Football vs Ballet

Misty vs FootballI came into this article expecting to find irrefutable proof that dancers easily outdistance their competition.  I remember back in high school when a football player challenged a girl who took spent about four hours dancing after school each day to a push up contest—and she beat the pants off of him.  I thought that when I wrote up the details of football vs ballet, the winner would be clear.

The results surprised me.

I won’t say that I’m completely biased against football—but I will admit that I may be just a bit jealous because football players get paid millions of dollars more than their dancing counterparts, or because most people in the US have at least one favorite football team, but couldn’t care less about their local dance company.

It wasn’t that football players were far above dancers in the stats–but it was how similar the two disciplines were. The more I researched, the more surprised I was to see similar correlations between reasons for injuries, longevity in the profession, and hours of practice though really, I shouldn’t have been–they’re both athletic activities that depend on perfect physical execution).  This table below is just the tip of the iceberg of what I uncovered:

Ballet Football
Calories/hour 600 656
Hours of practice/day 7.5 2-8
Percentage of injuries/year 61% 264%
BMI 13-18.5 18.5-24.9
Average Retirement Age 34 28
Average Salary $22,516-100,000 $4-14 million

You can tell just from this small chart alone what some of the advantages and disadvantages of each activity are.  It’s one thing to think about the injuries a football player sustains when it happens on screen—it’s another to see how the numbers add up.

It’s also another thing to hear about eating disorders in dancers and to see the hard evidence in their BMIs.  The lowest healthy BMI for women is about 18.5—to see that that number is the highest of the range for professional dancers, and should be a wake up call to those in the field.

It was amazing to see the similarities between these two disciplines that seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.  It also introduced another difficult point: how do you determine the winner?  Football players certainly have much higher incomes, but an astronomically higher injury rates.  Dancers have a longer careers, but only by a slim margin.  Both dancers and football players are put under extreme stress during their primes, but dancers have a much healthier mental state after they retire.

Footballer in ballet
It’ll probably come out a tie in the end, but it’s a great excuse to post pics of football players doing ballet in the meanwhile!!

A disclaimer: Research on the impact of sports and dance on both mental and physical health is an emerging field, so bear with me on some of the numbers.  As football and ballet are two very different disciplines, there won’t always be exact crossovers in the data, as ABT is going to report different data than the NFL will (for example, most reported dance injuries were sprains, breaks, and other muscle and bone-related injuries.  The most prominent NFL injury statistics ignore sprains almost completely and focus on concussions).  What I aim to do is present the big picture, and maybe those with the money and resources to research these ideas properly will follow up!

Growing Pains: Building a Professional Company

I know we make it look easy, but it’s a lot harder to get a dance company off the ground and en pointe (pun 100% intended).  I know a lot of new dance companies sprouting up—which is amazing—but there are a lot of pitfalls and obstacles waiting for new troupes.  Here are just a few that Stretch Dance Co. has faced a new professional dance company—and how we’re overcoming them.

If you’re part of a new company, chime in on any difficulties your organization has come across!

Location, Location, Location

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This dance studio was dark and had huge poles in the middle of the dance floor. It also had a random cactus in the corner that I almost cartwheeled into!

Stretchers came from all over Southern California for rehearsal, so it can be hard to find a central, safe place to dance.  It took some time to find our perfect rehearsal space—especially because Lyndell has just as high expectations of her rehearsal spaces as she does her dancers.  Helping to search for a rehearsal space was one of my first jobs when I offered to help with some of the background work of Stretch, and Lyndell’s requirements mandated that a studio have sprung floors, restrooms on the premises, and free parking nearby. (Insert pics of past studios and mention why they didn’t work)

How we’re overcoming it: After a few starts in other studios, Lyndell found Studio A Dance.  It’s an awesome, warm space that meets all of requirements and then some.  My favorite part of the studio are the Christmas lights strung up outside!

I Have Lived a Thousand Years   a Fractured Atlas sponsored project
Fractured Atlas has been a huge help in spreading the word and coaching us through grant applications!

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The arts is always suffering for funding, and new professional dance companies find it even more difficult to make ends meet. You can read here to find out more.

How we’re overcoming it: We are working to make the company more stable through personal donations, handled through Fractured Atlas.  We’re also starting to apply for grants.  We managed to nab a grant from Disney in 2013, and hoping to add more this year!  Once our productions get underway, we’ll be able to generate income from ticket sales, but until then, every little bit from friends, family, and donors helps!

Who Are We Again?

Part of the problem with applying for grants, and sometimes even venues, is that new companies don’t have much stage or street cred.  Established companies like Alvin Ailey don’t need to explain who they are to many theaters or foundations because they’ve been around long enough to have built a name for themselves.  It’s even harder to for Stretch because theatrical dance isn’t a common dance form.

How we’re overcoming it: Stretch is lucky to have an awesome social media manager in Matt Lardner (thanks Matt!), and weekly blogs, posts, and videos help make a name for ourselves.  Lyndell also interviews with Variety City,  World Dance Awards, and the Shoah Foundation (and looks totally at home no matter what!) to help spread the word.

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And these are just a few!  Phew!  Something tells me I’m going to end up writing a follow up to this post.  Anyway, new ventures (whether it’s a professional dance company or otherwise), feel free to chime in in the comments on your experiences!

On Dancing, Giving Up, and Pinterest

After a week of sitting on the couch reading all the books my Barnes and Noble gift cards bought me, I started cruising through Pinterest for inspirational dance pics that would hopefully guilt me into doing something vaguely active.  Amid the sepia-colored images of dancers in the air, I came across this picture:

Stretch - meme“Don’t disappoint her?”

Ummm…pressure much?

I don’t really agree with pushing through the hard points of anything just to appease whoever’s watching you (I also find it vaguely terrifying to think of a flock of baby ballerinas watching your every step at every moment, waiting for you to fail and ruin their lives).

However, I do have to admit that this guilt-inducing meme has a point, and it’s not about living in fear from tiny diva dancers.

What these words should focus on is not disappointing other people, but sticking with it for yourself. All dance is incredibly hard when you get down to it. Whether it’s hip hop or ballet, it takes years to perfect, and constant arduous training to remain in top form, but when you finally nail a move, it’s worth all those hours of conditioning and pain.

I’ve met so many people who started dance when they were young, only to quit when they were in their teens. I, myself, wanted to be one of them, but I was fortunate to have a mother who refuses to ever a) give up b) watch reality TV.

Dancers Kick Butt
Seriously.

If you were one of those dancers who got as bored as I did in class as a kid, it’s not too late to get back into the game. I can’t tell you how many dancers I’ve met who started dancing in college, or even later, who can wipe the floor with me. If you want to dance, just do it. Get your shoes out (or buy new ones if you’ve outgrown them), get yourself into a class, and don’t care about who else is watching.

What this picture should should say is “Don’t give up before the miracle happens.”

That or, “Dancers kick butt.”