Back to sport vs. art in dance competitions: in the dance competitions, as far as I know, the goal is still purely subjective.
Contrast this to figure skating. If you want to enter a particular competition, there are a number of rules you must follow for your "program". Examples of this kind of requirement involve:
* The program must be 2 - 2.5 minutes long
* It must include a double axel and double salcow
* It must include a sit spin
* It must not involve any back flips
You are then scored on how TECHNICALLY well you perform each prescribed move. There is also a minor part added on for "artistry". The best program from an artistic standpoint --- i.e. the most enjoyable to watch --- doesn't always win the gold.
That is the SPORT of figure skating. Yes, figure skaters can also do it as an ART. They can go pro, do exhibitions, etc. But the CENTER OF MASS of skating is the SPORT of it, with highly prescribed rules on how you do things.
That is very different from ballet. And yes, maybe there are ballet competitions that are that much prescribed. Like you give the same pas de deux to 20 couples and then see who does it the best. But that's not where the center of gravity of ballet lies.
As for whether or not top ballet dancers are "elite athletes" --- that is debatable. Elite athletes are people who have such an extreme build in one way or another that they can run faster, jump longer, dive higher, etc. than most anyone else.
Tall people make good runners. Massive people make good football players. People with lots of fast twitch fiber make good sprinters. Anatomy and physiology, more than anything else, makes elite athletes elite. You're not an elite athlete because you weren't born with a particular extreme type of anatomy or physiology.
In contrast, no one physical trait will guarantee a great ballet career. Yes, some peoples' bodies have an easier time with it than others. But in the end, ballet is highly multi-dimensional. Flexibility is good --- but the most flexible dancers get injured more frequently and have short careers. Dancers who are extra-tall or extra-short have a harder time finding jobs --- it's best to be of average height. Being able to jump high or turn well can be helpful --- but is certainly not required if you can do something else really well. Even extreme turnout isn't an iron-clad requirement.
What you DO have to have is ENOUGH of the "right stuff" in ENOUGH different dimensions to make you a good dancer. And many of those dimensions aren't even physical.
It's like winning a presidential election: if you get 100% of the vote in a big state like California and 49% of the vote all the other states, then you've got the majority of the votes but you've lost in a big way. To win, you have to get at least 50% in a large number of states.
But yes, ballet is highly athletic. Ballet dancers are athletes. And in the end, we succeed or fail in part based on our athletic prowess. But all that does NOT necessarily make it a sport. ATHLETIC is not the same as SPORT. Race car driving, for example, is NOT atletic, but is ABSOLUTELY considered a sport.
<small>[ 02 April 2004, 08:47 PM: Message edited by: citibob ]</small>