Special thanks to all of the current and former dancers and
professionals in the dance field who care about transition
and without whom this report would not have been possible
We are pleased to present the results of what we believe to be the first study of its kind, a coordinated inquiry into the career transition of professional dancers in different countries. In total, eleven countries were included in this study. Sample surveys were undertaken in three countries to provide insights into the challenges of career change as seen from the viewpoint of the individual dancer, and country profiles were written in eight additional countries to illustrate further the global environment of dance. In addition, the four existing career transition centers contributed substantially to the Summary Statement by providing illuminating information derived from their data. ? Trustees of Teachers College Columbia University in the City of New York / Research Center for Arts and Culture. 2004.
Table of Contents
Summary Statement 1 Part One:
Facilitating the Transition of Dancers to Post-Performance Careers 27
I. Introduction: Dancers in Transition, the Challenge 27 II. Research Approach and Methods of the Study 35 III. The Dance Industry World-Wide: Highlights of Our Country Profiles 42
IV. Dancer Career Transition Programs and Practices: The Four Transition Centers 51
V. Facing Transition: The Situation of the Individual Dancer
(Survey of Three Countries) 86
VI. Guiding Hypotheses and the Pertinent Evidence Collected 95 VII. Our Conclusions and Recommendations:
Some Promising Programs and Practices 113
Part Two: Country Profiles and Ancillary Materials
Socio-Economic Characteristics of Dance in Eleven Nations:
Our Unabridged Country Profiles 1
Appendix A: Some Dancer Career Transition Programs Beyond
the Four Formal Centers 180
Appendix B: Survey Methods for Australia, Switzerland, and the United States 219
Appendix C: Survey Questionnaire and Responses (Raw Data from Australia,
Switzerland and the United States) 224
The Challenges of Transition
Dance is a career that entails an extraordinarily high level of passion, commitment, extensive periods of training, and a professional life that is relatively brief, since many dancers have to retire in their early thirties and some even earlier. Yet in most countries, dancers are among the most poorly paid of artists, despite their great contribution to the cultural life of society, and inadequate recognition often compounds their morale problems. For professional dancers reaching the end of their performing careers, this confluence of factors creates economic, psychological, and educational difficulties for which they are often ill-equipped and which are likely to have a profound effect on the rest of their lives. Having lived in a relatively inward-looking and intensely focused world, they find themselves suddenly cast out from the stimulus and support that the dance world provided. Our research indicates that the skills and experience that professional dancers accumulate during their dancing years, including self-discipline, team work and stamina, are significant and transferable resources that are in danger of being wasted as their active dancing careers come to an end. Thus, inadequacy of career transition support not only creates significant challenges for individual dancers, but also imposes a social cost in the form of wasted human capital.
Why this Report?
There is an urgent need for measures to ameliorate the problems of transition faced by all professional dancers. Only four countries—Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom
(U.K.), and the United States (U.S.)—are fortunate enough to have formal transition centers
or other transition measures in place, and these programs have made significant progress in helping many dancers in these countries deal with the challenges of career change. But more generally, it remains a fact that determining what should be done is hampered by a lack of
understanding of the problem, inadequate data, and the absence of an objective basis for systematic analysis of alternative strategies. At the initiative of the International Organization for the Transition of Professional Dancers (IOTPD), an international organization based in Switzerland, the present study has been undertaken by an international research team to assess the extent and nature of the challenges of the transition process, to gather factual evidence to test various propositions about the effects of transition on the individual dancer, and to suggest ways in which the problems of transition may be addressed by dance companies, service organizations, public agencies, and dancers themselves. However, fuller understanding of the issue and its scope requires recognition of the fact that the problems of transition can differ from one country to another. This report therefore explicitly adopts an international point of view in analyzing the problem and in making recommendations.
What is a Dancer?
This study is concerned with professional dancers. It is well known that the definition of "professional" in the arts is somewhat problematic, because a simple income test that may be appropriate in most other professions cannot readily be applied to artists. Rather, we consider professionalism to derive from a combination of factors including a dancer's training, career commitment, standard of work, income and time allocation, and we acknowledge that precise definitions of professional status differ among countries.
In regard to dance forms, we distinguish among dancers working in five broad categories: (1) classical/ballet, (2) modern/contemporary dance, (3) organized indigenous or folk dance, (4) musical theater or commercial dance, and (5) “other,” a catch-all category that
encompasses dancers working in cinema, television, and other industries (such as revues, fashion shows, cruise ships and corporate events), as well as less-organized forms of dance. In
all five of these categories, it is common to find individual dancers whose work spans more than one of the fields at a given time or at different stages in their careers.
We adopt the conventional usage of the term "transition" in this study to describe the career stage during which a dancer stops actively performing (often gradually) for reasons of age, health, injury, or some other cause, and moves to a new activity, whatever that may be. We use the terms “current” and “former” dancers to distinguish between those who are still actively performing and those who are not.
Our Research Approach
This research project was composed of four distinct components:
(1) A study of some fundamental hypotheses designed to throw light on effective methods for improvement of the transition process and of the institutions dedicated to this purpose. These hypotheses are outlined further below. This portion of the study is designed to suggest and explore recommendations for further improvements in transition programs.
(2) A series of eleven “country profiles” undertaken to illustrate the breadth of dance activity around the world as a context for analysis of transition problems. Profiles were drawn up for Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S.
(3) A compendium of existing transition assistance programs in various countries including, particularly, Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S., to assess the present approaches that have been undertaken to meet the challenges of transition. Even more important for this study, these assessments also provide models for other transition programs and evidence of the effectiveness and promise of the various approaches as they are currently carried out.
(4) A series of three sample surveys of current and former dancers, undertaken in Australia, Switzerland, and the U.S. The results of these surveys provide invaluable insights into the challenges of career change as seen from the perspective of the individual dancer in these countries.
The Dance Industry Worldwide
Our individual national portraits comprising the country profiles are made up of information on the broadly defined dance industry in each country, including data on educational and training systems; public and private funding; numbers of employed and unemployed professional dancers; numbers of dance companies and institutions involved in dance; size and characteristics of audiences; institutional structures; and methods of support for dancers (benefits, pensions, and so on). Highlights from these profiles include the following:
; Most dancers in all eleven countries are female, and a number move among countries in
pursuit of their dance careers.
; Dance is an important component of the performing arts, accounting for a total of about
33 million attendances annually in the eleven countries we studied, with the share of
population attending dance events annually in the countries studied varying from less than
1 percent to approximately 15 percent.
; Although there are variations among countries, there has been significant growth in the
dance sector in many countries over the last ten years, measured in terms of numbers of
dancers, numbers of dance companies, and audience size.
; There is a substantial amount of direct government funding of dance in all countries
studied, except for the U.S., where public support is provided mainly indirectly, via tax
deductibility of contributions to dance organizations.
; Dance is a poorly paid occupation compared to other professions, and although some
dancers are fortunate enough to be able to work full-time, many are obliged to take on
other jobs in order to support their careers in dance.
Existing Transition Programs
There are four major formal centers that provide career transition services for professional dancers:
(1) Career Transition For Dancers (CTFD), with offices in New York City and Los
Angeles in the U.S., provides a wide range of career programs and services free of charge to assist in career transition for current and former dancers. Since 1985, it has serviced more than 2,600 dancers nationwide and has awarded more than $1.7 million in educational and entrepreneurial grants. A feature of CTFD’s orientation is its effort to help dancers determine for themselves the steps they will take in their career transition and, by making its services dancer-driven, CTFD seeks to encourage dancer initiative and independence.
(2) The Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC) in Canada is a membership
organization that offers broad-based services to dancers on entering, during, and after their professional performing careers. Academic, career, financial, legal, and personal counseling are offered to its constituents, as well as DTRC’s Dancer Award Fund that gives grants for skills courses, retraining and subsistence. In addition, the DTRC provides information to the general dance community, offering a newsletter, website, other publications, conferences, and seminars.
(3) The U.K.’s center for career transition for professional dancers, Dancers’ Career
Development (DCD), offers a wide range of practical, psychological and financial retraining and career transition services for professional dancers, including educational advice, career coaching, emotional counseling, résumé and interview guidance, grants for retraining,
business start-up grants, and ongoing support for professional dancers. The DCD Company Fund Division operates a scheme in cooperation with dance companies, which contribute funds to be used to assist their dancers in transition. Currently, nine British companies participate in this scheme. The DCD also operates an Independent Trust Division that supports independent dancers and dancers in the commercial sector, funded through grants and fundraising activities.
(4) The Dutch Retraining Program for Professional Dancers (Stichting
Omscholingsregeling Dansers, [SOD]) provides services to dancers in career transition in the
Netherlands. Dancers pay a small monthly contribution to the program, which offers income support and grants for retraining, as well as counseling services, particularly career counseling. The program has recently been redesigned to provide grants to dancers in transition to cover study and subsistence expenses.
These four existing career transition centers—in Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K.
and the U.S—are independent and specialized service organizations with a total of 90 years of accumulated experience in the field of dance career transition. The centers have all found the problems of dancers in transition to be remarkably similar, involving economic, psychological and educational issues that need to be addressed. Over the years, each of these organizations has developed a range of programs and services that focus on the different stages in a dancer’s career, and have provided integrated support that is individually tailored to the needs of each dancer.
What do differ from country to country are the methods of addressing the problems.
The kinds of assistance provided through the four career transition centers vary, depending on cultural differences, the type and amount of social, health and educational support provided by government, and the resources available to the transition centers and other career transition
programs. Later in the report, we provide profiles of the four career transition centers, with
details of their individual programs and services.
Two other organizations are noteworthy. The International Organization for the
Transition of Professional Dancers (IOTPD) plays a significant leadership and advocacy
role in the field. The IOTPD’s main objectives are to help professional dancers in the process
of career transition and to promote awareness of the contribution the dancer makes to society, the needs of the dancer during the transition process, and the benefits of a successful transition to a future productive career. And the Swiss Association for the Career Re-
orientation of Professional Dancers (NPT/RDP) provides career counseling and training as
well as financial support for unemployed workers, including dancers in transition, in Switzerland.
In addition to these programs, a number of dance companies and dance schools around the world provide transition services specifically tailored to their own needs. Examples include companies such as the Birmingham Royal Ballet (U.K.), the Houston Ballet (U.S.), the Nederlands Dans Theater (Netherlands), the Opéra National de Paris (France), the New York City Ballet (U.S.), the Pacific Northwest Ballet (U.S.), the Escuela del Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández (México), and schools like the Arts Education School (U.K.), Boston Ballet School (U.S.), and St. Mary’s College of California, School of Extended
Education (U.S.), among a number of others. Such programs provide a wide variety of career transition assistance for dancers, including support for training, job search, and information provision.
The Circumstances and Viewpoints of Individual Dancers
The survey of dancers in Australia, Switzerland, and the U.S., undertaken as part of this study, provide a picture of transition challenges from the viewpoint of the individual
dancers. While we received few responses to our survey from indigenous/folk dancers, we did receive responses from dancers in the other dance categories listed above. It is also important to note that the great majority of the questions in our survey are independent of whether a formal career transition center or other transition arrangements exist in the country surveyed. Thus, to the extent that dancers in the three surveyed countries are broadly comparable with dancers elsewhere, our findings can be used in general terms as a basis for inference to other countries.
The findings from our survey include the following:
; In all three countries, between two-thirds and three-quarters of dancers are female, and the
majority have formal dance qualifications. They are also better educated in terms of post-
secondary school qualifications than the average populations in their countries (in the U.S.,
for example, three-quarters of dancers have post-secondary qualifications, compared to a
little over half of the general population with at least some post-secondary education). ; Our results show that currently active dancers expect to continue their performing careers
until well into their forties. However, dancers whose active careers are now over
remember that, although they thought they could continue until their late thirties, on
average they actually stopped dancing professionally in their early to mid-thirties ; The great majority of current dancers claim to be aware of the challenges that transition
will pose (98 percent, 86 percent, and 93 percent in the U.S., Switzerland, and Australia,
respectively), but many former dancers concede that they were in fact ill-prepared for this
; Many current dancers see continuing to work in dance as a preferred post-transition option
(26 percent, 51 percent, and 48 percent of dancers in the U.S., Switzerland, and Australia,
respectively). In practice, in all three countries, the most likely way in which continuing
contact with dance has actually been achieved by dancers post-transition is through