Dance Mama Live!

As DCD works with hundreds of dancers each year, it has not been hard to spot that there is a correlation between the point in life when dancers are transitioning and when they are becoming parents.

Parenthood is a huge transition in itself and can present financial, logistical and practical challenges for professional dancers to continue working in the same way. It can be a strong factor in a dancer’s decision to change their working life.

DCD was delighted to recently have been a part of the very first ‘Dance Mama Live!’ event at Sadler’s Wells, hosted by Lucy McCrudden.

This free event was an opportunity for parents in dance to come together (and bring their children along with them) to share experiences, challenges and solutions to maintaining a career in dance alongside parenthood.

DCD are a part of the support available to dancers who are parents or may become parents in the future.

Firstly, to help ensure that dancers can continue performing for as long as it is right for them, regardless of their circumstances. Secondly to ensure that those transitioning within or outside the dance sector have knowledge and access to the best possible conditions for balancing their work and home-life priorities. These factors can allow dancers to reach their true potential in their performance career and beyond.

We are proud to work alongside Dance Mama and Parents in Performing Arts to contribute to this important conversation.

You can read Dance Mama’s blog about the day here:

Best practice from around the world

Last week, representatives from 11 countries around the world came together in Warsaw, Poland to discuss support for dancers in career transition.

Hosted by the Polish Career Transition Program for Dancers, this was as part of the annual conference of the International Organisation for the Transition of Professional Dancers (IOTPD) – the international network of organisations dedicated to offering professional dancers the resources and support they need when facing the end of their performance career and preparing to pursue a new career.

DCD is a founding member of the IOTPD and we were delighted to share our expertise on a panel discussing best practice in supporting dancers through career transition from around the world.

There was much discussion during the conference around the unique nature of dancer transition and the parallels that can be found with other fields, including for example, sport and the military. The Dancer Transition Resource Centre in Canada, for example, are looking to pilot their transition model with other artistic mediums such as musicians and actors.

We took inspiration from the range of support being offered to dancers in other countries, such as in house workshops in ballet companies in Germany; transferable skills grants in areas such as web design and virtual reality in Canada; innovative membership structures and grant giving policies in the Netherlands; online resources and webinars in the USA; skills assessments with a psychologist in Switzerland; and career counselling in France.

DCD are pioneers in the sector, being the first transition centre in the world. Due to our unique funding and structure, DCD is able to offer a bespoke range of support programmes, responding specifically to dancers’ needs in the UK.

We’re excited to see more transition centres being set up around the world and to continue to share our expertise.

To find out more go to:

10 years on: Learnings from my career journey

Last Autumn, I had the honour of giving the alumna speech at the University of Lincoln graduation ceremony.

I never thought I would have the privilege of addressing those accomplished graduates sitting before me, as I sat myself 10 years ago, when I graduated with my BA (Hons) in Drama.

In fact, there are many things I couldn’t have imagined!

I never could have imagined the excitement of moving to London and learning arts administration at Freshwater Theatre Company; then later, working in arts and mental health at Squeaky Gate; and now supporting professional dancers move into their post-performance careers at DCD. I never thought I would become a trustee of Moving Assembly Project; or that I would become a certified personal and career development coach and start my own business supporting people from all walks of life to achieve their potential.

And here is what all those experiences have taught me:

The scope of what you can do with your skills is exceptionally broad.

When I left university, I didn’t have a solid plan or goal in place, other than a determination to move to London and establish a career in the arts. And yet I have done things that I never thought I could and have worked in roles that I never even knew existed.

An Arts degree and working in the arts equips us with unique skills including imagination, creative thinking and courage. Not everyone possesses this, so make the most of it.

I have learned the importance of taking the time to get to know yourself really well – what motivates you and excites you as an individual. I have worked one-to-one with around 700 people, and no two of them are the same. They all have entirely unique stories to tell. I believe in the value of not comparing myself to anyone else, being true to myself.

And finally, to always follow my heart. To seek and take opportunities to grow. To be brave and embrace the challenges. To remember to celebrate my successes. And most of all, to do what makes me happy.

When I was at school, my father told me: you are at work a long time, so do something that you love. I have always and continue to make my career decisions based on this advice, and I’d encourage you to do the same.

You can watch my speech by clicking here.

Transitioning into leadership

Amazing things happen when you bring dancers together into a room and let them talk. The realisation that they are not alone spreads across their faces, an openness and shared understanding occurs and hope and inspiration fills the room.

Our panel discussion on Transitioning into Leadership at the One Dance UK Conference in Leeds last month was no different.

The diverse range of DCD supported speakers, from Kenneth Tindall (Resident Choreographer and Director of Digital at Northern Ballet), Sharon Watson (Artistic Director, Phoenix Dance Theatre) to Emma Clayton (independent artist and lecturer), Sandrine Monin (independent choreographer) and Beverley Spencer (BA in Journalism student) demonstrated that leadership comes in many forms and is a hugely personal journey.

One thing that really struck me as the room filled with questions and inspiring advice and ideas, was the need for support between leaders. Something special happened when they were able to speak about the challenges they face with others in the same position, who could relate to their experience and offer support. Although it wasn’t the initial focus of the session, it felt like a strong outcome that those involved had been able to be honest and authentic about their leadership stories.

This, I feel, is a vital lesson for anyone looking to transition into leadership: you will never have all the answers, and you should not have to pretend that you do. No one can pour from an empty cup. Be honest and ask for the support you need.


Inspired by Sue Hoyle and her fabulous article on the risk of burnout for arts leaders: click here to read it.

Career transition and the demands of parenting

A movement is happening in the world of performing arts, and at its front line is the Parents in Performing Arts Campaign. DCD has recently joined them as a proud strategic partner.

In their own words:

PIPA’s vision is of a world in which carers and parents are able to flourish in the Performing Arts at every stage in their career. The Industry benefits from maintaining a skilled, experienced and varied workforce.

PIPA enables and empowers parents, carers and employers to achieve sustainable change in attitudes and practices in order to attract, support and retain a more diverse and flexible workforce. By working in partnership we raise awareness, find creative solutions and promote best practice in the UK Performing Arts.”

As soon as I heard about PIPA’s work, it immediately resonated with me through the countless conversations I’ve had with dancers who are transitioning or considering transition to better fit with the demands of parenting.

But what if dancers could continue performing longer, if they wanted to, by being better supported and offered more comprehensive provision when they become parents? What if it were easier for them to return to working on stage? And a more suitable lifestyle for their family once they were back on stage?

Solutions are already being discussed and tested by some of the UK’s high-profile arts organisations including the National Theatre, Sadler’s Wells and The Royal Shakespeare Company.

DCD attended PiPA’s recent Symposium, where participants from across the preforming arts discussed issues from fostering positive workplace cultures to practical arrangements to enable performers to continue in their careers. We’re also excited to see the results of PiPAs forthcoming research project looking specifically at dance, music and theatre.

To join the movement, or find out more, head to


Photo credit: PiPA

The next generation of dancers

Four years into running DCD’s Schools and Conservatoires Programme, it’s still fascinating to see the new issues and questions that young dancers bring up in the sessions.

Research shows that the earlier dancers give thought to their life and career post performance, the more successful and positive the transition, and the more fulfilling their lives might be – this is why we run workshops for dance students in their final years of training in schools and conservatoires across the UK.

We recently made our first ever first to The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, delivering sessions to students in each of the three years of study on the BA in Modern Ballet course which is delivered in partnership with DCD Partner Company, Scottish Ballet.

As well as building knowledge of the incredible range of transferable skills that dancers have, and the students’ individual personal qualities, the workshops also give the opportunity to hear about life as a professional dancer and beyond from some of DCD’s supported dancers, in this case Mikah Smillie, Eve Mutso and Araminta Wraith.

One particularly fascinating discussion came around the level of importance of social media presence and profile in getting work as a dancer. Long gone are the days when dancers barely engaged with technology. The internet is now firmly a part of society and indeed the dance studio. It’s a new challenge that’s being faced by the next generation of dancers who have grown up having an online presence, and all the pros and cons that come with that.

The conclusion of the discussion seemed to be that, although social media presence can be useful to increase a dancer’s profile and that of their company, it’s unlikely that they would get work simply through that – and so there’s no substitute for a great audition! Nor for the human contact and personal networks that are naturally built through a career. One piece of advice that almost always comes up from professional dancers to students is: “always be nice, because people want to work with nice people.” Advice that rings trues both during and after a performance career.

Some things never change.



Photo credit: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland