Sport, Art, or Both?

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Is dance a sport? Is dance an art? Can dance be categorized as both? The controversy surrounding dance’s categorization has been an ongoing debate since the early 1970s. With no definite conclusion to this debate, dancers do not have a clear designation as either artists and/or athletes. As such, unresolved challenges remain in the perceived value and significance of dance, particularly in postsecondary contexts. These challenges have significant implications for competitive dancers in postsecondary contexts, as their experiences as student-athletes and opportunities for participation in sport contexts are largely impacted by conceptualizations of dance by various stakeholders in university athletics. This research examined perceptions surrounding dance as a sport, art, or a combination of both in universities across Ontario, Canada. Competitive dancers, dance coaches, and athletic department staff in postsecondary contexts participated in semi-structured interviews to share their individual beliefs, knowledge, and understandings about competitive dance and the ways dancers occupy spaces as artists and athletes. Most participants stated they viewed dance as both an art and a sport but demonstrated tension in how dancers occupied spaces as legitimate athletes within postsecondary institutions. While participants indicated openness to the idea of dance as a sport and dancers as athletes, the ways in which this was attainable at the university-level was hindered by various institutional and systemic barriers.