Dancers: The Artletes
by Mara Leyendecker
When the subject of dance comes up in conversation, one might associate it with a number of words; graceful, unique, and artistic are just a few examples. What about the word “athletic?” Dancers do many interesting moves on the stage, such as pirouettes, leaps, and partner techniques, but can these tricks be compared to the athletic movements featured in other sports? Committed dancers train more than twenty hours a week, usually while also attending school. This is as much, if not more than, the amount of time that students train for other athletic activities. However, dancing is not meant to be a competitive activity. Rather, its main purpose is to be enjoyed and interpreted.
In order to appropriately portray the difference between an athlete and a dancer, I created a visual representation of some research that I had done. I created a video addressing the question: “Should dance be an Olympic event?” Various sport and dance clips were used to demonstrate my side of the argument. I decided to take the side that dance is an art form rather than a sport. I chose to discuss this side of the controversy because I have been a dancer since the age of two. Since I was little, I have viewed this activity more as a beautiful art form rather than a sport. When I step onto stage, I become vulnerable to the audience and am able to both entertain and express my inner self and emotions to them. There is no greater feeling than this. I decided to include video clips of myself dancing at the beginning of the video. This allowed me to show the audience how truly passionate I am about this controversy and how I myself have lived the life of a dancer.
When making the video, I decided that the audience should be comprised of dancers themselves, those who enjoy watching dance performances, dance teachers, and those involved in the arts. I included clips that allowed the audience to immediately see contrasts between dance and sports in order to support my side of the argument. One of these clips shows two dancers doing two different styles of dance: one performing in a classical ballet style and the other in a hard hitting hip hop routine. By including this clip, I was able to show the audience how dance can be performed in a variety of styles, all of which are equally difficult and important. I continued this point by including nearly identical clips of two different Olympic figure skaters. Both of the figure skaters had very similar routines with the same steps and movements.
In order to further support my argument, I decided to include words and quotes in the video. One quote came from former dancer and current dance teacher, Della Lehane. Della stated that, “As for dance being in the Olympics, I am against it.” Della began her dance training at an early age and continues to teach young dancers this art form. She believes that one of the only similarities between dancers and athletes are the amount of physical training that each must go through to become successful in their trade. Giving evidence that supports my argument from a former dancer and current dance teacher further emphasizes the importance of keeping dance an art form rather than a sport.
I also included music in the video in order to make it more interesting and appealing. I decided to choose a song that related to dance and a song that many people would enjoy listening to and possibly find controversial. I chose the song, “Human” by The Killers. This song is originally based on a Hunter S. Thompson quote, “Are we human or are we dancer?” His interpretation is that the next generation is composed of “dancers” whose lives are choreographed and robotic, and as a result they do not think for themselves. While dancing does involve choreographed routines and steps, it also involves an element of interpretation and making it into your own style. This makes it the art form that it is. In this same way, I took a different perspective on the meaning of this song, as I believe that dancers are not robots that simply learn a pattern of steps. The song to me symbolizes the countless hours of hard work and dedication that dancers put into their art form. In my opinion, by singing, “Are we human or are we dancer?” the artist is saying that dancers are nearly another form of life. Dancers and artists take on a new lifestyle all their own. They perform physical movements that go beyond the normal skills of humans and engage in rigorous practices that only the most dedicated and determined people can achieve. Also, it was important that this video be engaging and thought provoking to the audience so that they would be enthused with the major points, perhaps enough that they would share them with their friends, thus bringing more awareness towards this side of the controversy.
My original research led to a research essay for my English class. However, this video was very different than the paper. In the research paper, I discussed both sides of this argument: dance as a sport and dance as an art. I included many sources to back up points that I made in the paper including surveys, newspaper articles, and websites. For the video, I decided to use only one of my sources: a quote from an interview that I conducted with my former dance teacher. I chose this quote because I felt that it reiterated the points that I had made in the video without being redundant. This statement was another way for me to show the audience that even dancers support the viewpoint that dance is art, not a sport, and should be treated as such. It was difficult to choose only one source from the essay to include in the video, but I feel that out of all of my sources, the one I chose best supports the points that I made in the video.
To enhance the persuasive purpose of my video, I decided to include many questions that would prompt the audience to think. I then provided support for how someone who views dance as an art form rather than a sport would answer these questions. For example, on the video I asked the question, “If dance were an Olympic sport, how would the competitors be judged?” To answer this question, I provided the audience with visual evidence of two figure skaters. They both had similar routines compared to two dancers performing different styles. This allowed the audience to see the contrast between two dance routines and the many similarities between two figure skating routines.
I think that in general the video was a very effective way of presenting this side of the controversy. The music fit well with the video and the visuals provided effective evidence for the points made throughout. I hope that after viewing this video people feel as passionate about this controversy as I do. According to ballerina Brittany Kottler, “Art is not something that can be judged on a scale of 1-10 because the judgment takes away the passion and creativity.” This passion and creativity is what makes keeps the tradition of dance unique and original. Rather than focusing on dance as a competition, it is vital to remember the grounds upon which dance was founded on: a way to portray emotion and feeling. As a result, it is very important to me to keep the tradition of dance as an art form alive for many generations to come.
Abramson, Samara. “Dance Should Be an Olympic Sport.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. October 11, 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
“FreeStyle vs. Ballet – Twitch and Ashley Bouder Commercial.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 1 Feb. 2011. Web. March 2014.
Komissarov, Pavel. “Touching performance of Olympic Gold Medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya at 2013 Skate Canada.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 28 Dec. 2013. Web. April 2014.
Kottler, Brittany. “Ballet is an Art, Not a Sport.” Huffpost Arts and Culture. Huffington Post. February 8, 2014. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
Lehane, Della. Interview by Mara Leyendecker. Facebook, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Leyendecker, Alec. “St. Xavier Bombers Football Highlights: Alec Leyendecker.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 21 Jan., 2013. Web. April 2014.
Leyendecker, Mara. “Medora Variation (World Ballet Competition).” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 March, 2014. Web. April 2014.
The Killers. Human. Island Records, 2008. Digital download.
Mara Leyendecker originally wrote a research essay and a reflection to accompany her video for Professor Lisa Beckelhimer’s Sports & Society class during her freshman year at the University of Cincinnati. She is continuing her education at UC in the Biological Sciences program and plans to graduate in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree. She hopes to pursue a degree in the medical field to become a dermatopathologist. In addition to her love for science, Mara has enjoyed dance class and theater since the age of three. She hopes to continue pursuing this passion in the future. She is grateful to Professor Beckelhimer for all of her encouragement and patience throughout this process; her brother, Alec, for helping her to edit both her writing and video; as well as her mother and father for helping her to pursue both her science and dance careers up to this point. Their support and love is a key factor in Mara’s success.