Aikido is budo, so it is a way of war, i.e. about learning former times fighting techniques, which are modern nevertheless.
So yes Aikido without fight is like soccer without goals. Maybe I will miss some points about soccer as I do not know very much. In competion in soccer you try to shoot into the goals, right? In training you do it sometimes, as you want to be prepared for competion. But most of the time in training you just do fitness exercises and improve your handling the ball without taking care of the goals standing around all the time. That is at least my impression.
Now there could be a trainer who thinks it might be good to get soccer beginners not fixed to the idea of setting goals and have them just playing around the field without shooting goals. Maybe he would fail as he would not get enough participants, but assuming he gets, would you say he is not teaching soccer. He might even get some world class soccer players.
So the question is not "is aikido self defense or just Japanes dancing?" but "at what point is it essential to get realistic self defense scenarios in aikido?"
Starting with the self defense idea too early gets people concentrated in "fetching this hand", etc. If you start too late (theoretically, as I cannot define too late) people would never get the chance to score (coming back to your metaphor).
I have seen a lot of these Japanese dancers, and yes many of them would not even trust themselves on their self defense ability even at shodan level.
But seeing them as sandan, there are very few (assuming they are younger then 70 yo), I would dare to attack. I did never test and if the attacker is much heavier and stronger they might not be able to mobilise all their potentials. But on their movements are clear, exact and kind of reflex, that probably your first mistake could be your last while standing
Just my 2 cts.