Sustainable careers

Fatigue identified as major contributor to injury in Australia’s professional dancers

The Safe Dance Report IV: Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, published today on the Ausdance National website, examines the Australian context and occurrence of injury in professional dancers and makes recommendations to support sustainable, healthy, and productive dancing careers.

A collaboration between The University of Sydney and Ausdance National, Safe Dance IV is the fourth in a series of Safe Dance research projects. It continues the important work started by Ausdance National almost 30 years ago.

The survey of 195 Australian professional dancers found 97% experienced at least one significant injury in their dance career, compared with 89% in 1999. And 73% of dancers reported experiencing a dance-related injury in the past 12 months.

Author and lead researcher Amy Jo Vassallo, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Sydney, said the consequences of these injuries can be quite substantial and include missed performance opportunities and income, ongoing pain and disability, and expensive treatment including surgery. Serious injuries can even lead to early retirement from dance careers and lifelong disability.

‘The proportion of dancers reporting fatigue as a contributing factor to their injury has increased from 26% in 1990 and 33% in 1999 to 48% in 2017’ she said.

‘However, compared with previous Safe Dance survey results, fewer dancers reported poor technique or environment as a contributor to their injury. This demonstrates the benefits of education, policies and interventions regarding safe dancing practice for dancers and teachers at all stages of a dance career, including early teaching and pre-professional training’.

Ausdance National President, Professor Gene Moyle, said the Safe Dance Report IV continues an important lineage for the Australian dance community. Hearing the words “safe dance practice” being so much a part of our language and approach within the dance sector today is a testament to the impact and contribution of the collective Safe Dance reports within our industry.

Recommendations have outlined that access to dance-educated or dance-specialised healthcare services is essential; addressing the cultural aspects of injury reporting is critical; and that a better acknowledgement of the psychological and psychosocial aspects of injury is required.

Key findings

Survey respondents’ employment as a dance performer was most commonly with a dance company (66%) or as an independent dance artist (38%).

Injuries remain common in professional dance, with 73% of professional dancers reporting experiencing an injury in the past 12 months. The most common site of injury was the ankle (26%), followed by the knee (11%) and hip (10%).

The most common injury type was a strain (25%), followed by chronic inflammation (19%) and a sprain (18%).

There was one accidental or traumatic injury for every two overuse or gradual injuries. The most common responses regarding the self-reported contributor to injury were fatigue (48%), followed by new or difficult choreography (39%) and ignoring early warning signs (31%).

Despite 62% of respondents reporting belief that there is still stigma associated with sustaining injuries as a professional dancer, 75% of dancers did say they would seek professional opinion if they suspected an injury. However, only 50% stated they would tell someone within their dance employment and 49% said they would also take their own preventative steps to manage their injury.

Despite seeing a clinician for treatment of their injury, 40% of dancers whose injury was currently unresolved were unsure if their injury would resolve in the foreseeable future. This indicates that many dancers need to be provided with improved and realistic expectations of their injury, capacity to dance during their injury and likely return to full dance ability.

For interview contact:

Amy Vassallo | PhD Candidate
Faculty of Health Sciences
The University of Sydney
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 02 9351 9010 and 02 9351 9108

Professor Gene Moyle ARAD MAPS MCSEP GAICD SFHEA
President
Ausdance National Council – Ausdance Inc.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +61 7 3138 3616

Download Safe Dance Report IV media release

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National Dance Forum 2017: Dance in the Digital Domain

MEDIA RELEASE (84Kb PDF)

Tuesday 22 August 2017
For immediate release

Australia’s peak dance organisation, Ausdance National, will host a two-day forum next month bringing together dance makers, producers and presenters for a highly topical forum focusing on the future of dance within the digital domain. The National Dance Forum is Australia’s key platform for dance artists, industry professionals and educators in providing rich opportunities to discuss, debate and collaborate with some of the most influential individuals and organisations in the country.

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First National Dance Forum 2017 speakers announced

We know the dance sector wants a chance to share, inspire, connect and to be inspired by the whole dance industry—that includes the broader ecology, from independents to majors. At NDF 2017 we'll hear inspiring talks from our National Dance Forum 2017 speakers.

Here are our first speakers for this year's forum.

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National forum to explore dance practice in the digital age

MEDIA RELEASE (90Kb PDF)

16 May 2017

The 2017 National Dance Forum will bring together makers, producers and presenters to discuss and share knowledge on current digital practices and technological developments. The two-day forum will focus on strengthening the dance sector’s capacity within the digital domain.

Led by the dance sector’s advocate for 40 years—Ausdance National—the fourth National Dance Forum (NDF2017) will take place at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, 25–26 September 2017 and will follow the Australian Dance Awards (Arts Centre Melbourne, 24 September 2017).

Dance artists, companies, presenters and researchers looking for ways to grow meaningful audience relationships and understand the issues around making art in a digital environment, need to attend.

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Ausdance advocacy report

Ausdance National's dance sector advocacy update ​Ausdance National's new interim National Executive has formally appointed Ausdance National (volunteer) representatives to attend and speak for Ausdance at the following organisations and forums: ArtsPeak, National Advocates for Arts Education, World Dance Alliance and Tertiary Dance Council of Australia.

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ArtsPeak update

Ongoing work

As well as recovering from the ArtsPeak National Arts Election Debate six months ago, there has been ongoing work: following up with the Australia Council on the Service Organisations Scan (complete, to be released by the Australia Council in the first quarter of 2017); advocating for the arts courses that will be affected by the VET student loans proposal (ongoing); and continuing to voice the sector’s concerns about the impact of the 2015 budget changes. The Executive has also played a part in Arts Front, and is currently monitoring (with great interest) the new initiative for a Myer, Tim Fairfax Family and Keir Foundations cultural think tank.

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LEAP Together Conference report

Toronto, Canada, 11–12 Nov 2016

LEAP Together: Career and Life Transitions in Dance and Sport was one of the key initiatives of a pioneering partnership between Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC) and Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO), and is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. 

The conference included a wide diversity of stakeholders from the sport and dance sectors to learn and exchange knowledge on various topics related to transition for high performers – professional dancers and elite athletes.

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Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy

The Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training invites you to make a submission to the inquiry into Innovation and Creativity: Workforce for the New Economy 

'On Wednesday 9 November 2016 the Committee adopted an inquiry referred by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, asking the Committee to inquire into and report on matters that ensure Australia’s tertiary system—including universities and public and private providers of vocational education and training—can meet the needs of a future labour force focused on innovation and creativity.'

Make your submission by addressing the terms of reference by 13 January 2017.

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VET FEE-HELP funding cuts—impact on professional dance training

VET FEE-HELP funding cuts—impact on professional dance training—media release (246 KB PDF)

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education and Training
PC Box 6100, Senate
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister,

Ausdance is deeply concerned about your decision to include some of Australia's leading professional dance training courses in the crackdown on courses eligible for VET student loans.

We are particularly concerned about the statement that these professional dance training courses are being subsidised because they are 'used simply to boost enrolments, or provide 'lifestyle' choices, but don't lead to work'.

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ArtsPeak Arts Sector Update #1 2016—an invitation to sector meetings and the Election Debate

Arts Sector update. ArtsPeak—April 2016

Welcome! ArtsPeak is producing a series of National Arts Sector Updates in the lead-up to the Federal election in July.  This work picks up on last year's Free the Arts updates and is being delivered as part of our partnership with Feral Arts. A National Election Strategy Group is coordinating the work. Membership is open to anyone. If you would like to get involved email [email protected]

Please share this update in your networks and with your members.

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New low as Government pumps Catalyst funds out the door in blatant pre-election pork barreling

ArtsPeak Media Release (45 KB PDF)
9 May 2016

The arts sector is reeling today at news that an extraordinary $13m in Catalyst funds were secretly pushed out the door over the weekend just in advance of the election being called and caretaker mode beginning.

In total $23,317,301 has now been spent – nearly half the $48m allocated for the next 4 years of Catalyst operations. When Senate Estimates sat last Thursday evening the committee were only made aware of the $10m of grants announced by Arts Minister Mitch Fifield last week.

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New study investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers

Safe Dance IV: Investigating injuries in Australia's professional dancers

Ausdance National has joined with the University of Sydney to conduct a research study about the different types of injuries in company and independent professional dancers across Australia, their contributing risk factors, access to health services and return to dance practices. 

We are looking for professional dancers to participate in this research. For more information about the study, or to be involved, please visit Safe Dance IV—Investigating injuries in Australia's professional dancers.

Please help us in spreading the word about this study by forwarding this notice to any dancers you think may be interested in participating. 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email Amy Vassallo, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney.

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Australian arts funding—September 2015 update

In 2013, 702,000 Australians attended a performance, workshop, or school activity facilitated by a national dance organisation (Key Arts Organisation (KAO) or Major Performing Arts company (MPA)). Australian dance continued to make a significant impact overseas, reaching an international audience of 69,000 through 122 performances by KAOs and MPAs across Europe, South America and the Middle East. From a small amount of funding support our dance companies are engaging audiences, sharing Australian cultural experiences and supporting developing artists.

However, this is all at risk due to the changes in funding being rolled out following the May 2015 Federal Budget. The Australia Council for the Arts has suffered a $34 million cut over the past two budgets, reducing overall funding from $218.7million to $184.5 million.

These reductions have been focused on initiatives and sector grants and the cessation of programs such as ArtStart, Australian Fellowships and Artists In Residence programs. 

$110 million over four years has been directed to the Ministry for the Arts to facilitate the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA). The guidelines for this program are being drafted, but initial indications show the NPEA will not support individual artists or organisational sustainability.

The arts sector, concerned about these changes, were successful in lobbying the Senate to inquire into these changes. The inquiry is being undertaken by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee and received over 2000 submissions from the public, many opposing the changes.

The inquiry is hearing from a diverse range of artists and organisations, including many dance focused groups. The Committee is due to report in November.

The arts broadly and the professional dance sector specifically contributes to the understanding of Australia’s culture and international profile. While MPA dance companies earn 73 percent of their income via box office and other non-government support, internal Australia Council reporting highlights the reliance small to medium companies have on government support to be able to deliver their creative output. In 2013, dance key organisations received 69 percent of all income from government sources, compared to 37 percent in music and 50 percent in theatre.

Despite a recent increased focus on growing private sector funding by KAO dance companies, it remains only approximately $1 million a year, spread across 13 organisations. While this focus has seen an increase on previous years (260 percent since 2008), private funding for the arts has predominately been directed at larger, more established arts organisations. Small to medium organisations need a growth in base capacity and ongoing stability to be able to harness such relationships.

This is a challenging time for all involved in making professional dance. Follow the debate at #freethearts on Twitter and Facebook and via the Ausdance advocacy page.

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ArtsPeak’s response to the draft guidelines for the National Program for Excellence in the Arts

ArtsPeak's response to National Program for Excellence in the Arts draft guidelines (360KB PDF)

Dear Minister Brandis

Re: draft guidelines for the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA)

ArtsPeak (the confederation of Australian national peak arts organisations and arts industry councils) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the recently released draft guidelines for the Federal Government’s National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA). ArtsPeak particularly welcomes the Government’s statement about the intrinsic value of the arts:

While valuing the many secondary benefits which flow from arts activities, the Program seeks to celebrate the intrinsic capacity of the arts to engage, inspire and make meaning for all Australians.

1. Sustainability

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Ausdance responds to the Draft Guidelines for the National Program for Excellence in the Arts

Draft Guidelines for the Program

Ausdance responds to the Draft Guidelines for the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (300KB PDF)

The Australian Dance Council – Ausdance National is Australia's peak body for dance: educating, inspiring and supporting the dance community in reaching its potential as a dynamic force within local, national and international communities. As part of a network of Ausdance organisations working across Australia, we design and deliver accessible services and integrated programs to support dance in Australia. Ausdance is a member of ArtsPeak and the National Advocates for Arts Education, and facilitates the Tertiary Dance Council of Australia.

We welcome the opportunity to review the guidelines in draft format, noting this new funding process exists under the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines and will need to be approved by the Finance Minister before commencing.

Ausdance supports the feedback provided by ArtsPeak relating to the Guidelines and adds these further comments.

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Watch National Dance Forum 2015 panel discussions

National Dance Forum 2015 (19–21 March) addressed the inherent concerns and realities affecting current professional practice in Australia. It was framed by three specific lines of focus:

  • Transforming the form: changing structures and their effects
  • The subtleties and nuances of innovation.
  • Discourse: How is dance written about, spoken about and communicated?

A partnership between the Australia Council for the Arts and Ausdance National, the NDF is a biennial gathering for the Australian professional contemporary dance sector. It fosters the artistic development of dance in Australia by providing a platform for discussion between Australian choreographers, dancers, independent artists, artistic directors, educators, researchers and dance producers.

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