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Where does it all lead?


annaliesey
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I have a bit of a strange week where me or hubby have got chatting to ex-dancers. It's just been through day to day chit chat.

 

Discovering the lady on the till at the garden centre, then two other 'by chance' conversations all to hear that these people went to vocational school, did a bit of professional work and ended up giving up dance quite early on in their careers

 

Makes me so sad to hear people have gone all the way with their training and worked so hard, and ultimately couldn't have an enjoyable long career for various reasons

 

:(

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Was it their own choice to leave their dance careers?

 

Over the years I have been a ballet-watcher I have seen numerous dancers leave the profession at a comparatively early age - mostly through their own choice.  Perhaps people just decide that the professional dancer's life is not for them or their interests change.  I know one dancer from BRB left to retrain, successfully, as a doctor.

 

I would say that a good vocational education is never wasted because of the life skills it gives the individual no matter what life choices they subsequently make.

 

Sadly I also know of dancers whose careers ended early because of injuries.

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This is why it is so important to enjoy the "journey" for its own sake, not only as a means to an end. Particularly in fields such as dance and sport, where injury can put paid to a promising career literally overnight, I think you do have to live in the moment to a degree. But the same is true of many things really. I doubt many of us follow the exact paths we planned as youngsters, but we probably gained a lot from following dreams,even if they didn't come to fruition. I work with a lady who went to WL. Her current job is about as far from ballet as you can get but she has no regrets and has wonderful memories of her time there.

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There are several possibilities. As Janet has said, some change their minds about the career they want and others suffer career ending injuries, Others give up their dream of a dance career because they can't get a permanent contract; they may have a few temporary contracts but give up after a couple of years because they can't support themselves..

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This is something that worries me on a daily

basis since my dd started vocational school in September. I only had to watch her dancing with the rest of her year group to see how many talented beautiful dancers she is training with, not to mention all the children in other year groups and then all those around the country in other vocational schools. They ALL desperately want to make it and to have careers in the performing arts industry and yet the reality is there will not be enough jobs for all of them. I can totally understand why some of them give up and follow other paths, even after all that training but it does make me sad and at times I almost wish we had never encouraged dd down this route.

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Nothing is certain though is it? Apart from death and taxes ;) . I have tried many times to talk my dd out of the pursuit of a dance career and so have her teachers. Doesn't work. It is all she has ever wanted to do and I can only admire her determination and that of her dance friends. I too ran into an unexpected dancer at a company pensions seminar of all places. She had actually managed to work as a ballet dancer until age 30.Her top tip was 'go to Germany' there is more work there! Very few people get to follow their dream but it would be a dull world if we all took the safe predictable path.

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Was it their own choice to leave their dance careers?

.

I really don't know as it's just polite chit chat with strangers. One was on a plumbing callout.

 

But all of them wished my dd good luck with dance and none ever say "get out quick while you can" lol

 

The lady in boots said her dd gave up basically due to eating disorder and anxiety.

 

One other said they retrained in musical theatre, did work on cruise ships, then just said there was a downturn of work apparently

 

Another was a younger lady who just hadn't got a contract

 

It's just a shame that there aren't more jobs about .. Even if they aren't big jobs :)

 

Going to the theatre can get really expensive but you'd think there would always be a market for smaller scale productions and to be able to enjoy the dance arts more and employ more people

 

:)

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It is definitely an over-subscribed profession and there are hundreds of dancers out there competing for each position. The problem is the outcome is unpredictable when you start, so it's a leap of faith for a white knuckle ride! The one thing that does seem more difficult in ballet compared to 'normal' companies is that the selection is totally subjective and down to the whims and preferences of one person (the AD) which can be difficult to understand. Certainly where I work there are clear selection criteria and a moderation panel.

 

Even if lucky enough to get a job, your career may not progress as desired. There are many still in the corps after 5 years and still some remain after 10 years and I don't think anyone really trains for 8 years at vocational school with a dream of getting to the corps and progressing no further. It is also a very demanding profession and it takes a lot of sacrifice to succeed - starting in the morning with company class, followed by rehearsals and then an evening performance, getting home bone tired at midnight to get up and do it all again day after day. There is little opportunity to have any kind of life outside ballet and life inside can be tinged by competitive tension; as Lauren Cuthbettson said recently, she doesn't really have any friends in the company, just colleagues, so it can be very lonely. Probably all worth it if you're going to be the next principal but otherwise maybe not, no matter how great your passion for dancing. There is a romantic ideal of being totally self-sacrificing for the sake of your passion and not being able to live without dance - but practicalities of life are still there - still got to pay the bills.

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I suppose that so many dancers decide on their chosen vocation when they are very young, and have made this choice many years before most people even begin to think about what they want to do in life.

 

People change as they grow up and so it isn't really all that surprising that quite a lot of them ultimately decide that a dance career isn't for them after all.

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I too was of the generation that went to Europe for jobs - in my case France. After several years I had problems with my Achilles tendons and had to stop performing. I taught at a Conservatoire in Spain and eventually returned to UK.

 

Unfortunately these days few of those job opportunities exist. The economic problems of the last decade mean many companies have closed or downsized. Yet at the same time there has been a growth in the number of Vocational schools. So yes, I am afraid there are few classical jobs. However there are lots in more commercial disciplines. Good luck to all auditioning!

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The other thing is that smaller contemporary companies (which is most of them) seem to engage dancers on a project by project basis rather than offering them a permanent contract. You will see the same dancers crop up in different productions and they often have to supplement their income from performing with other things such as teaching at open classes, workshops and summer schools. I've noticed that a couple of Matthew Bourne's dancers have also performed in West End musicals, which is not an option for those dancers whose training has been purely classical.

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Very few areas of post-compulsory education lead directly to life-long career jobs nowadays. Dance, and other performing arts, are harder than other areas, but the training is a good in itself. 

 

Indeed. Regardless of your training, dance or otherwise, you gain a wealth of skills that are utile well beyond a career directly in that field. Often we may not even be aware that we possess some of these.

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My primary degree is in Pure Mathematics. Twenty five years later very few of us are in careers that directly follow from that (even most IT careers are pretty tangential to a pure maths degree). Enjoy the trip, and work it out the details later - given the pace of change in pretty much everything these days it's hard to tell what jobs will be available in ten years anyway. How long before the accounting profession is decimated by automation for instance? 

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Very few areas of post-compulsory education lead directly to life-long career jobs nowadays. Dance, and other performing arts, are harder than other areas, but the training is a good in itself.

 

Agree to some extent. But in most fields there are a range of qualifications ie; BTEC level 1 up to degrees and you would certainly have a much better chance of employment if you had the highest level qualification and the best training in that field. I just feel that no matter how good the ballet or dance training the chances of long or even much of a career is disproportionately slim :(

 

And it's a shame as so many people enjoy watching dance so there's such a seemingly strange gap between the market of customers who want and would pay to watch performances versus the number of job roles

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I agree that dance, and the performing arts in general,have less career certainty than many other professions, but there are lots of other fields where consistent work is hard to come by even if you are highly qualified. I have a friend who has a first in law and passed her Bar exams with flying colours, but,like the majority of her cohort she has been unable to secure a pupillage to continue a career in law. And I have a young relative who graduated a few years ago from probably the most sought after post grad journalism course in the country, having beaten off hundreds of applicants for a place. She has had articles published in some of the most respected newspapers both before and after graduation (though rarely with her name on them)but she has not secured a permanent job. Much like many young dancers, rather than getting a full time contract she is having to create her own career, doing various pieces of freelance work, taking short term contracts and writing for publications that really hold little interest for her. And she was one of the "high flyers" as a student - I can only imagine it has been even harder for those who were lower down the class.

I think when our children are so focused on dance we as parents have a tendency to become equally focused and maybe lose sight of the bigger picture a little. Dance is without doubt an incredibly tough career path to follow, but there are lots of other fields that are also pretty brutual - the grass isn't necessarily greener elsewhere and it has to be easier to put up with the knock backs in any field if it is something you truly love doing.Realistically, if you look at the statistical chances of a lengthy career in dance, nobody in their right mind would ever start, and the same must apply to many other professions. The world would be a poorer place if everyone took the sensible choice though. Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I am a firm believer in the "better to have loved and lost..." school of thought.

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'Create your own career' - that's well said and only too true. The world has changed so much in the last few decades and (many) of us have lived through a huge revolution without possibly even noticing. When I was at school in the late Neolithic period (that's how it seems) our head teacher would not allow us 'academic girls' to learn typing in case we got sucked into dead end jobs, and we were forbidden to have calculators as they were then regarded as too expensive. I had to struggle with a slide rule instead. Plainly my teachers never envisaged the rise of computers and the power of IT. Many of the jobs around today did not exist 20 years ago and who knows what the job market of the future will look like. There was a time when a decent degree in a reasonable subject (insert your own definition of reasonable) would net you a job, but its not necessarily so anymore. Among science students there is a massive increase in numbers studying for an MSc as tacitly admitted by the government providing student loans for them from Sept 2016. Also I know of more than a few refuseniks who have quit education at 18 not because they were incapable of gaining a university place but because they wanted to do something different. So if you have a passion to do something really well, no matter what, I say go for it!! (and I hope I am able to go on saying that to my children over the next few years).

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Where does it all lead?

 

To an empty bank account, lots of grey hair and off-spring who have to adjust to bends in the (career) path.

 

But, hey, if they have had a great time during their school years, been given the opportunity to do as their heart desires, learnt many diverse life skills along the way ( as have been discussed many times), learnt the value of hard work, built up a self-sustaining strong character, met some fabulous friends ( some who'll stay with them as friends for life) and had some pretty amazing experiences, well, how bad can it be? So many of them won't end up being principle dancers ( or even dancing at all) but life is about the journey, not the destination

 

- or at least this is what I keep telling myself regularly when I start having similar thoughts, Annalisey. Isn't it surprising just how many people you meet in everyday life who have at some point or another attended White Lodge/ Elmhurst/(insert school of your choice)

 

???????? ( edited to add that this post is meant to be lighthearted,)

Edited by along for the ride mum
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.Realistically, if you look at the statistical chances of a lengthy career in dance, nobody in their right mind would ever start, and the same must apply to many other professions. The world would be a poorer place if everyone took the sensible choice though. Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I am a firm believer in the "better to have loved and lost..." school of thought.

Oh I absolutely agree but it just seems incredible the amount of people you bump into in everyday walks of life who progressed such a long way and then just seem to have had a very short career applying and enjoying all that training and years of sacrifice and hard work

 

Both hubby and I are self employed and understand the 'build your own career' but it must be so difficult to find something in line with aspirations of a dancer

 

I see so many workshops, pay to be in the west end, pay to be in a Panto kind of initiatives and feel there are lots of jobs in training (well maybe not lots) but not so many actually performing. It's as if so many go straight into teaching and so the cycle begins

 

I was just reflecting on the threads on here for upper school auditions and lower school auditions and it's so frantic trying to win a place I just think what will be will be .. Is it ultimately worth the anxiety?

 

DD will be taking options in a couple of years and she's been says by she wants to do Drama, music, GCSE trampolining but I'm thinking now I should persuade her to do options where she can use to retrain later in life if she wants to.

 

Someone should make a monopoly game based on performing arts. I reckon less that 1% win the "Free Parking" but lots would enjoy the game!! :)

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I agree with all the positives of a dance training. But what gets me is the huge financial contribution we'll have made along the way for them not to end up with a job. There are lots of cheaper ways to get a higher qualification that would qualify one for a general post Uni job.....

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I agree sarahw. I'm afraid I can't be as light-hearted about it as some, given the huge financial contribution and major compromise of academics, it seems fairly harsh to end up without a job at the end of it. Yes there are many good experiences and positives but at what price? And what if you don't want to teach?

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I agree sarahw. I'm afraid I can't be as light-hearted about it as some, given the huge financial contribution and major compromise of academics, it seems fairly harsh to end up without a job at the end of it. Yes there are many good experiences and positives but at what price? And what if you don't want to teach?

 

Along with many others we thought long and hard along much the same lines, but at the end of the day we decided that we didn't want dd to look back in years to come and wonder "What if...?" and to regret that she'd never had the opportunity to give it her best shot.

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