Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies - A Program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Challenges in Transitioning From a Professional Dance Career: An International Comparison

In 2003, the aDvANCE Project conducted surveys of current and former dancers in the United States, Australia, and Switzerland in order to assess the transition of professional dancers to post-performance careers. Some of the career transition challenges faced by former dancers who participated in the study, such as physical problems, were similar despite geographical differences (United States - 44%, Australia - 41%, Switzerland - 38%), yet other types of transition challenges were reported with greater deviation between the three countries. A sense of emptiness was experienced by 49% of former dancers surveyed in the United States, but only 31% of former dancers in Australia and 20% in Switzerland. Overall, dancers in the United States study reported a larger percentage of career transition challenges in most of the pre-defined categories, while dancers in Switzerland reported fewer transition challenges than dancers in Australia or the United States. One transition challenge was an exception to this finding; emotional problems were experienced by a notably higher percentage of dancers in the Swiss survey (United States - 25%, Australia - 24%, Switzerland - 37%).

Graph: Expect Career Transition Challenges: A comparison of current dancers in the US, Australia, and Switzerland. (Source: The aDvANCE Project: United States, Australia, and Switzerland 2003)

Fewer Challenges in Career Transition Than Current Dancers Expect

The current dancers surveyed in each country expected more career challenges than former dancers reported having actually experienced. For example, while 39% of current dancers in the Swiss study expected to have difficulties deciding what to do next, only 15% of former dancers in Switzerland actually faced this problem. In the United States and Australia, researchers also found that the percentage of current dancers who expected to face problems deciding what to do next was higher than the percentage of former dancers who reported having experienced this challenge (United States - 55% expected, 42% experienced; Australia - 44% expected, 31% experienced).

Graph: Deciding what to do after a dance career (Source: The aDvANCE Project:  United States,  Australia, and Switzerland 2003)

Loss of income was also reported as a problem by fewer former dancers than the percentage of current dancers who expected to face this challenge. Although large percentages of dancers in each nation surveyed (United States - 49%, Australia - 57%, Switzerland - 46%) reported that loss of income was expected to be a career transition challenge, it was not experienced as a challenge by quite as many dancers in reality (United States - 40%, Australia - 43%, Switzerland - 25%).

Graph: Loss of income after a dance career. (Source: The aDvANCE Project:  United States,  Australia, and Switzerland 2003)

The data from each survey from the aDvANCE Project can be accessed through CPANDA for further analysis. Other questions that might be analyzed include:

  • What was your income from dance at the highest point of your career?
  • What was your income from dance at the lowest point of your career?
  • Overall, how would you rate your preparedness to meet the challenges of transition, when it occurs?


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