Perceptions of Pain, Injury, and Transition-Retirement: The Experiences of Professional Dancers Academic Article uri icon


  • Dancers are often referred to as "athletes of the arts," and like other athletes they undergo years of hard physical training in pursuit of excellence. Previous research has indicated that dancers develop high pain thresholds and push past their pain barriers. This has potential implications for their health and wellbeing in both their professional careers and life after dance. Therefore, the purpose of this pilot study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of injury, pain, and retirement among professional dancers. Twenty professional dancers, 10 from the United Kingdom and Canada, hereafter referred to as "international," and 10 from Australia participated in a semi-structured interview reflecting on their experiences of the aforementioned issues. The following themes were identified: 1. the injured dancer: the reality; 2. dancers' perceptions and experiences of pain; 3. the transition leading to retirement; and 4. life after dance: attributes facilitating career change. Results from both Australian and international dancers revealed that they withstand, manage, and dance through persistent levels of pain and injury. All participants reported that they were highly motivated and dedicated to their dance careers; however, the majority of Australian dancers were not adequately prepared for, or aware of, the challenges of transition into their post-professional dance lives when compared to the international dancers. Dancer transition organizations currently operate in America, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United Kingdom and serve as valuable models that could be replicated in Australia. The current study recommends increased awareness of pain management and injury prevention strategies for dancers and further supports the rationale for development and implementation of transition models for dancers in Australia and elsewhere.

publication date

  • 2017