Ballet Retirement

Ballet Retirement
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Retiring from a career in Classical Ballet requires planning ahead. Image:

Ballet Retirement: What does a ballet dancer do when it’s time to retire?

Retiring from ballet for a dancer can and often is a scary proposition, due to age or injury, it’s a good idea to stay a step ahead.

Melanie Kuxdorf, of explains how to face ballet retirement in the following article:

After Life as Dancer, Help Learning New Steps

The body can only take so much. Fortunately there’s the Dancer Transition Resource Centre.

A box of tissues sits prominently on the coffee table at the Vancouver office of Canada’s Dancer Transition Resource Centre. Andrea Gunnlaugson, the B.C. program officer, points to it and says that it’s often in use when her members come to see her. She calls herself the “keeper of secrets.”

A dance career offers little financial security. There are few workplace protections, no unions, and retirement looms when other careers are just getting started: most dancers retire from performing between the ages of 28 and 35.

All of that leads to a lot of tears when dancers wind up in Gunnlaugson’s office.

“We’re the safety place,” she says. A professional dancer herself who retired from performing only a few years ago, Gunnlaugson knows first-hand the pressures facing working dancers. “As an actor you can age and work. With dance you trash your body to such an extent that eventually you do have to stop.”

When the DTRC first opened its doors in 1985 it was meeting a need for dancers in Canada. After spending their youth and careers in the studio, retiring dancers were ill-prepared for finding and starting a new career. With low salaries and little time for outside education, retirement due to age or injury was a terrifying prospect.

As the organization celebrates its 25th year of helping dancers “transition” into new careers it remains one of the few safety nets for dancers in Canada, offering scholarships and counseling for dancers looking to re-train or retire.

“Your whole identity is wrapped up in this work. It’s not just what you do, it’s who you are,” says Gunnlaugson. “In what other career do you worry that if you take a few weeks off you may not be able to come back?”

Dancer Tiffany Bilodeau knows that pressure. “In the ballet world there’s this saying,” she says. “‘Take one day off, you notice. Take two days off, your colleagues notice. Take three days off and the audience notices.'”

Melanie Kuxdorf is also in transition; she’s both a journalist and a dancer. Follow her @melkux.

To read entire article click here.

If you’re a ballet dancer, like myself, I’m sure you can relate to the fear of nearing retirement.

I hope this article will shed light on your next step in your career and motivate you to find support in your community. Or contact the Dancer Transition Resource Centre  on their facebook page here.

Please pass this article on to ballet dancers as they near their retirement or to ballet students who are thinking about pursuing ballet as a serious career path. They will thank you!

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