Dancers' Athleticism & Athletes' Grace

Dancers make great models. Their stamina, discipline and ability to convey narrative and aesthetic concepts with their bodies (not to mention looking fabulous while they do it), give them a definite edge. Lately, we are seeing a fun, new element in several dancer photo shoots - athletes! New York City Ballet dancer Faye Arthurs and Giants football player Ramses Barden recently posed together in this photo series by Paul Maffi. Miami City Ballet dancers (and sisters) Jeanette and PatriciaDelgado posed with Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade in a celebration of Miami’s cultural landscape. In “Athlete Meets Artist,” American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland danced for photographer Richard Corman’s camera alongside former football pro Sean James.  James is the founder of the Sean James Student Athlete Foundation dedicated to helping students pursue academic excellence while following their passion for both sports and the arts.

These striking photos juxtapose dancers’ and athletes’ physiques, highlighting the honed power of both, as well as their grace and subtlety. We see the intense power of concentration dancers and athletes bring to their professions. The photos are delightful, but they also serve a pointed social purpose -- to bring dance to sports fans and sports to dance fans in a way that’s fun and accessible to both camps while capturing the overlapping elements of discipline, focus, strength, and grace. We might assume sports figures focus more on force over fluidity, but not so, says Dwayne Wade. “We feel at times we’re like graceful dancers in the air so it’s good to put the two worlds together.” 

It’s inspiring to dancers and would-be dancers when sports heroes tell us they admire the athleticism of dance and the extensive training it requires.  The athletes’ admiration is encouraging to younger dance students who may feel less accepted than students involved in more mainstream sports extracurriculars. MCB Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez points outsome of the educational value of these shoots: “Ballet and basketball are both about grace under pressure and the pursuit of perfection. No Miami City Ballet dancer stands alone, just as Heat players can’t win alone. It requires team work."