Dancers vs. “Athletes”: The state of the current athlete
I attended a show last night at the Concourse exhibition center in San Francisco. It was a charity event where athletes from UC Berkeley are pitted against dancers from the Oberlin Dance College in San Francisco. The events range from relay races to obstacle courses, jousting, and climbing. Some of the events were questionable, and i’m sure folks reading this could come up with a more accurate assessment of tests to display athleticism than what was presented last night. However, it was interesting to see the athletes compete against the dancers.
The take home point…
The dancers kicked the athlete’s asses.
This got me to thinking about how we cultivate athlete’s in this country, our societal movement quality and quantity, and the lack of general movement skills that these particular athletes didn’t have. This is not meant to be a cut on the athletes, nor is it a truly fair representation of athleticism because this is a nebulous term, and the events were not exactly a wide-sweeping measure of all around athleticism.
With that out of the way, the dancers exhibited much more body control, coordination, and strength to weight ratio than their Division I Athlete competitors. There is much validity to the training of a dancer that could be extrapolated and utilized for athlete’s of all sports. Dancers probably won’t have the speed and strength of a college athlete, however cultivating general movement quality should be a pre-requisite of all sports.
Can you balance on one leg and move around without falling over? Do you have the range of motion to move effortlessly through space? Are you strong on a relative vs. absolute basis? By this i mean that the athlete needs to be strong for his/her size, not just able to bench press 800 pounds. Dancers swept in all of these general skills, as well as what appears to be a better adapted sensory system which allowed them to move so effortlessly.
Most athletes now are coming more and more from years of sitting on their butts, playing video games, and specializing in sports early on. In the turn of the 20th century, the foundation of movement in physical education came out of dance and swedish gymnastics. Coupled with this was more movement as a part of everyday life…walking 5 miles in the snow to school every day, hay bailing for cash in the summer, etc…just like grandpa used to do. This element developed and cultivated quality movement before whatever sport was chosen later in life. I hope someday we can return to a society not fearful of gymnastics or viewing dance as a “waste of time” and we start to look to beautiful movers a little in regards to how to cultivate smart, as well as strong and powerful bodies. In the early days of the iron game, weightlifters were able to jump over hurdles, do full bridge backbends, and balance on one hand (see: http://www.lostartofhandbalancing.com/home.html). What happened to learning new skills and perfecting movement quality? Has our society become so expedient that we’ve stripped away the core movement that is celebratory of the human animal’s versatility for super-specialized sport skills like throwing a baseball?
The athlete that can move uninhibited by range of motion limitation, can move under control, AND have tons of strength and power in reserve is a scary athlete indeed. I foresee in the future a large portion of amateur and elite athletics returning to the basics and doing off-season training focusing on general movement skills to restore function to human body and make a smarter, more sensory-aware body. Could it be better to put down the weights 4x/week plus sports-specific practice for 2 sessions a week of general movement skill conditioning?
I guess i just want to see more linemen doing somersaults, handstands, and arabesques…