June 8, 2010 There comes a time when dancers must hang up their tights and leave their sequins behind, transitioning from a career in performing arts to a more traditional industry. Research currently being undertaken at the University of Leicester has revealed dancers face tough career prospects once they leave the profession even though they possess many desirable employability skills.
In her doctoral study, Labour Market Studies student Heidi Ashton has identified psychological problems facing dancers upon retiring from the performing arts industry including depression, anxiety and loss of identity and self-esteem.
Miss Ashton has found that the intense training and focus dancers endure for many years leads to some facing significant problems when trying to forge an alternate career even though they are equipped with many desirable skills and attributes welcomed by employers. Preliminary results from the study will be showcased at the University of Leicester's Festival of Postgraduate Research on 24 June.
Miss Ashton commented:
"Becoming a dancer requires dedication and passion, years of tough, relentless training, and involves fierce competition and harsh criticism. Dance is not what they do, it's who they are. Their abundant skills however are not widely recognised by those outside the industry. Dancers are driven and dedicated, precise and have great attention to detail, all desirable qualities for employers in other industries.
"Dancers do not have access to or knowledge about jobs outside the industry and therefore they feel that their options are very limited and in addition they lose their community with which they identify and they experience a culture shock when leaving. Their generally low income also leads to problems such as access to courses in order to retrain."
Miss Ashton has interviewed dancers from both the UK and USA during her research, aiming to uncover the nature of the problems experienced by dancers facing a career transition and raise awareness outside of the industry for the problems dancers face.
"We need a greater awareness of the problems involved when leaving these types of professions. It needs to be a two-pronged approach, raising awareness within the industry so that dancers can be prepared but also a greater awareness outside the industry of what dancers have to offer. Through this approach, performers can go on to have satisfying and fulfilling careers and organisations will have access to dedicated and skilled employees.
"Theatre is one of the few industries that is continuing to grow in the current economic climate, it's something that we do very well in the UK but nobody knows anything about it really. A higher profile of the profession and a greater awareness of what these dedicated people have to offer in terms of skills would alleviate some of the problems."
Having more than 15 years of professional dance and choreographing experience, Miss Ashton knows all too well the problems dancers face when making the transition from performing arts to more traditional fields and hopes that this research will raise greater awareness of these issues.
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