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Careers Corner 2014

Careers Corner 2014

3 January 2014

Managing the transition from performer to another dance career

The move from dance performer to another career within the dance industry can be daunting and difficult. Equipped with a wealth of experience and skills from a life of dancing, many performers are unsure of how to apply these skills to a different role. Having a good network and support system and achieving recognised qualifications can make the transition a lot easier. 

Here are five case studies from dancers who redirected their careers, all with the help of Dancers’ Career Development (DCD). Not only were they helped financially, DCD also encouraged and advised each of the performers with their transitions. 

Chris Tudor: Company Dancer to Teacher and Choreographer

Chris Tudor: Company Dancer to Teacher and Choreographer

Chris has had a successful career dancing, teaching and choreographing. He trained at London Contemporary Dance School and has worked for various dance companies. He was a founding member of Richard Alston Dance Company in 1994, becoming Assistant to the Artistic Director in 1999. Since 2001 he has taught for Rambert Dance Company, NDC Wales, Scottish Dance Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre, and is currently teaching at Royal Ballet Upper School. Chris regularly choreographs for theatre, television and film.

Chris had to stop dancing in 1999 due to a chronic ankle injury. His existing professional network opened up many connections and has made the transition from dancer to teacher and choreographer easier. 

Since the introduction of new guidelines for teachers in higher education Chris chose to study an MA and hopes that on completion it will enable him to continue his teaching, but that it will also open other opportunities for employment within the training sector.  

“I feel that I have been lucky throughout my career, working with some of the top creative artists in the UK and abroad. I always attempted to maintain good relations with my employers and to take opportunities to meet other artists and enablers within the profession. In general, my work opportunities have come through contacts within the profession and usually one engagement leads to another.”

Claire Cunningham: Rehearsal Director and Yoga Teacher

Claire Cunningham: Rehearsal Director and Yoga Teacher

Claire teaches yoga for various companies throughout Europe. She has incorporated her teaching in the role of rehearsal director for companies such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and The Clod Ensemble. She is also Head of the Postgraduate Yoga Module at London Contemporary Dance School.

Throughout her career as a dancer, Claire performed with Wayne McGregor: Random Dance for ten years and then enjoyed a freelance career for a further seven years. She also choreographed 4m2 as an associate artist at Deda; was revival choreographer for Theatre Rites ‘Mojo’ on Broadway; and a movement coach on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Throughout, Claire maintained a steady yoga practice, which she believes has contributed towards an injury free dance career. While attending the Sivananda Ashram in India, she completed a teacher training certification and completed an MA at The Place.

“I believe professional development to be an ongoing process, which dancers inherently understand after years of trying to perfect their art. So this discipline and curiosity, along with many other transferable skills can make a career transition a little smoother. The starting point of this transition, where certain decisions need to be made, is the biggest hurdle. I have also come to realise how important it is to pursue official qualifications in order to have time for reflection and eventually deliver ones ideas/subject with authority, confidence and enthusiasm.”

Florence Peake: Performer, Choreographer and Teacher

Florence Peake: Performer, Choreographer and Teacher

Florence is a London based Dance Artist and creates work of an interdisciplinary nature. She has training in dance and a background in painting. She has performed worldwide independently and in collaboration with other artists, choreographers and filmmakers. She is currently lecturing at Coventry University and Surrey University. 

Since 2004, Florence gained certification in a specialised dance technique called Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT). Florence has taught SRT in its pure form and having this training has given her a framework to teach Contemporary dance technique, improvisation and choreography in major dance institutions in Britain. 

The security of teaching has made a difference to Florence’s outlook and future career. She has found that teaching supports her artistic practice; she has not had to give up performing or choreographing, it has increased her skills and given her an exciting and varied career that keeps expanding.

“I have learnt to diversify, to expand my knowledge and information as a performer, dancer and SRT teacher into all kinds of contexts, environments to work with different kinds of people. I do not think by expanding our skills as dancers we have to give up on any dreams of performing or choreographing, however the way we do this may have to change.”

Isabel McMeekan: Company Dancer, Teacher and Founder of Everybody Ballet

Isabel McMeekan: Company Dancer, Teacher and Founder of Everybody Ballet

Isabel earned her position as First Soloist with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Ballet and since retiring she has volunteered for the charity Maytree, founded Everybody Ballet, gained The Royal Ballet professional dancers teaching diploma and become a Trustee of Amber’s fund for The Royal Ballet.

Isabel has set up a business, Everybody Ballet, that provides adult ballet classes for beginners and also offers private one to one tuition. She was required to write a business plan for Everybody Ballet which has helped her harness her objectives and gave her a structure to work to. 

“Inevitably the life of a ballerina has to draw to a close at some point. Retiring felt hugely liberating and terrifying. I feel it is really important to have a support network around you. I think one of the main factors that I have noticed is how I had to put a structure in place for myself, as dancers we are often organised by the schedule that is put in place for us. Ultimately the drive, determination, discipline, experience and all the other life tools we have gained as dancers places us in good stead for the ‘outside’ world.”

Joce Giles: Dancer to Learning and Participation Director

Joce Giles: Dancer to Learning and Participation Director 

Joce trained at the Arts Educational School, London and the Royal Ballet School, and became a founding member of the Peter Schaufuss Ballet before joining the Scottish Ballet. He then took up the role of Dance Development Officer at The Works, Cornwall before joining Rambert Dance Company as Head of Learning & Participation. Joce continues to work for Rambert Dance Company as Learning and Participation Director. While working full-time, Joce chose to study an MA.

At the age of 27 Joce felt that he had taken his performing career as far as he could and made the decision to stop dancing. He was still passionate about dance and felt that there must be a way to put his experience as a dancer to use. 

 “I think real life, on the job experience is a great way to learn but this should be combined with specific training to gain skills that are not developed through dancing such as IT, finance, and presentation skills etc. I have taken part in two mentoring programmes since I stopped dancing, which have been hugely beneficial and made a big impact on my development. I think everyone going through a career transition should do so with the support of a mentor.”


To find out more about how DCD empowers professional dancers to navigate a positive transition and to read more inspirational case studies visit the website www.thedcd.org.uk.

ISTD Higher Level Teaching Qualifications

If you’re feeling inspired to take your teaching to the next level, find out more about our Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy and other higher level qualifications.

The ISTD understands the importance of sustaining a lifelong career in dance teaching. So, if you have already completed your initial dance teacher training, or if you are a professional dancer looking for a career change, invest in your professional development through the ISTD’s advanced dance teacher training programme.

One option is to follow the route of ISTD qualifications. The ISTD’s Licentiate and Fellowship are two highly regarded, internationally recognised advanced teacher training qualifications which build on the skills learnt in the ISTD’s initial teacher training and combine these with the knowledge and experience that come with practice as a teaching practitioner.

The alternative option is with the portfolio of ISTD regulated qualifications. Through the ISTD’s partnership with Middlesex University and its Institute for Work Based Learning, ISTD trained dancers and teachers have the possibility to progress onto two Middlesex University validated awards, the BA Hons in Professional Practice and the MA in Professional Practice: Dance Technique Pedagogy. Alternatively, the ISTD’s Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy is a vocational dance teaching qualification regulated at Level 6 of the Qualifications and Credit Framework that will develop and refine your teaching skills within the context of your chosen dance style.

These five qualifications offer a wide range of opportunities for anyone who holds an initial dance teacher qualification as well as professional dancers looking to change career or experienced dance teachers from other sectors. This portfolio is aimed at those interested in building on their initial teacher training, in gaining recognition as a teacher in the wider sector and in being able to transfer their skills across sectors. Visit www.istd.org/courses-and-training to find out more.

“As soon as I saw the details of the Diploma in Dance Pedagogy in DANCE magazine, I knew this was the course for me. I had been looking for a way of expanding my teaching skills as well as enhancing my qualifications. The course had to fit in with a busy work and home life as well. It was also very exciting to be one of the first to participate – a pioneer!

Well, 13 months down the line and I can honestly say I have learnt a lot and my approach to teaching has changed (for the better). 

For those considering enrolling on the course, I would say if you really want to change your teaching for the better and learn a lot about yourself, go for it!”

Penny Woodman, ISTD Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy student

“This course has been a complete challenge for me, having never done anything like it before. It has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone but I have felt very privileged being taught and trained by some wonderful and inspiring teachers.”

Rachel Starling, ISTD Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy student

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