Due to the very nature of the demands of a career in dance, career development and transition is a critical area within this field. This has been recognised by a significant amount of research having been previously undertaken in Australia (albeit quite a number of years ago), in addition to the recognition regarding the value and contribution of previous national career programs run by Ausdance National for artists – such as SCOPE and SCOPE for Artists.
Given there had been no recent formal inquiry into what is offered to professional dancers in Australia and the potential effectiveness of these programs from an organisational or individual perspective, a collective of professional dance companies, with additional support provided by the Australia Council for the Arts, initiated a research project that centred on a review of existing career development and transition programs at an organisational level, both in Australia and overseas.
Bangarra Dance Theatre, Queensland Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, The Australian Ballet, and West Australian Ballet collectively agreed that there was a need to support dancers in career transition. Whilst each of the companies reported that they had career transition initiatives in operation, it was identified that these programs varied considerably and were at very different stages of development. As a result, the research project involved an extensive review of the existing empirical literature, accessible organisational information including benchmarking, and the completion of interviews and focus groups with 61 participants from across the five Australian dance companies.
The findings from the project identified:
- Whilst the combination of independent dancer career transition centres operating in conjunction and/or alongside professional dance companies is an ideal model, due to the current economic climate and context regarding government funding for the arts in Australia it is unlikely that a fully-government funded career transition organisation would be able to be supported.
- Due to the significant variability in levels of funding, company size, and resourcing, there is no ‘one-size fits all’ model for career transition for professional dancers in dance companies in Australia at this time.
- The most helpful approach is for the companies to continue to support and grow career transition via the avenues that are already established and/or continue to pursue the initiatives that organisations have more recently commenced.
- Establishing retraining funds to support grants for training and professional development activities appears to be a more realistic initial approach for companies, particularly where such a fund does not yet exist.
- Implementing minimal or cost neutral services (i.e. mentoring, job shadowing, work experience, internal workshops) in addition to providing such services during work hours, would make a significant difference to dancers.
- Career development and transition policies need to be developed to ensure processes are equitable, transparent, and clear for all concerned, with companies likely to benefit from further collaboration and the sharing of resources to create a more consistent national approach.
LEAP TOGETHER Conference
An opportunity to share the learnings from this report was achieved via presenting as part of a panel at the LEAP TOGETHER Conference in Toronto, Canada on 11–12 November 2016. The panel, titled Does One Size Fit All? – Perspectives on Career Transition Models, was a cross-section of representatives and specialists from various international organisations who focused upon the sharing of career transition models that currently exist across the globe, to assist in exploring the many transition programs and services on offer including their impact and relevance.
Panellists included Paul Bronkhorst (President of the International Organization for the Transition of Professional Dancers), Angela Mondou (President of Canada Company), Lauren Gordon (Career Counsellor & Psychotherapist previously of Career Transition For Dancers), Gene Moyle (Performance Psychologist & Head of Discipline – Dance, QUT) with Moderator Francisco Alvarez (Executive & Artistic Director of the Galleries System OCAD University).
The conference was highly valuable in not only the opportunity to connect and hear from a variety of professionals, administrators, researchers and educators involved in the field of career transition for dancers and athletes, it provided a strong platform to explore how these related sectors can learn from each other and work together to support effective career development and transition for all. The wonderful team at Dancer Transition Resource Center (DTRC), co-partners in the LEAP initiative, are currently uploading the video recordings of all LEAP conference presentations – please visit Michael du Maresq’s YouTube Channel to view.
Associate Professor Gene Moyle