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—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!)
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 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!