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These 5 Olympics Sports Have a Lot in Common with Dance

Tokyo 2020 may have just wrapped up, but we're still not completely over the hype...and might already be excited for the next Olympic chapter.

Breakdancing is hitting the Olympics stage in Paris 2024, marking the first time that dance has explicitly been part of the world's biggest sporting event. In a way, though, dance has actually been part of the Olympics all along. Here are five Olympic sports that share common roots with dance, or borrow heavily from dance's technique and artistry.

Artistic Gymnastics

Artistic gymnastics—gymnastics with floor, bars, beam, and vault for women, and floor, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars, high bars, and still rings for men—shares a lot of sensibilities with dancing. Scores are based on technique and execution, and things like straight knees, clean lines, and pointed toes are prized. Women incorporate more dance elements to their beam and floor routines than men, and unlike men, they perform their floor routines to music. (Although if you ask us, the men should get to show their artistry just as much as the women. Let the men perform to music! Let's see the men leap!)

Rhythmic Gymnastics

The sport that shares the most in common with dance is likely rhythmic gymnastics. Any dancer or dance enthusiast can understand the insane level of talent it takes for rhythmic gymnasts to perform their leaps and turns while also handling their apparatus. Rhythmic gymnasts compete choreographed routines to music as soloists and in groups, just like competitive dancers. Putting aside the low relevé on their turns, it's abundantly clear that rhythmic gymnasts incorporate a lot of dance and particularly ballet technique into their routines.

Artistic Swimming

Artistic swimmers really know how to own the stage, or pool in their case. Formerly known as synchronized swimming, artistic swimming features precise dance movements combined with swimming. The athletes are judged on their choreography, artistry, synchronization, and technique. Their makeup, hair, and costumes rival any professional dance performance, and they have to be waterproof. Fun fact—since hair gel washes away in water, artistic swimmers style their hair with unflavored Jell-O. Try that the next time you put your hair in a bun for class!


Ballet and fencing both use French as their universal language. To begin each bout, fencers stand at attention, in a position remarkably similar to first position in ballet. Next, the referee says "En garde, pret, allez" which translates to "On guard, ready, go." The fencer takes their "en garde" position with their front foot pointed forward and back foot turned out, like a half turned-in fourth position. Also like dancers, fencers move on the balls of their feet to keep their movements quick and controlled.


Have you seen #RaveHorse? Mopsi the dressage horse and her rider, Team USA's Steffen Peters, won 10th place and went viral for their club-worthy performance set to EDM. At the risk of oversimplifying—dressage experts, feel free to chime in—dressage is horse dancing. It's a person and a horse performing a choreographed routine to music. The judges score based on technical execution of the steps and their presentation, just like dance competitions. Pas de deux? More like pas de cheval!

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Photo by Brooke Fera

Enter the World of the Knicks City Dancers with 2 of Their Newest Rookies

Auditions rarely fail to deliver on suspense. But this? This was the nail-biter to end all nail-biters. Hayoung Roh and Chelsea McCloskey, both professional dancers based in NYC, had made it through what felt like endless rounds of cuts, both on Zoom and in person. Out of the nearly 500 dancers (from 30 states and nine countries) who'd answered the Knicks City Dancers' open call for video submissions, just 20 remained—McCloskey and Roh among them. "We were separated into six holding rooms, where we kept trying to figure out the math," Roh recalls. "How many girls are there in total? Who was called back?"

Finally, the women returned to the audition room to dance one last time—or so they were told. Instead, KCD head coach Alyssa Quezada dropped her bombshell: All 20 women had made the final cut. They would be 2021–22 Knicks City Dancers: the latest and greatest edition of one of the most prestigious NBA dance teams. "It was the biggest celebration and the coolest moment of my dance career so far," says McCloskey now. And that was just the oh-so-perfectly-dramatic beginning.

Chelsea McCloskey stands on her left leg while kicking her right leg up with her arms crossed, a smile on her face. She is auditioning for KCD. Chelsea McCloskey Photo by Tess Mayer

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