John F. Russell: Finding great athletes on the stage |

John F. Russell: Finding great athletes on the stage

John F. Russell

— Some of us believe that great athletes will be found on an athletic field, a gym floor or maybe a sheet of ice.

But this week, a group of college students from across the country proved to me just how wrong that kind of thinking can be.

These athletes would make a place for themselves on the field and could dominate any court, and they had the type of grace that would help them glide across the ice; however, they prefer to compete on the stage.

And while they love to hear the roar of a crowd, the cheers they normally receive don’t come from netting the game-winning basket. These athletes are dancers, and their brand of athleticism comes in the form of intricate moves that are new to me.

But despite the fact that I don’t know the difference between a plie and a tendu, I can appreciate what the young men and women who were visiting the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp were able to achieve on the camp’s historic stages.

It was the first of several camps that will take place there this summer. For generations, some of the top dancers and performers in the country have come to the mountains of Colorado to hone their skills.

This week, college students will glide across the floor of the stage as they learn the choreography of their teachers. Truth is the moves they learn are only slightly different than what a football player must master to complete a play. The dancers practice the moves they use on the stage over and over again in much the same way as a baseball player repeats the swing necessary to knock a ball out of a park.

As I watched the students at Perry-Mansfield dance, I was overcome with the same thrill I get watching a top athlete streak across the playing field. The goals may seem different, but in the end, the joy they feel dancing or playing a game is much the same. And the thrill a fan feels watching athletes of this level stretch their limits is no less thrilling.

It’s funny that most of us view dance and other sports differently. Dance is art, dance is entertainment but dance is not about competition. That is unless you happen to be the dancer hoping to land a place in the spotlight.

Dance is athletic and artistic in the same way many great athletes were also artists.

Do you think of art when you hear the names of players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, players like Barry Sanders and Walter Payton, or Rickey Henderson and Troy Tulowitzki. If you don’t think these men were artists then maybe you should expand your view.

If we chose to open our eyes and stop looking at the world in terms of our own biases, we might just realize that art and sports are similar. The men and women involved in both pursuits are willing to push their bodies to the limits and expand our minds in ways that we may not fully understand.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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