Retired dancers need more help to find work – report

Dance companies in the UK are being urged to back a scheme aimed at supporting dancers at the end of their stage careers, as part of a Europe-wide effort to boost employment opportunities for performers facing retirement.

Since November last year, the European arm of global union the International Federation of Actors has been carrying out a study into the career paths of dancers and what schemes exist to help them move into other areas of work when they retire.

In a handbook produced as a result of its research, which highlights how to successfully put in place schemes for retiring dancers, FIA warns that dancers are often “confronted with the end of their performing careers” at the age of 35.

In a breakdown of what assistance for dancers exists across Europe, the report highlights the work of the UK’s Dancers’ Career Development initiative, which helps performers to make the transition from professional dancing to new careers through a variety of schemes.

One such scheme is the Company Fund, which offers grants to dancers who have worked professionally for eight years, of which five years must have been spent at one or more of the nine companies which support the fund financially. These include Birmingham Royal Ballet and Rambert Dance Company.

However, in its conclusions, FIA claims that more small-scale dance companies should join this fund, so that dancers who have worked outside the nine major companies are also eligible for support.

FIA’s handbook also warns that the DCD makes it “impossible for all professional dancers” – including foreign dancers – to access its schemes because they require performers to have worked for five years in the UK.

Responding, DCD executive director Linda Yates said DCD is “committed to ensuring that as many dancers as possible are eligible to apply for assistance”. She said a “second-level system of funding” has been introduced for its Company Fund, which is designed for dancers who have performed with contributing companies who pay into the fund for a shorter period of between one and four years.

She added: “We welcome and encourage small-scale dance companies to join the DCD Company Fund, to enable more dancers to receive support when going through the often difficult process of transition.”

FIA’s handbook, which will be formally published later this year, also says trade unions should be doing more to help set up similar schemes, with financing for the projects worked into collective agreements with employers. It claims job centres do not “respond to the needs and the specific circumstance of dancers in transition”.

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