Is Ballet Considered a Sport?

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Is Ballet A Sport?

Since its inception, Ballet has been considered a dance, and there was a time that Ballet was not available to all people. In the modern era, you can find a ballet class nearly everywhere. Since one can get an excellent cardiovascular workout through dancing, and Ballet is a dance, is it considered a sport?

Let’s break down Ballet to its origins and arguments for and against Ballet being considered a sport.

Origins of Ballet

Ballet comes fromBalletto,” as the Italian diminutive means “to dance and jump about.” Note that its vocabulary is based on French terminology.  

The origins of ballet date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. It started as a method of entertainment for aristocrats as a formal dance using costumes, music, scenery, and other forms of visual artistic elements. Ballet incorporated stage design poetry and tells a story with artistic dance movements. Starting in the Italian Renaissance courts, Ballet traveled to France and later to Russia.

Taking a closer look at Ballet, you will notice that it is composed of various technical, quick foot movements, jumps, twists, and turns, all performed with precise, synchronized motions. Skills required to become an expert ballet dancer take years to master. Masters at Ballet are exquisitely breathtaking to watch, making the often-used comparison to a swan appropriate. 

Qualifications for a Sport 

Earlier, we mentioned that there are arguments on both sides of Ballet being a sport or just a form of artistic expression. Let’s take a look first at what qualifies something as a sport.

By definition, a sport means diversion, entertainment, fun.” It’s also a “participation in activities involving physical exertion and skill, especially competitive activities regulated by set rules or customs.”

An interesting definition, which is along the lines of Ballet being a form of art, is that a sport is “a theatrical performance.”

Qualifications for an Art

The Oxford English Dictionary defines art as “a skill and its display or application.” More precisely, art is “the application of skill to subjects of taste, like poetry, music, dancing, and the like.” The third definition of art is “the application of skill to the arts of imitation and design.”

Are Sports and Art The Same?

Scrutinizing the above definitions for sport and art, you can see a fine line between the two. In fact, there is very little difference. Therefore, perhaps there isn’t a need to separate the two entities. There are plenty of similarities in opening your mind and eliminating preconceived notions of sport and art. To become an expert at both, you need patience, dedication to the craft, mental fortitude, and practice to hone your skills.  

One way to combine the two is to think of top-notch athletes as the Picassos of their sports. Beyond just interpreting definitions from a dictionary, what is the scientific answer to whether Ballet is a sport? According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a sport is any activity that improves power, endurance, and muscular strength. In addition, a sport can improve agility and flexibility.

Ballet, by this definition, is clearly a sport since it crosses the t’s and dots the I’s in the definition. Practicing Ballet obviously increases flexibility and agility but always builds endurance, power, and muscular strength similar to that in athletes.

The one area that differs is that athletes train their bodies and technique, whereas dancers practice mainly technique, but it must be noted that technique alone does build cardiovascular endurance. This is not to insinuate that ballet dancers don’t take their physical conditioning seriously. The fact is that a more significant number of dancers take physical conditioning classes. The important thing to note is that they do so primarily to enhance their dance skills.

Arguments For Ballet Being a Sport

There is not a clear-cut answer; it’s really yes and no. First, Ballet can be considered a sport because it has entertainment value and is fun for the right audience. This fun goes beyond those in the audience and extends to the participants during performance and practice sessions.

The amount of pleasure many feel when performing on stage is indescribable. After months and sometimes years of hard work, preparing for a performance is all worth it when hearing an abundance of applause from the audience.

With strict rules in place about the form and posture in Ballet, there is an incredible amount of mental discipline, skill, technique, and physical exertion involved. While rules on posture may seem weak compared to rules in other sports, rules are rules that must be followed.

The amount of physical exertion required to become an elite ballet dancer matches any athlete’s practice. Examining the last definition of a sport in the Oxford Dictionary, a sport is a performance. This is a given when it comes to any form of dancing.

Competitive Aspect

Here’s more meat on the “ballet is a sport” bone. Ballet is very competitive. Ballet dancers compete with each other all the time, on or off the stage. Say what you will, but the competition seen by professional dancers is real and intense, just as much as seen in other athletes in a game or match.

The one area where some people argue that Ballet isn’t a sport because it doesn’t require a team effort.  While a ballet dancer is responsible for his or her own routine, the performance is ultimately only as good as those around you. This is true whether you are the best dancer on stage or the worst. All dancers must be in unison; one wrong move can ruin your routine and the entire performance you worked diligently for months to master.

Finally, a sport requires at least one coach. Even the top athletes in the world have coaches, and ballet dancers are no exception. The ballet master or mistress is responsible for making sure each dancer gets the most out of his or her ability.

An Argument Why Ballet Is Not A Sport

The one argument that Ballet is not a sport is performing a routine just for the pure beauty and appreciation of the dance. It doesn’t matter how physically challenging your routine is if you are not using it to increase your overall fitness level and health.

Having said that, you will increase your fitness level whether you recognize it. Simply put, when practicing ballet with the intent of performing, Ballet is clearly an art form. Why? Because Ballet is not the only form of dance.   


If you want to dance just for your own enjoyment, you certainly can for the pure love of it. However, you can also become more severe and practice Ballet diligently. You can approach Ballet like an artist with mental discipline, or you can practice Ballet for increased levels of fitness. Many people like to dance in various forms as a way to keep workouts fun and fresh.

In the end, you can view Ballet as a sport and an art. It all boils down to your perspective of Ballet and dance. I believe if you are just dancing for pleasure and elegance without intending to compete or gain fitness, then you are viewing Ballet as an art form.

On the other hand, if you work to win competitions and improve flexibility, endurance, agility, strength, and overall fitness, then Ballet is definitely a sport.