Retirement Experiences of Elite Ballet Dancers: Impact of Self-Identity and Social Support

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Abstract

This study examined the retirement experiences of elite professional ballet dancers. Particular emphasis was placed on the influence of self-identity and social support on the quality of adjustment to retirement in elite ballet dancers. Six former elite ballet dancers from a single National Ballet Company in the United Kingdom participated in retrospective semistructured interviews. These interviews yielded transcripts that were analyzed using content analysis. As expected, the majority of participants presented strong and exclusive dancer identities. Those presenting a strong and exclusive dancer identity at the point of retirement experienced identity loss and confusion during the career transition process. Refuting our anticipated outcome, the primary social support network for dancers remained intact after career termination. The dancers perceived this continued social support to positively influence the overall quality of career transition experienced. In addition to social support, dancers adopted a combination of coping strategies; predominantly retirement planning and redefinition of self. Future research should focus on identifying specific adjustment difficulties associated with self-identity during retirement and should identify specific coping strategies adopted to counteract these adjustment difficulties during career transition from dance.

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