Former Elite Adolescent Female Dancers Reflect on the Loss of a Professional Dream
Preparing for a professional ballet dance career requires dedication, discipline and single-minded focus. But, as training becomes increasingly competitive, many dancers must give up this aspiration and reinvent themselves for a life after dance. The transition is challenged by identity loss and limited consideration of alternative careers. Although researchers have studied the transition to a post-dance life for professional ballet dancers, the transition of younger dancers remains unstudied. The goal of this research was to analyze stories of what it means to be an elite, female dancer who was unable to achieve a professional dancing career, and had to make another life for herself. A qualitative study was conducted. Five women, who were former elite amateur ballet dancers, were asked to share their stories through three separate semi-structured interviews. Participants also shared personally meaningful objects. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis and represented in the context of individual stories. A common overarching framework was identified that included: discovering the dream, living the dream, losing the dream, and life after the dream. Further thematic analysis generated insight about the culture of ballet (e.g., rites of passage, individual dancer characteristics, peer relations), as well as common challenges, facilitators and meaning making associated with negotiating a new work/life after failing to become a professional dancer. Findings contribute to the existing literature and suggest the appropriateness of conceptualizing the experience as one of loss and mourning (Worden, 2009). Implications for future research as well as for adults involved in the world of elite dancing (e.g., ballet teachers, school teachers and counsellors) are discussed.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
DepartmentEducational Psychology and Special Education
ProgramSchool and Counselling Psychology
CommitteeKalyn, Brenda; Pushor, Debbie
Copyright DateFebruary 2012