Head to Head: Is Show Choir a Sport?

February 14, 2019

For years, students in show choir have dealt with their passion and pastime being disrespected and dismissed by the general public. This is commonly seen in how show choir is seen as a “performance art” instead of its proper place as a sport.

The definition of a ‘sport’ is “an activity involving physical exertion or skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

This fits that definition because show choir is one of the most physically exerting activities. Not only is there intense cardio and aerobics, but the voice training and breath control alone are both very demanding on your body. Show choir is about sharp, energetic dancing, as well as powerful vocals, all at the same time. It is not an easy task to continue to sing at a loud tone while doing high-energy movements. It takes a great amount of breath control and core muscle to have the ability to do so. You can’t gain those skills without practicing, just like in any other sport.

Many people assume dancing and singing are just natural-born skills, something that you are born being able to execute perfectly. But these preconceived notions are simply incorrect. Just like in any other sport, the skills you need have to be practiced and maintained. People are not born with the ability to pitch a baseball perfectly or swim competitively. These skills need to be practiced just like singing and dancing, or else you won’t be able to compete at a high level. Some of the best singers and dancers in the entertainment world today started off not being able to sing or dance, but with lots of hard work and practice, they have been able to make a living for themselves.

Additionally, competitions are a very important part of show choir, as in many sports. Most show choirs in the Iowa City area have three to five competitions per season. Sports such as basketball or football are played directly against another team. They gain points throughout the game, and the highest scoring team wins. Show choir competitions work in the same way. Throughout any performance, judges score the group based on execution of choreography, vocal technique, uniformity, etc. This is the equivalent of a football a touchdown or a baseball team scoring a home run. Though show choirs do not go head-to-head like football or basketball, they are still scored directly against other show choirs in their division. Even though show choir competitions are very different from cross-country meets or volleyball tournaments, the general idea is the same–that is, to compete against other schools and organizations, as well as provide entertainment for the community.

When you join a sports team, you are usually given a contract to sign saying you will attend practice, keep your grades up, eat well and stay away from drugs and alcohol. It is no different for show choir. If you break the contract you could get benched or even suspended from the team. This is virtually the same whether it be basketball, show choir or any other sport. So if it is the same contract, why is one activity a sport and one isn’t?

Many people do not consider show choir a sport and think of it more as an art form. Singing and dancing are two activities society views as art and a way to express emotion. Several other sports could be listed in this category, such as figure skating and synchronized swimming which clearly qualify as sports. Though figure skating is dancing on ice, it still is considered a sport and is featured in the winter Olympics. Show choir is very similar in terms of the overall concept, so why can’t show choir be seen as a sport as well?

Stereotypical sports and show choir are very similar in the ways that they include competitions, practice, physical strength, workouts, teamwork, entertainment, and much more. Most people today don’t see show choir as an actual sport because of the singing and musical aspects. But both parts together at the same time is what really makes show choir a sport.

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    The lights go up on a stage of costume-clad performers ready to spin, clap, harmonize, and dance in perfect synchrony in front of an audience. But is it a sport? Show choir should be viewed as an art form that requires some athletic skill, not considered a sport on its own. There are other types of arts that demand tremendous strength, such as ballet or aerial dance, yet these activities aren’t sports either. They are not based and judged on athletic ability alone. There are the other aspects that draw the crowds and make show choir performances so enjoyable. These are the performers’ ability to sing clearly, their confidence that shines through when they dance, and their ability to accurately represent a certain scene. In short, they try to captivate the audience by putting on a spectacle.

    When evaluating what a sport is, you have to take into account that there are many different interpretations of the word. You have to think about what activities you know are sports and gather their similar characteristics. For example, basketball, wrestling and running are sports that face no opposition to their title because they all require physical strength and hours of training. Activities like dance, show choir and arguably marching band, also require physical strength and hours of training, but the difference here is that these activities also require an artistic or musical component.

    In American society, especially in high school, sports are valued very highly. Show choir enthusiasts may say that they want the title of a sport, when really, they want to same recognition for their hard work that athletes get. Certain extracurriculars simply get more attention than others. Basketball, football, and volleyball have massive crowds, schoolwide attention from teachers and students, and promotions that other groups are not offered. Less popular extracurriculars like Art Club, Spanish Club, and Culinary Club have the same attention problem as show choir. People simply don’t pay attention to them. While this may be frustrating, accepting show choir into the athletic world isn’t the solution.

    Show choir is not judged purely for athletic ability. It’s participants don’t practice enough to build up strength and conditioning. For sports like swimming, practice is at least two hours a day, six days a week. Within the sports world, it’s true that some sports require more physical strength than others, but most sports train in the weight room to build the muscle needed for sports. While show choir participants may say that they are as active as athletes, it’s doubtful that the entire 4th Avenue company would show up to lift weights twice a week, as this would not help them improve like it would for a sport.  

    Show choir is a performance art. According to Collins English Dictionary, “a performance art is a theatrical presentation that includes various art such as dance [or] music.” This is all show choir is. It tells a story using dance, music and singing. Additionally, the scoring system for show choir evaluates multiple categories, which include vocal technique, ensemble technique, performance, musicality, general musical effect, execution, design, and overall impression. Only a small fraction of what show choir is judged on has to do with athletic ability. And those parts only include the crispness of movement, energy of movement, and quality of expression. This is basically how well rehearsed the performers are with their parts and how enthusiastic they are while performing, not athletic ability.                               

    By the majority of society, show choir is not accepted as a sport. One clear way to see this is that show choir is covered under arts and/or entertainment sections, not the sports section. This is true for countless newspapers. Show choir is put in this section because that is where readers expect it. Show choir is physically demanding and it requires the same amount of activity as some sports, but in the end, show choir participants simply want their hard work to shine through to the rest of the world and to get the recognition they deserve.

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