As two of my favorite teams enter baseball’s post season to play a series of games to claim the title of 2009 World Champion, parallels between dance and sports have been on my mind a lot. After all, as dancers, we are professional athletes. We train everyday, sculpt our bodies, compete with others and ourselves and coach the next generation of artists. And we do it all, adding the elements of style, grace and humanity.
Paul Taylor made the baseball slide epic in his piece Esplanade. Nijinsky created Jeux, a ballet about a tennis match. In every football game there is a slew of gestures that I’m waiting for a great choreographer to tap into for artistic inspiration. On the flip side, it’s no secret football stars study ballet and tennis players practice grapevines. The lists continue. But when sports arenas sell out each game, and ballet companies are shutting down, there is clearly something unbalanced.
Last November, to promote their Nutcracker, members of Boston Ballet successfully took center stage at half time during a Celtics basketball game. Football star Emmitt Smith won “Dancing with the Stars” alongside ballroom dance studio owner Cheryl Burke. “So You Think You Can Dance” airs on the same channel as weekend baseball games. If we continue to use sports arenas to our advantage, maybe things can change. Enlist dancers’ soccer playing brothers for your productions, have dancers fundraise during little league or even offer evening dance classes for college athletes. And slowly but surely, maybe we can make national audiences as excited for Nutcracker season as they are for college basketball’s March Madness.