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Age at retirement


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Quick question. I read recently that ballet dancers tend to retire later now than they used to, mainly due to advances in injury prevention and medical treatment. I know there are people on here who have followed ballet for decades, and I was curious whether this is a trend people have seen?

 

Ballet has an image of being full of very young dancers, but at the RB, for example, nearly all of the top dancers are in their 30's, and I get the impression that is the case at many companies.

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Some companies have mandatory retirement ages - in the RDB it is 40 and that is now enforced more rigorously in these financially straitened times.

 

I think the 30s are possibly the golden age for top dancers - they have reached their physical and artistic peak and I would think it quite common that dancers can go on till their late 30s or older as long as the contracts are available to them.

 

I would be interested to know if your statement about injury prevention is accurate.  Some years ago David Morse (now retired from BRB) gave a talk to Friends and he was talking about his early days as a dancer 50 or so years ago.  He felt there were fewer injuries in those days because the dancers were more "match-fit" due to the amount of performances they did.

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I would be interested to know if your statement about injury prevention is accurate.  Some years ago David Morse (now retired from BRB) gave a talk to Friends and he was talking about his early days as a dancer 50 or so years ago.  He felt there were fewer injuries in those days because the dancers were more "match-fit" due to the amount of performances they did.

 

Interesting. Did dancers from previous era's do more performances? I read that Nureyev was at one point doing about 250 performances a year, but I think he was a special case.

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I think the companies had fewer dancers and therefore the dancers would have had to potentially dance in more of the performances.  Also there would be a short ballet before less lengthy full length works such as Giselle.

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intresting topic what age was miyako yoshida before she retired from the royal ballet ????

 

having found out she was born in 1965 that puts her at 47/48

Edited by sonik1965
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Paris Opera Ballet has them retire at 42, I think, which begs the same question about Benjamin and Yoshida (who I think may have been 44 when she took her leave of the RB, although she was still dancing after that in Japan), and, earlier, Lesley Collier, to name just three.

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I think it depends upon how far back one wants to go to make the comparison. If we go back to the midish 20th century, I think dancers did not get as injured because there were less demands for very high jumps and over the head lifts for men and high extensions with "perfect" turnout for women.  I think the tempo has increased too. 

 

Consequently, I think dance careers were longer - think of Fonteyn, Ulanova, Alonso, Makarova, Markova, Plisetskaya, Dudinskya, Ashley, Franklin, and many many others.  Since dancers were not being judged by how high and how far and how fast they could go - they were appreciated for those artistic gifts they had acquired through the decades of their careers. 

 

The last time I saw Plisetskaya dance Dying Swan she had to put her hand down momentarily to rise from a kneeling position.  Who cared?  She was sublime.

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Nina Ananiashivili became 50 this March and she performed Nikiya in Kiev on the same month. And last month she danced full Swan Lake and heard she was very good. Miyako Yoshida performed full Cinderella in Japan last weekend. 

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Well, I think many retirements are forced, even if it's just the AD saying "I really think it's time to call it quits" (or worse).  But the idea of an obligatory retirement age is anathema to me, although I suppose it can sometimes be of use in getting rid of people who have *really* outstayed their welcome.

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I'm not supporting the idea of forced retirement, but it also allows the influx of new blood. And in the case of POB, I wonder if that's not part of the reasoning, given the strong links with the school.

Dancers can also still guest or pursue their careers in other ways, it's not necessarily the end.

And in the case of POB (and I assume RDB), the (full) pension they are allowed to draw from the state is most likely far more interesting than what one would get in the UK.

A quick search seems to indicate that corps dancers are helped to find and have training for their post-ballet career as well, even if that's a realitevely new development.

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Sylvie Guillem is 48 and appears to be going strong though I haven't seen her for a few years. I always thought Nureyev went on too long in the end...much as I loved or maybe because I loved his dancing!! I went to one prog at the Coliseum and felt a little sad as I thought many people might be seeing him that night for the first time and would be wondering what all the fuss was about and may have gone home disappointed which would never have happened in earlier years. I once walked all the way home from Covent Garden to my then tiny room near Gloucester Road Tube station after a performance of Nureyev and Fonteyn I was so elated!! And that's how it should be I think.

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In ballet companies attached to western European opera houses, dancers are more or less regarded as ‘civil servants’ with a mandatory retirement age (if memory serves me, it is 43 in Stockholm) at which point they can draw a handsome state pension. They can, however, return as guest artists and some remain on call as character artists. In the UK dancers have to wait with the rest of us for our pensions, and therefore it is up to them when they want to retire.  I think most dancers are sensible enough to know when their bodies have had enough and, with a few notable exceptions, this is by their late thirties for those who do not reach principal status and are therefore still in or on call for every performance. Sometimes management may subtly imply retirement to dancers by not casting them in previous roles or not offering them anything new.

All dancers in the major UK dance companies pay into the Dancers Resettlement Fund, which has been around for about 40 years and funds retraining when dancers retire early through injury or by choice.  Dancers retrain in a wide variety of fields – at the end of the 1970s, I knew one dancer who retrained at the Royal College of Music as a piano teacher and another as a ceramics restorer.  The Fund also pays for dancers to attend Professional Dance Teachers’ courses etc. 

There have always been those stars who dance well into their forties and beyond, most modifying their repertoire as they go;  and long may it continue, otherwise I would never have been able to see Fonteyn (glorious in her mid-fifties as Odette), Alonso or Plisetskaya!

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Well, legally, in the UK dancers are one of the few professions - along with footballers and rugby players I think - who are allowed to draw a pension from the age of 35 or thereabouts.  But of course it's doubtful whether any but the most successful - and I'm not even sure about them - could afford to do it.

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Thanks for the responses. There was a comment in the bloomberg article about O'Hare implying he is keen to keep the dancers approaching 40 on at the RB, and I hope that's the case. It would be a shame if Yanowsky wasn't still utilised for the next few years.

 

Irmgard, your comment about dancers that have not reached principal status is interesting. I forget how few performances the principlas actually do compared to the artists and soloists, and that probably extends your career by a few years.

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