Sustainable careers

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    Recommendations arising from the Safe Dance IV research project

    In professional dance, as with all physical and athletic endeavours, there will always be a realistic expectation of some musculoskeletal complaints. The information gathered through the Safe Dance research studies develops a better understanding of the changing profile of professional dancers in Australia and their experience of injury. The findings can be used to assist in the tailoring and evaluation of evidence based injury prevention initiatives with the long-term goal of safely sustaining dancers in their professional dance careers for as long as they choose.

    Safe Dance IV—it would be nothing without you!

    From January 2017 we will start analysing the rich and valuable data provided though the Safe Dance IV questionnaire. We will also be writing the 4th Safe Dance report, which will be made available to the dance community via the Ausdance National website. In particular this report will detail the current prevalence of injuries in Australia’s professional dance population and describe progress that has been made in injury prevention and management since the 3rd Safe Dance report was published in 1999. The major study conclusions will be used to help set priority areas for future dance research and action, make updated safe dance practice recommendations and assist with evaluations of current injury prevention initiatives.  

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    Sustainable careers for dance artists

    The dancer’s performing life is highly focused, demanding dedicated vocational training from an early age, and it depends on time-consuming creative and physical regimes. Dance artists, in contrast with other artists, are particularly challenged when it comes to professional career development.

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    Projects View all

    2019 National Dance Forum

    The NDF is the most significant platform for dialogue across the Australian contemporary dance sector. Dancers, makers, researchers, writers, directors, producers, advocates and educators participate in discussions about the inherent concerns and realities affecting current professional practice in Australia.

    Keith Bain Choreographic Travel Fellowship

    The biennial Keith Bain Choreographic Travel Fellowship supports international travel and experiences by emerging choreographers (under 40 years) across any dance genre.

    Reinstate professional dance courses on the VET student loans eligible course list

    Ausdance National is working with the National Advocates for Arts Education to:

    • reinstate professional dance courses on the VET Student Loans eligible course list
    • make a case to redefine the methods used to assess courses eligible for student loans—recognising the cultural sector as one of Australia's major employers and arts graduates as key contributors to the creative economy in Australia.

    Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers

    Australia is at the forefront of dance injury epidemiology efforts; the Safe Dance Project Report on dance injury prevention and management in the Australian dance profession, known as Safe Dance®, was launched almost 30 years ago. It was the first study of its kind conducted in Australia and showed an alarming prevalence of both chronic and acute injuries in Australian dancers. These findings led to a variety of recommendations and initiatives, including a recommendation to repeat the Safe Dance study regularly to evaluate the effect of these initiatives and provide further insight into dancer health and wellbeing.

    National Dance Forum 2017

    The 2017 National Dance Forum brought together makers, producers and presenters to discuss and share knowledge on current digital practices and technological developments. The two-day forum focused on strengthening the dance sector’s capacity within the digital domain. It engaged artists in developing and sharing skills in this environment.

    The fourth National Dance Forum (NDF2017) took place from 25–26 September 2017 at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Victoria.

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    Publications View all

    Australian Dance Summits 2001

    This report presents some of the debate from a series of Dance Summits held in each State and Territory during February/March 2001. In 1991, under the auspices of the Australia Council, 148 members of the Australian dance community gathered in Canberra to debate the future of dance for the following decade. Much was achieved from those recommendations, but with a new decade about to begin, Ausdance assumed the role of facilitator and organised a series of State and Territory meetings, culminating in a national summit in Canberra on 26 March 2001. More than 220 members of the Australian dance community debated a wide range of issues during these consultations, and agreed on six priorities for action.

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    National Dance Forum 2019

    Led by the dance sector’s peak advocacy organisation—Ausdance National—the fifth National Dance Forum will take place in Darwin on 9 and 10 August 2019. Tracks Dance Company will present the forum which coincides with the opening weekend of ths Darwin Festival.

    Executive Director’s May update

    We are currently representing the dance sector by contributing knowledge to three urgent issues that impact healthy growth in Australia’s creative economy:

    • Access to professional mental health support for those who work in the entertainment industry, because we can't tackle these issues in isolation. We need to support each other.
    • Access to education and training resources to prevent discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and bullying, because these impact our mental health and wellbeing. Together we can create healthy work environments free from these threats.
    • Sustainable access to international expertise that transfers skills to Australian organisations and creatives, because this will stimulate innovation.

    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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