Classical Ballet: An Art or a Sport?

Becca Borawski Jenkins


Coaching, Strength and Conditioning, Martial Arts


Dancing is clearly an artistic endeavor, but it also requires great physical skill and puts great physical demands on the body. With the amount of training involved in preparing for a performance, and the stress and intensity of that performance, one could argue dance has similar qualities, intensities, and time intervals as a sport.


Training for dance consists of bursts of varying intensity exercise followed by periods of lower intensity or rest. Professional dancers typically train for multiple hours every day.



Performance consists of longer periods of demand on the body than training and dancers generally experience higher heart rates, but still in shorter intervals than one would think of an endurance sport.


crossfit, backsquat, strength and conditioning, dance, ballet



A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research took a look at classical ballet from the perspective of it being a sport. They selected previously published research and examined professional ballet dancers along a series of fitness parameters:


  • Aerobic capacity – Professional dancers were found to have lower demands on the heart than non-professional level dancers, perhaps due to physical adaptation from the volume and years of training.
  • Muscular power and endurance – Ballet dancers demonstrate higher vertical jumps than the average population and also a greater adaptation to long periods of demand on their muscles.
  • Muscular strength – While dancers demonstrate greater strength in their hips than other populations, they are generally wary of strength training due to the aesthetic demands of ballet.
  • Anthropometry – To meet the aesthetic requirements of ballet, dancers frequently keep their caloric intake very low possibly predisposing them to bone density problems and injuries.
  • Flexibility – Dancers, on average, display a much higher capability than average.
  • Agility – Not much information on dancers and agility could be found by the study, but dance training was found to increase agility in athletes in other sports.


In conclusion, the study found classical ballet could be compared with other high-intensity interval training, but unlike athletes in sports, ballet dancers are not always physically prepared for the demands put on their bodies.


This lack of conditioning leads to injuries and limits the potential of a dancer. The dilemma becomes trying to add strength and conditioning training to their already busy training schedules and also limiting the potential aesthetic of strength training effects on the body.


The study recommended a solution would be to trade two to three dance classes per week in a dancer’s schedule for physical conditioning classes emphasizing fitness rather than technique.

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