About Dancesport

What is dancesport?

Ballroom dancing has origins as far back as the turn of the 20th century.  Throughout the decades technique was standardised, an internationally recognised syllabus set and competitions require increased athleticism.  This became even more noticeable from 1980s onwards and dancesport became used to define competitive Ballroom and Latin American dancing.

Dancesport (a term first used in 1988) has been defined as: “a team sport. It is generally defined as partner dancing between a man and a woman combining as a couple (or groups of couples combining as a team) and using the required technique together with floorcraft and artistic interpretation to produce a highly disciplined dance performance.   DanceSport developed out of the narrow confines of competition ballroom dancing but today includes any dance style which has achieved an internationally recognised organised competition structure and has adopted a sports based culture.” 

when this self-expressive, free-flowing dance takes on a stricter format, follows a syllabus and specific steps and moves are judged by an international criteria, ballroom dancing becomes dancesport”  Dancing to the Olympics, Businessworld June 1999

Dancing as a sport – medical studies

Various medical studies have taken place which demonstrate the physical exertion involved in competing in Ballroom & Latin American dancing:

  • University of Freiburg study in 1986: exertion and breathing rates of dancesport athletes performing a single dance were the same as cyclists, swimmers and 800m runners over the same two minute period.
  • University of Oxford 1988: level of fitness of championship dancesport competitors is the same as Olympic decathletes; a dancer performing a two minute Viennese Waltz experiences the same exertion level as that experienced by an Olympic 100m hurdler.
  • Peter Pover, former President US Dancesport Council stated that tests in Germany “found no significant athletic difference between running 800 metres and doing the quickstep for 1.5mins” Sports Illustrated 1995.
  • Medical research has shown that dancesport is comparable with other sporting activities such as basketball, squash and cross country running with dancers performing at over 80% of their maximum oxygen consumption level and burning up at least 300 calories per hour (Blanksby & Reidy, 1988 British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol 22, Issue 2, 57-60: Heart rate and estimated energy expenditure during ballroom dancing)
  • Dancing used by a Mexican cardiologist Dr Hermes Ilarraza for heart disease patients.  Patients did 30minutes of dancing over five weeks for five days per week and increased their exercise capacity by about a third.
  • Research by Italian scientists in 2000 used by the WDSF
  • New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 reported that eldery people who danced frequently had a 76% lower chance of developing dementia.

Dancesport & Olympic Recognition

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) first recognised dancesport in 1997 and it was a demonstration sport at the 2000 Olympics.  Dancesport is not currently a medal sport; but the WDSF is recognised by the IOC as a governing body which sets rules in accordance with the Olympic charter.  This is required for sports to progress to a medal level and is part of the IOC’s aim to promote sport on an international level.  57 out of the 84 national member federations of the WDSF are recognised by their National Olympic Committees.  The WDSF must also comply with the Olympic Charter and apply the Anti-Doping Code. 

Link to letter from IOC

There are various criteria which sports must fulfil to be included in the games; these criteria now include conditions that the new sport should increase the appeal of the games, the sports should have an emphasis on youth and development and there should be global participation – at least 75 countries must be involved worldwide.   The WDSF argues dancesport should be included as an Olympic Medal Sport because: it has gender parity; it has so far been free of doping, it has a large audience world-wide, venues would be easy to find and the competition could easily be run over two days.

For more information about dancesport in the Olympics click here.