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Del Val: 'Versus' doesn't cut it when talking arts, sports

I had an interesting exchange recently on social media. I had seen an absolutely incomparable clip of Mikhail Baryshnikov, at his dancing height, as Don Quixote. I shared it on The Arts Partnership's page and said, "If only the arts were more ath...

Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership
Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership

I had an interesting exchange recently on social media. I had seen an absolutely incomparable clip of Mikhail Baryshnikov, at his dancing height, as Don Quixote. I shared it on The Arts Partnership's page and said, "If only the arts were more athletic ... unbelievable."

I believed the sarcasm was evident.

I was incorrect.

One woman responded with, "Why must the arts be more athletic?? That is such a rotten statement to make. It is unforgivable for any organization that supposedly supports 'The Arts.' "

Can I just mention again that I was obviously being sarcastic?

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This clip, and I encourage you to go to our page and watch it, is among the most athletic 75 seconds I have ever seen.

This got me thinking about the arts versus sports. Which got me thinking about the word versus.

Versus is defined as "against" or "as compared to or as one of two choices; in contrast with."

Versus implies sports and the arts are mortal enemies, a la "Batman v Superman."

I think we make the mistake of using the word "versus" when we should be using "and" or "as."

The arts and sports. The arts as sport.

I queried recently how many calories Maestro Christopher Zimmerman must have burned conducting the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra. I often tease concertmaster Ben Sung that his bowing arm must be nearly falling off.

Maybe he should wear a jacket over it to keep it warm like pitchers in baseball do? Would he earn more respect for his athleticism then?

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If you saw "The Classic Nutcracker" from Fargo-Moorhead Ballet this past December, you cannot possibly argue that the dancers in the Arabian Dance were not athletes of the highest caliber as they climbed up and down those silk ropes. Ask Mara Brust, principal dancer and Clara in the production, if she had a strict training regimen, which would have included diet, cardio and strength training.

Maybe we need to shoot video of her bloody toes being plunged into a bath of ice cubes like we so often see banged-up defensive linemen doing after a tough football game.

Have you ever watched a bassoonist or oboist breathe before a particularly long string of notes? I want to meet the athlete who has better core strength than those players. It's nearly impossible to even fathom the power of their bodies' capacity to push air through those tiny reeds and make beautiful, swelling music from it.

For people who are used to seeing many modern performers dance and sing - and by sing, I mean lip-sync to their pre-recorded, studio-enhanced voice - you might be surprised to learn that real musical theater actors and opera singers have to dance and actually sing live at the same time.

Do you know what kind of artistic form and athletic function is required to dance full out and still find the breath to create a beautiful solo line of music?

Ask a soccer player to run down the full length of the pitch, dodging the opponent, moving the ball from side to side, shoot and score and then sing out a stanza of music.

Do you see what I mean? Arts AND sports. Arts AS sport.

I had a dear friend in high school who was an excellent dancer. In fact, today, he leads the Ririe Woodbury Dance Company in Utah, a prestigious modern dance company. I clearly remember someone calling him a fairy at lunch one day.

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Are you kidding me? Fairy? As if to imply that he was some weak, flitty, effeminate thing that could be easily broken? I don't think so.

Daniel had more strength in his legs and core than any single athlete in our school. He could lift a partner over his head because his arms were so powerful. His vertical would have rivaled any of the best slam-dunkers around. Daniel was an athlete of the highest degree.

Let's stop using the word versus when we are talking about the arts and sports. Let's rather see them as being two good and equal things for all people to pursue, depending on interest, ability and desire to work hard for greatness.

The arts AND sports. The arts AS sport. I like the sound of that.

Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to theartspartnership.net.

Related Topics: THE ARTS PARTNERSHIP
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