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Encore Dance Center helped celebrate the Lititz Halloween parade sponsored by the Lititz Lions Club on Monday, October 29, 2018.

Dance is not just an art form — it is a sport.

The definition of a sport, according to dictionary.com, is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

Dance matches this criterion of a sport; thus, dancers equally should be respected as athletes and dance respected as a sport. Dance is athletic, requires intense practice, is competitive and brings with it a probability of getting injured.

Dancers spend an anguishing amount of their lives perfecting this craft that requires dancers to be at their peak physical performance.

“As an 11-year veteran, I know what to expect from a competitive dance scene: four-minute dance sets, sweaty faces, back-to-back seven-hour rehearsals, and insane cardio workouts,” experienced dancer Grace Simms explained.

Every day, athletes condition their bodies to perform the skills required of them — the same is true of dancers. Dancers train themselves to increase stamina, without a break or pause, ensuring they can implement multiple abilities they need to execute.

“An athlete is a person trained in something involving physical agility, stamina, or strength,” the Celebrity Dance Studio blog stated (that studio has won many awards, including the Wisconsin State DanceSport Championship and Heart of America DanceSport Championship). “Dancers are athletes according to this definition because they meet all of the criteria.”

Dancers must have a sense of athleticism — without it, they would not be able to perform.

Dance is competitive, aiding its consideration as a sport.

Opponents argue that dance is not a sport because one does not win a trophy or medal; however, there are dance competitions that occur across the globe in which a dancer can win trophies, medals and money, just like any other sport.

“Dancers compete everywhere and anywhere in a variety of different styles,” the Celebrity Dance Studio blog explains. “Dancesport events are regulated by national and international organizations such as the World Dancesport Federation and The National Dance Council of America. Much like gymnastics or figure skating, dancers who compete are scored on multiple elements such as technique and execution.”

Also, dance is competitive in a nontraditional sense. Dancers compete during rehearsals to perform the most turns and to be placed in the front row, in the center — even if they are not competition dancers and only perform once a year at their annual recital (like me!). Dancers train for months on end to perfect skills that are added into routines, before even starting choreography for the year.

They also compete with themselves. Dancers are always working to improve — that is why they spend endless amount of time practicing, inside and outside of the studio.

Because of this commitment, there's a likelihood of injury — just like in any other sport.

Dance injuries have horrible repercussions. A “minor” injury can turn serious instantly — landing or falling out of a turn incorrectly, landing a leap or jump imperfectly, etc. A minor ankle fracture or a roll can turn into a broken ankle instantaneously. Every athlete must worry about being injured and take precautionary measures, and dancers must take the same care.

Why then is dance stigmatized in the athletic community? It meets the same standards as any other athletic contest, while being unique in its own right as both an art form and a sport.

Other athletes must stop stigmatizing dance and begin giving dance and dancers the respect they deserve.

Emily O'Neil is in the 11th grade at Conestoga Valley High School.