already in great shape and ready to play."
Susan Anderson, the director of the dance program at the University of South Carolina, draws athletes from various sports to her class on Dance Appreciation. She sometimes uses sports terms in her instructions to the class, which is attended by about 1,000 students each year.
For athletes and dancers, putting their best foot forward brings healthy results, no matter in which activity they're participating.
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