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Dance educator experiences of developing skill in pre-professional adolescent ballet dancers Hawke, Jamie


The path to becoming a professional dancer requires many years of dedicated training, typically in specialized dance programs. With the considerable amount of time, effort, and money required to develop skill in dance, factors that affect dance talent development have gained increasing interest in the dance medicine and science field. Dance educators are responsible for the day-to-day development of pre-professional ballet dancers and play an important role in influencing talent development. To date, little research has investigated dance educators’ experiences. Using hermeneutic phenomenology as a methodology to frame the study, the main research question was, “What is it like to experience teaching adolescent pre-professional ballet dancers with the goal of developing skill?”. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six dance educators teaching in pre-professional ballet programs. Using thematic analysis in line with the work of van Manen (2016) the experiences of participants were captured by five core themes: 1) Teaching is experienced through interactions with students; 2) Teaching is not “one-size-fits-all”; 3) There is more than one type of education; 4) Teaching is experienced through planning classes and teaching across time; and 5) Teaching is influenced by the environment. Participants discussed aspects of their teaching approach that fit within a student-centered paradigm. The results of this study contribute to dance pedagogy literature by highlighting some of the complexities of teaching adolescent dancers within the sociocultural context of classical ballet. The expectations of the dance studio, social media, and student expectations all play a role in shaping dance educators experiences. When discussing their approach to developing skill participants suggested a wholistic view of their students and dance education. This research offers a glimpse into the experiences of dance educators and provides insight into areas for future research in dance education.

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