Should Ballroom Dancing Be an Olympic Sport?

Megumi Morita and Minato Kojima of Japan compete in the the Standard-Tango of the Dance Sports at the Zengcheng …Thanks to TV shows like "Dancing with the Stars" and movies like "Strictly Ballroom," most people think of ballroom dancing as a drama-fueled diversion where women wear swirling skirts or skimpy outfits as they're led around the stage by gorgeous guys. But in addition to grace and finesse, it also requires flexibility, endurance, and physical strength. In fact, there's an entire division of ballroom dancing where the competitors are considered athletes: DanceSport. And it's been recognized by the International Olympic Committee since 1997.

But in spite of the recognition -- it was featured in the closing ceremony at the 2000 games in Syndey, Australia -- DanceSport has yet to be included as a medaled event in the Olympics.

"Dance is a workout in disguise," Louis Van Amstel, a dance coach on "Dancing with the Stars" and the creator of LaBlast dance-based workout system, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. A three-time world ballroom dancing champion, Van Amstel lifts weights and leads group fitness classes to keep in top dancing shape. But while he says he considers dancing to be a sport, since it's not judged objectively -- competitors don't score goals and skills aren't easily measured -- he doesn't see it being included in the Olympics any time soon.

Like cheerleading, which has become very athletic, dancing is something that people think of as an activity that accompanies other events, Van Amstel points out. And those who watch -- and even some of the people who participate -- tend to view dancing as artistic rather than athletic, in spite of the activity level and time commitment involved.

"I don't consider it a sport more than I would consider ballet a sport," Boston-based entrepreneur Nataly Kogan told Yahoo! Shine. Her daughter, Mia, takes hourlong private and group ballroom dancing lessons each week and competes every few months. "I think this kind of dance is really great for posture, actually, as well as joints and general health," Kogan says. "I think of it as performance versus a sport, I guess."

"I think this kind of dance is really great for posture, actually, as well as joints and general health," she says. "I think of it as performance versus a sport, I guess."

The Olympics originally did not contain any "artistic" events. Modern sports like rhythmic gymnastics, ice dancing, and synchronized swimming that rely on artistic elements align themselves with more traditional sports. Synchronized swimmers, for example, tend to describe what they do as "water gymnastics" rather than focus on their ballet-like moves. And in rhythmic gymnastics, the balls, ribbons, hoops, ropes, or clubs do the jaw-dropping flips that standard gymnasts do with their bodies while the athletes emphasize flexibility and dexterity.

But one thing ballroom dancing has that other sports lack is gender parity -- that is, men and women compete against one another on the same playing field. That, and its increasing popularity on TV, could make it a contender in 2016.

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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