An exploration of the identity issues faced by retiring male ballet dancers

Parker, Robert (2011). An exploration of the identity issues faced by retiring male ballet dancers. University of Birmingham. M.Phil.

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The main purpose of this study was to explore the identity issues faced by professional male ballet dancers after retirement from the profession, with the overall aim of increasing insight and understanding into this specialised world. An interpretive case study using semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis was designed to probe perceptions and experiences of six retired dancers. Aspects of my own life experience as a dancer in training and performing for twenty-four years were used to broaden and complement the insights of the research. The study explored three key life stages. The first was related to the influence of training on identity formation; secondly, the reinforcement of identity throughout professional life; and finally, the management of social and psychological transition in the post-retirement phase. Building on the work of Goffman, Bourdieu and Foucault, the study focused on the institutionalising characteristics present in the ballet world and the pervasive qualities that can make the profession so difficult to leave. These qualities permeate a company's informal culture and include the camaraderie and sense of belonging amongst colleagues, the highpoints of exhilaration in performance, the sense of privilege in pursuing such an unusual career and the lifestyle commonly perceived as glamorous and elitist. To varying degrees, all participants experienced personal, social and psychological stress upon retirement and all retained the desire to return in some capacity to the dance world that had shaped them.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general


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