No, you’re certainly not the only one baffled by this. I’d have to check, but we got something like five or six asks in October regarding using dancing. It’s also not the only oddball topic that keeps coming up. We also get a bunch of are characters losing arms and/or eyes. The frequency for these is just weird, and the answers don’t really change. Which can lead to a little irritation.
I don’t actually know where it’s coming from, but I can make some educated guesses.
Most of the time, when it does pop up in fiction, dance fighters get presented as superlative masters of combat, and it’s ultimately a cheat. The literary equivalent of a munchkin picking up random skills because it might let them trick the DM into giving them a +1 BAB.
Of course, the world doesn’t work that way… but I can certainly understand people clinging to this idea because it’s what makes their character a special unique snowflake.
This can be especially attractive to writers who want to create a character that can fight proficiently, but don’t want to have to put the time into developing their skills… the character’s skills, though I suppose that statement could apply to either one.
So, here I am, once again, saying, “nope, dancing will not make your martial artist a better fighter.”
The other strand of thought seems to be, because some styles, like Wushu, look light and floaty, there seems to be the idea that the movements are light and floaty. And, therefore, any ballerina can perform Wushu because it’s what they’ve already been trained in.
They can’t, because martial arts and dance are graded on a different metric. It’s like taking a term paper and trying to use it in two separate classes in different departments. Dance is about looking good, while practical martial arts are about breaking another human being. You don’t want to break people when dancing, because that’s generally frowned upon, and you don’t care about looking good as a fighter because not dying is (usually) a higher priority.
But, it keeps coming up, because they saw a ballerina doing terrible martial arts on TV.
Michi’s got two more approaches on top of this, and since she’s trying to limit her keyboard time…
You have writers that latch onto it because they think it’s an unexpected twist. Even though, now, it’s rapidly turning into a cliche. Because dancers or cheerleaders aren’t in “real sports,” you get, “but, surprise, they’re secretly super fighters.”
What neither of us have been saying is they can’t learn martial arts, but, at best, it’s not a quick way to skip the learning curve. They still have to learn all the aspects that their training in a different form of physical exertion didn’t prepare them for. Dancers, cheerleaders, and many other sports derided for being “girly” aren’t actually any less physically taxing than say football, baseball, or combat. There’s definitely crossover between the two, but the devil is in the details. We need to accept that a girl doing martial arts doesn’t make them any less feminine, just as training to become a ballerina doesn’t make a man any less masculine. However, having your super fighter be a professional dancer is also not a means of keeping that character inside a feminine archetype to make them feel more acceptable.
Alternately, trying to write a martial artist can be intimidating, if you’ve never really gotten to know any. But, a dancer can just be anyone. If you’re hung up on the Orientalist idea that all martial artists are zen masters with a degree in philosophy, the idea of, “but my dancer can do it,” can be pretty appealing.
Of course, very few martial artists are actually zen masters, nor do they automatically gain mystical insights into the universe. And, of the two of us, it’s the Eagle Scout, not the third degree black belt that’s more likely to write the posts on philosophy, morality, or ethics.