Dislocated Knees, rolled ankles, hip impingements. No, I am not talking about football injuries. I am talking about dance injuries. I watched a Contemporary Dance group perform recently and was blown away by the amount of ability required. Athleticism is a broad spectrum and has a very vague defining line. Too often people are bickering about Lebron James and Tom Brady's athletic ability. As a trainer, I watch a persons body and analyze what is happening, good or bad. Four years and nine hours a day doing this, it is hard to turn it off while attending a contemporary dance performance. Today I'm making a case for the more elegant side of the athletic spectrum.
I'm not saying that the ability to touch your toes means you are an athlete. I am saying the ability to do full splits while leaping through the air is worth an eye brow raise much like throwing a football 60 yards. Not everyone can do it. Flexibility is noteworthy check in the athletic column because the speed and transition from basically "yoga-esque" poses present a level of difficulty unmatched in few areas of life. A lot of humans find yoga difficult, now up the tempo and repetition to boot.
Lifting heavy doesn't define a sportsman.
A more naïve younger me would define being athletic as a "strong" human and I am not alone. A ballet (for a lack of better word) dancer may not be able to put up 225 on bench 34 times but they have the ability to do an abstract, isometric hold with one arm much like an Olympic gymnast. Might I add, with only half the muscle mass of a gymnast. That athleticism boils down to overall body awareness and mechanics. Lifting heavy things requires very little body mechanics/awareness.
Some of you read the word cardio and instantly made an awful face that even a snapchat filter would likely not save. Yes, some routines require little cardio and I am not talking about that. I'm talking about a five minute routine with jumping, turning, twisting, planking and whatever else may be laid out to get the heart rate above resting. Five minutes is a similar time frame of a UFC round and we would consider them to be in the upper echelon of athletes. The ebb and flow may be way different, but the energy output is comparable.
Control of the body goes a long way in terms of being considered athletic. Agility is more of a defining attribute of ability. Usain Bolt can run fast in a line but can he stop on a dime and switch directions while kicking? The performance I just watched was right up there with the footwork of Michael Jordan. Particularly in the realm of running and jumping and landing with no shoes repeatedly. I've watched a lot of people do jump squats with zero to no control, which again means not a lot of people exude that ability, furthering my belief in a degree of athleticism. The small, quick twitch muscle demanded of this style of dance is further evidence.
Athleticism isn't defined by the amount of injuries you can incur over time but says something about the demanding physical nature of what the body is going through. From Michael Phelps to Mikhail Baryshnikov athletes take many forms. Some sportsman are judged by time or points or score and some are not which makes the debate that more difficult. These are just the tip of the iceberg notes taken during a hour and half show from someone with surface level background in contemporary dance. The ability to see a person that is athletic on the other hand runs deep. My subjective opinion is that there is some serious difficulty in what is happening on that stage.