Retirement experiences of elite ballet dancers: impact of self-identity and social support

Victoria C. Willard, David Lavallee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
230 Downloads (Pure)


This study examined the retirement experiences of elite professional ballet dancers. Particular emphasis was placed on the influence of self-identity and social support on the quality of adjustment to retirement in elite ballet dancers. Six former elite ballet dancers from a single National Ballet Company in the United Kingdom participated in retrospective semistructured interviews. These interviews yielded transcripts that were analyzed using content analysis. As expected, the majority of participants presented strong and exclusive dancer identities. Those presenting a strong and exclusive dancer identity at the point of retirement experienced identity loss and confusion during the career transition process. Refuting our anticipated outcome, the primary social support network for dancers remained intact after career termination. The dancers perceived this continued social support to positively influence the overall quality of career transition experienced. In addition to social support, dancers adopted a combination of coping strategies; predominantly retirement planning and redefinition of self. Future research should focus on identifying specific adjustment difficulties associated with self-identity during retirement and should identify specific coping strategies adopted to counteract these adjustment difficulties during career transition from dance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-279
Number of pages14
JournalSport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date11 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Career transition
  • Retirement
  • Athletic identity
  • Social support
  • Elite ballet dancers


Dive into the research topics of 'Retirement experiences of elite ballet dancers: impact of self-identity and social support'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this