We’re Killing our Kids
When I was growing up in dance, it was an accepted fact that most dancers retire around age 30 (yet another “norm” I have blatantly proven wrong – ha!). To put this into a math formula to make more sense what this meant for the stereotypical dancer is this: Ages 3-7 1-4 hours per week of dancing, Ages 7-12 4-8 hours per week of dancing (if they were on a team), Ages 12-16 or 18 12-20 hours per week of dancing, and then once they entered the professional dancing world around 16-18, their hours are typically 30 hours per week (some as high as 40). Dancing is or at least can be incredibly hard on the body. The wear and tear on the hips, knees, and ankles, and backs are especially common. By age 30, many dancers are either too injured to continue full time, or are simply burnt out and ready to simplify. Many go on to teaching, or diversifying their careers, since “retirement” in the dance world doesn’t equate to any sort of continuing pay, and they are much too young to collect any type of social security.
Fast forward to today, 20-30 years later. Ages 3-4 1-4 hours per week, ages 5-7 6-10 hours per week, ages 8-10 10-20 hours per week, ages 11-14 20-40 hours per week, and ages 14-16 or 18 30-60 hours per week! 60 hours per week for high school students?!?! WHAT? I am not exaggerating here, folks. How in the world do they fit that in you ask? Well, now, if you want a chance at a professional career, you have to go to a performing arts high school during the day, then put in your 20-30 hours in the evenings at your studio. You think I’m kidding right? Well, here is one of my rare quotes to prove my point, I came across this while researching someone I took a class from a while back:
“Many of you have dreams and aspirations of taking dance beyond your high school years. The truth is, when you graduate high school and make the transition into the professional world, the majority of dancers you will be auditioning against have already made dancing their full time job. Those dancers not only train in the evening at their dance studios and/or academies, but are also training for countless hours during the day at their performing arts schools. “
Okay, so if once upon a time the human body could handle 12-14 years of full time dancing, and now we are starting 3-5 years earlier, are they now going to be retiring at 25? Sooner because of the higher hours?? Is this what we want? Is it even what THEY want??
More people need to make informed choices here. Is it more important to be the best, to walk home with trophies, commercial gigs, and recognition of top choreographers at the expense of health and emotional stability, or is it more important to have a balanced life, and a chance at dancing beyond age 25 and actually lasting in the dance community and maybe being able to function without a lifelong, chronic injury (or 2, or 3, or 10)?
It’s up to you, but as for me, my daughter may be a little behind her peers and not have a room decorated with trophies, but she is going to be thanking me when she is older and is the only one left standing.
See also: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s4330305.htm