Many argue that Americans place more emphasis on professional sports than on professional music. Athletes make millions of dollars a year, while musicians are lucky to make a hundred thousand. Sports arenas constantly get makeovers, while theatres and performance halls look the same as they did when they were first built. Yet professional athletes might not be as good as they are today without the help of classical music.

Since the 1970’s when professional football player Lynn Swann first announced that he took ballet lessons to help improve his agility on the playing field, ballet has become a staple of American football. And professional football players aren’t the only ones to dance. NBA player Clyde Austin Drexler, Olympic Track and Field Star Maurice Green, and professional snowboarder Louis Vito all have history with dance. Even here, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has started a dance program to help with pre-season training. Not to mention the hit television series, Dancing with the Stars, that puts pro athletes up on stage with pro dancers.

So what are the benefits for athletes taking dance lessons?

On the physical side, dance lessons improve balance, flexibility, agility, stamina, and strength. Peak Performance relates in great detail many of the benefits football players specifically can gain from dancing. Cross-training is an important part of any sport: soccer players lift weights, marathoners swim laps, and athletes of all sports run to improve cardiovascular ability and endurance. Dance is just another sport in the cross-training line up.

But dance is different than other cross training options, because dance is not just a sport, but it is also an art. With dance, there is music. Specifically, traditional ballet pairs with classical music, both for warm-up barre routines and elaborate ballet corps performances.

While athletes are training for their next game they are also gaining appreciation for classical music. In the dance studio they learn about tempo, rhythm, dynamics, and phrasing, just as a classical music student learns in a music class. Athletes may even recognize some of pieces if they flip to a classical music radio station. Classical music becomes familiar and recognizable.

By taking a deeper look, we see that classical music has not really disappeared, but has just changed. Today our society gathers at the playing field rather than at the opera house. But there is still music on the field. The athletes themselves move to the music, the team works together like a synchronized ballet corps, and then fans sing along to their favorite fight songs.

Posted on October 25, 2011
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