Should Dance Be in the Olympics?

On Sunday, with the London Olympics in full swing, we posed a question on our Facebook page: "Do you think dance should be added to the Olympics as a sport?" We were overwhelmed not only by the number of responses (for the record: about 55 of you said "yes," while about 25 said "no"), but also by the amount of time and thought many of you put into your comments. (There was a pretty lively discussion about the subject on Twitter, too.)Pretty much everyone agreed that dancers are athletes. But is dance a sport? On the "yes" side, several of you argued that dancers in many styles already compete—they're already judged on theoretically objective criteria. Often, they're even awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. And top dancers definitely work as hard as Olympians.On the "no" side, there was a lot of discussion about the subjectivity of artistry. How can you compare a brilliant ballet dancer's performance to a brilliant street dancer's performance, for example? They're artistic and expressive in completely different ways. And  if, in the interest of objectivity, a bunch of "required" dance elements are established, what will that do to dance?I've pasted a few of our favorite comments here. Check out the whole conversation on Facebook (don't forget to "like" DS!). Then chime in with your own thoughts. We love that you're all so passionate about dance, and about this subject in particular—we want to hear what you have to say.Yes, dance should be added to the Olympics:"Most definitely. Dance is as athletic and requires as much training as other Olympic sports. Dancers are some of the toughest (emotionally and physically) athletes I've ever met...and among the must dedicated and hardworking." —Shannon Hayward"Some people say that it's too subjective, but so is gymnastics! Ballet has a technique just like gymnastics. There's a right and wrong (your feet have to be pointed, your knees have to be locked unless you're hyperextended, etc.) If competitions like Starpower can judge dance routines, then they should be able to create some kind of a rubric for an Olympic competition." —Grace Hamilton"Rhythmic gymnastics is also very artistic, and it is an Olympic sport. I think it is unfair that dancing is not considered a sport by many people. Dance requires as much physical, mental, and emotional discipline as any other sport." —Taylor Ryne Jackson"Dancers train their whole lives for their 'sport.' It requires crazy talent, commitment , focus and determination to succeed in dance....just like any other Olympic sport." —Terri DysartNo, dance shouldn't be added to the Olympics:"Yes, dance requires hard work, years of dedication, self discipline, and an understanding of your body that surpasses that of most athletes. But just because you have exceptional technique doesn't mean you are an amazing dancer. Without passion, love, fearlessness, and a willingness to leave your soul exposed on a stage, dance is empty, void of the most important part of the art form: what the individual brings to it. That is not something you can score or judge based on a point system." —Eldon L. Johnson"Dance is an art form. Although dancers must be as strong as athletes, they should never substitute tricks for art. We see far too much of that at various competitions—how many fouettés can you pull off, instead of what story you can tell us through your dance. Skating and gymnastics can be beautiful to watch, but are hamstrung by having to do all those tricks. A dancer can and should be above all, an artist." —Joan Robinson Borchers"No. Ballet is extremely athletic, yes, but it requires an artistry that goes beyond objective judging. Also, I like the fact that the lines between athleticism and artistry are blurred in ballet. Ballet should be given the same support and exposure as any other sport, but shouldn't be judged in the same manner because it is so versatile and loved by people for so many varying reasons." —Robyn Tye"I love dance and would love to watch it, but if all of a sudden there were numerous required moves to be able to judge dancers equally, the creative choreography we all love to watch would suffer. I love watching ice skating the most when they can do the moves they want and just let loose, for example." —Koty Zelinka Cole

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Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

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Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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