The EvilImp™ 'Why It's Different'

It sometimes comes up in conversation why things are different for professional dancers compared to other folks doing their particular, non dance, job. Why do we focus on dancer's pay and health provision so much, what's all the fuss about?

There are many reasons why the work of a professional dancer is "different" but here are a few examples focused on just one category;

Broken foot, broken leg, broken arm, dislocated shoulder, dislocated elbow, torn rotator cuff, dislocated knee-cap (particularly nasty that one), spinal cord damage, broken neck, concussion, torn knee ligaments, torn hamstring, separated hamstring, multiple bone fractures, fractured ribs, broken ribs, micro fractures (usually associated with a point of multiple impacts like shins, knees or forearms), sprained ankles, sprained wrists, multiple variations of neck injuries, viral infections (caused by other physical injury), lower back pain (various levels of severity), upper back pain (various levels of severity), hip-flexor damage, crepitus, cuts and bruises (various degrees of severity), arthritis, broken toes and fingers (and multiple variations thereof), exhaustion......

Need we go on? These injuries and hundreds more like them are a real possibility almost every working day of a professional dancer's career.

If you're a dancer or you work in this business alongside them there is a pretty good chance you know someone who has suffered one or more of the injuries mentioned above.

A professional athlete will train strenuously to be good at just one thing, running down a track, vaulting over a pole, etc. Dancer's on the other hand have to train strenuously to deal with a multitude of physical challenges very few of which are natural in any way, shape or form.

According to Dance UK 83% of dancers will get injured at some point compared to just 16% of rugby players. A comforting thought in an industry with no viable health care protection. If a dancer gets hurt and a physio can't help quickly enough then they are out of a job and on their own, end of story.

DanceUK is still struggling to raise £400,000 after more than three years to kick start a dancers health insurance and research project. It's a very strange situation because ACE have, by their own admission, spent more than £100Million on new dance buildings.

Perhaps the problem is we can't cut ribbons or have press photo shoots for the processing of health insurance forms.

There was a time when ACE, and others, cited dancers as, very obviously, the most important cog in the professional machine. We'll venture that the words were easier to conjure than actions to back them up.

Being a professional dancer is very very hard. Being a professional dancer can be very very dangerous. Being a professional dancer is very very different.

  • Helen Laws

    I can clarify that the dance figure is 80-83% of dancers sustained at least one injury in the 12 months prior to being surveyed (it is probably higher over their lifetime!). Trouble is our survey was retrospective and self reported, in Rugby the stats are getting more accurate as they conduct longitudinal epidemiological studies. We need to do this on a similarly large scale in dance and this is precisely the kind of work Dance UK's Healthier Dancer Programme is currently fundraising to do on a national scale with its partners. That said 83% injured each year is still far too high, was unchanged over a 10 year period, and until we do this work we won't be certain how we can bring that figure down!

  • jon

    I am wondering where you (or dance UK) gained the figure 16% as the injury rate for rugby players. I have only found mixed evidence that around a 14-19% injury rate level is recorded at any given time during a rugby players career. Not at some point in the entire career.
    However, it is true that dancers seem to not hold together, not form unions and not believe they are worthy of being paid a decent wage. It is sadly the law of supply and demand and, as there are far too many dancers entering the market each year, it is clear the situation is going to get worse. The huge amount of money spent creating new studios and more "professional level" schools would serve the dance community and their audience far better by setting up more theatres and professional, full time, insured dance companies. We do not need more " unpaid 'research' weeks and residencies ", I truly feel they do little in the scheme of things other than act as tiny pieces of emotional nourishment,( just enough to keep the mass of disgruntled dancers happy and believing they are part of the system ) as well as separate the choreographers from the feedback of an actual audience.

  • hannahseignior

    In the above article one of the altercations mentioned was the level of focus on dancers pay. This is a very real concern as dancers always seem to be broke, are always trying to do too many things at once - holding down one, two or more jobs whilst training and sourcing work.

    Being a professional dancer is one of the few jobs where it is a given that you will work for free in order to dance. Since leaving College I have had a plethora of unpaid 'research' weeks and residencies only two of them actually subsidised travel costs.

    Now as I'm entering into the world of Choreography and getting my own residencies I find that actually, a choreographer gets quite a bit of money for a one week residency - enough to pay 4 people £150 for the week. So why is it so many of us are working for nothing - barely even travel costs?

    Getting out there in the big, bad dance world is essential, getting lots of experience is essential too but at what cost? Or rather at what lack of cost?

    It's no wonder dancers are perceived as anorexic - we can't eat because our own kin doesn't pay us.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to Auditons and Updates