Today I want to do a blog post commenting on a popular argument between the ballet and the outside world: whether or not ballet is a sport. I have a unique view on this dispute and I am happy to share my opinions with you.
Ballet is a beautiful thing. It has a lot of artistry, a lot of expression and a lot of joy (or sorrow) invoked by the way a great ballerina dances. It is not pure dance .It is not purely athletic either: it contains an extra layer. This extra layer is what defines the experience and what makes dance so enjoyable to watch.
Imaginea great ballerina, such as Svetlana Zakharova or Natalia Osipova, dancing with a complete lack of emotion. It would just be steps. While these steps are athletic, amazing and impressive, watching the steps alone would be horribly, horribly boring and depressing.
One thing I must specify: A lack of emotion does not mean a lack of artistry. Sometimes it is done purposefully in a choreographed piece to portray a certain idea, aroma or environment. In fact, sometimes a lack of emotion has a very artistic and interesting effect.
As opposed to ballet, a sport is an athletic activity and an organized competition. Sports are single-layered. There is no artistry, expression or beauty involved- it is simply a display of strength and power. People find it stimulating to watch for this reason – the feats achieved impress and fill the spectators with adrenaline. Ballet doesn’t seek this. The goal is not to impress the audience, but to involve them and absorb them into either the story or into an emotion.
To analyze this from a different angle, there is a difference between a group of spectators and an audience. An audience is actively involved, whereas a spectator is just an observer. Observation is not at all what, for example, a dinner party going to the ballet expects. They expect their own emotions and feelings to develop from those of the dancers. They expect to be fully immersed in the story.
In a way, going to a ballet is like reading a book. The book is long, builds up as you go along and is complex. There are often multiple layers to it: a plot is the first, but there is also theme, symbols and greater ideas flowing behind it. It is complicated and sometimes difficult to grasp, but mostly readers understand and recognize the underlying layers subconsciously as they read.
Going to the ballet has both of those layers: the blunt, overt plot, and behind that the ideas, emotions and artistic scene. It is the choreographer who engages the dancers to convey these extra elements in order to bring forth a greater point.
A sports game is single-layered. It is solely the plot. And while that can be very interesting, just as it is in a book (it entertains you and invigorates you), it does not go any deeper than that.
So, to conclude: if ballet were merely single-layered it would be the worst thing ever to watch. Ballet has a special attraction, because every step, every note of the music, is designed to convey something. I call upon you to appreciate that and start to look for some of the clues, nuances and secrets intertwined within the layers of a ballet. Try to look in between the lines so to speak and start to recognize what I describe… and then you will agree with me that ballet is not a sport.