Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

The Ballet Dancing Profession: A Career Transition Model

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

The Ballet Dancing Profession: A Career Transition Model

Article excerpt

What type of emotional transition is experienced by professional dancers who face the end of their career? What does this journey imply? This article discusses the transition experiences of two case studies out of a total sample of fourteen (N=14) international professional ballet dancers who left their careers between the ages of 21 and 49 years. By adopting tenets of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Grounded Theory, the analysis of semi-structured interviews is presented as evidence of the discussion. The article raises questions about the theoretical implications behind the concept of retirement and helps to gain an understanding of some of the intricate and hidden issues involved in what seems to be quite a complex area of psychological and social enquiry. It attempts to nurture different thoughts on the subjects of transitions, re-training, re-employment and their relation to career change development and lifelong learning.

INTRODUCTION

Movement is a fundamental part of the choreographed world of dance, and movement ought to remain a fundamental element of life. In the context of this article, movement encapsulates the sequence of steps that an individual--a dancer--ought to perform once their career terminates and they face the transition into an alternative occupation, vocation or role. As Taylor (2000) suggested, acknowledging moving from something is as important as moving to something, especially when talking about work experiences, which are often kept quiet. In his transition cycle, Hopson (1981) suggested seven different psychological stages that an individual can experience when faced with a transition. Rather than a separated transition cycle with stages of immobilisation, elation/despair, self-doubt, letting go, testing, searching for meaning and integration, the present analysis identified changes between different points of the transition, giving a dynamic and flexible nature to the change. And rather than having seven stages which are more or less general to all transitions, the notion of duration is introduced as a temporal variable with a pre-period, an event and a re-engagement for each transition. This dimension ostensibly introduces 'movements' in the emotional responses experienced by each individual (Hockey & James, 2003).

Past research on retirement has focused heavily on the financial consequences of people retiring when they reach 60, and on ascertaining the changes incurred after leaving a full-time occupation. Quantitative research has been predominant, referring to people's financial provisions and planning (see Aaron, 1999; Anderson, Li, Bechhofer, McCrone, & Stewart, 2000; Disney & Johnson, 1997; Ekerdt, Koslovski, & DeViney, 2000; Ekerdt, Hackney, Koslovski, & DeViney, 2001). However recent developments in retirement research have looked at the quality and conditions as well as the quantity of extended working life. Retirement can become constructive and rewarding rather than being considered a negative phase of later life (Barnes & Parry, 2004; Grattan, 2005).

Using Max Weber's (1930) definition, beruf--vocation or calling, for many ballet dancers work becomes more of a vocation than a job; it entails an intrinsic satisfaction that comes from the activity itself, through a sense of accomplishment and public recognition. To manage one's career through frequent job changes, and in a society where emphasis is placed on employability rather than a secure job (Baruch, 2004), training is essential. Career theories need to be appropriate for the com plexity of individuals who are living in a dynamic world (Patton & McMahon, 2001). As Kerr and Dacyshyn (2000) suggested, retirement can be conceptualised as a new beginning, associated with a new develop mental phase in the life course of former dancers, rather than be considered the end of a career. The outcomes become sequels for the development of new careers rather than the end of the road. …

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