In his latest video
, John states that sport and art are not opposites. While I do agree with him 100%, I think it's still an interesting topic to think about. For example, here is a fun question: What is sport?
Let me give you a few interesting starting bullet points:
- Soccer is sport (don't think anyone ever would disagree)
- Figure skating is sport (even an Olympic one)
- Snooker is sport (here there's a lot of opposition, though)
- Starcraft II is a sport (only in Korea, though, but still - IT COUNTS!)
I myself am an Irish dancer, so I'll stick to that the most.
If you find it weird that I see myself as a sort of an athlete - please read on.
So, I suppose anyone would agree that Irish dance is a form of art. A lot of people have seen Riverdance or Lord of the Dance, and these shows are undoubtedly stage presentations that most definitely fall in the realm of art. Looking only at that, I would also never think of this form of dance as sport.
However! If you ask most dancers themselves, they will most commonly tell you that Irish dance is more of a sport than an art form. Why is that? Well, there is a slightly more hidden world of Irish dance, which consists of Irish dancing competitions. These have existed now for a looooong time (much longer than the shows, mind you). The dancers doing the shows are ALWAYS picked from the World's elite competitors (after they decide to retire from their competitive career, obviously).
When dancers prepare for large competitions, they have training regimes that rival those of Olympic athletes. In Irish dance competitions there are adjudicators. There are always winners and losers. Working hard generally tends to make you a winner (though not always). There are teams. There are audiences. Elements of dance have their ordered difficulty, so you can actually kind of give points to steps that the dancer has picked for himself (much like you would in figure skating).
One thing that does set Irish dance apart from most sports is that adjudicating is always subjective. There are general guidelines everyone kind of streams towards, but in the end, an adjudicator is free to pick what element of dance is the most important to him, and base the brunt of his scoring on that. This subjectivity is part of the official rules - judges literally should and have to base their judging on whichever criteria they deem worthy. So, Irish dance is *not* a sport in as much as there are no strict rules that go along the lines of "You win by scoring the most points, and you score points by getting a ball over a line."
However! If we have already decided to include in the category of "sport" things such as:
- Snooker, which requires NO physical strength, and is mostly a game of psychology and precision. (take poker as an even more extreme example - which is ONLY psychology)
- Figure skating, which clearly must have a subjective part of scoring
- Starcraft, which is 100% virtual
then why does it seem strange to say that dance is sport as well?
If we do kind of accept that Irish dance is a sport, well then there is an obvious follow-up question. What is NOT sport? Cause, it kinda seems to me we would lean toward a definition of sport that is gonna go kind of like:
"Sport is when you play a game alone ... or in a team. And there are rules ... but they can be judged subjectively. And there is a huge audience for it ... but there doesn't have to be. And it's a physical activity ... but not always. Sport is when you do stuff."
P.S. If you would like to learn more about the lovely world of competitive Irish dance, I would warmly suggest this lovely documentary about several kids preparing for and going to the 2010 World Champs. Jig.