Life in Lockdown – A unique view from dancer Mariana Rodrigues

Mariana Rodrigues is a Coryphée with DCD Partner Company Northern Ballet and a DCD REACH Ambassador:


“To all the dancers out there, I feel you.

We miss our daily routine, the high of performing, standing next to your mates at the barre, the freedom of moving through space without hitting the furniture…but we are doing our part by staying home. Being aware of the impact of this pandemic in people’s lives, I understand the bigger picture and take the time to connect to the world through a different lens. I stay at home and feel grateful for all the people out there working day and night to keep us safe. I feel for others that are sick and for their families. It is hard not to worry or be overcome with sadness sometimes. But I am grateful for the human capacity to adapt, and smile as I look through my feed and see our art form still alive and expressing itself in the form of online content, taking creative forms it never had before.

My personal journey is a little different since a month prior to lockdown I was still off injured with a metatarsal fracture. So in some way I already had gone through the sadness of not dancing and performing, but also of not being able to walk everywhere I wanted, because of being on crutches. The thing is, it’s not easy, and some days are going to be hard.

But as I started opening up to the experience I learned some really important things:

Take the stressful and not so nice aspects of our jobs away, and an opportunity comes to be reminded of the beautiful things in it. Since I have started exercising and doing barre again, I appreciate it so much more. I have realised that the main reason I enjoy dancing is because it makes me feel connected to my body, my whole being and also something greater than myself. So when my brain starts judging how much stiffer my arabesque looks, I shift my focus to how good it is to feel my whole body moving again.

I am also appreciating the gift of time. Time to discover who I am outside of dance and time to connect with other interests and passions. Being a creative person I struggled initially when I forced things to happen and decisions to be made. I must use this time to do a course! I must know exactly what my next career will be! I saw a pattern in the thoughts inside my head and remembered something I had learned in a coaching session. I was caught up in all the “musts” and was leaving the “wants” behind. With that in mind, I shifted my focus and started researching courses and careers without pressure. Even if it hasn’t lead anywhere concrete so far, I am now seeking new things without the extra pressure of having to make decisions right away and learning to be OK with not being sure of what I want to do yet.

Having had coaching sessions has helped me immensely and I really recommend them if you are choosing to navigate this territory, and feel like you need a bit of support. Every time I have come out of a session I have felt so much more connected with my passions and with who I am. I have also left equipped with resources and a clear action plan to support my goals. I am still working on what we discussed in my previous session, but once I am done, I will definitely be booking myself another one.

Lastly, I wanted to finish by saying that, if you are like me, you might just be feeling like you are not helping and contributing enough. Teaching a class, calling friends of family, checking on your neighbours, posting creative content for people to watch at home…all of those things bring positivity into people’s lives and we shouldn’t underestimate their effect.

So let’s keep giving, let’s keep moving, let’s keep connecting with ourselves and others and let’s keep learning.

A big virtual hug to you all.”

To find out how DCD can help support you, including Personal and Career Coaching which we are offering for free to all UK professional dancers over April May and June, click here.

Celebrating Richard Alston Dance Company

Dancers’ Career Development (DCD) last night celebrated a sublime and very emotional evening of dance at Richard Alston Dance Company’s farewell programme at Sadler’s Wells.

We are honoured to mark Richard Alston Dance Company’s final season, celebrating 26 years of shaping contemporary dance in the UK.

DCD and Richard Alston Dance Company have partnered together for over 26 years, supporting their incredible dancers to explore their potential on and off the stage throughout and beyond their performance careers.

Speaking about DCD’s Personal and Career Coaching Programme, former Richard Alston Dance Company dancer Ino Riga said:

I feel that I got to know myself better and trust myself and choices more. It has given me a lift emotionally, a sense of hope. The realization of owning your life and choices and that you need to keep trying, taking action towards making things happen for you.

Richard Alston Dance Company’s artists have been able to transition into their next chapter into a diverse range of retraining and careers in psychotherapy, web design, film making and media and cultural management, as well as fields such as yoga, pilates, teaching and choreography.

We wish all those in the company the very best and look forward to continuing our important work supporting all professional dancers in the UK.

To find out more and to support our work or if you’re a dancer wishing to access our support, please get in touch at


Photo credit: Richard Alston Dance Company

Embracing the Unknown

DCD’s EVOLVE workshops are about inspiration and finding out what resources you already have and how you can use them.

We recently had the privilege to hear first hand from DCD supported dancer Adam Ellis, now Head of Education and Customer Experience for Jo Loves, the worldwide renowned fragrance brand, created and owned by Jo Malone CBE, and DCD supported dancer and Patron, Zenaida Yanowsky, former Principal with The Royal Ballet. Both shared their personal experiences of transitioning beyond a performance career at our last EVOLVE workshop, held at the Royal Opera House in London in November.

Here are just a few fascinating insights…

Adam – “I had 13 mostly glorious years of performing in Musical Theatre. Even at the height of my career, I felt there were other things I wanted to do and I had more in me. I talked to DCD and decided to take a foundation course in medicine. I thrived in the learning environment, even though I’d never focused on academics before. It had opened up my mind to all the amazing things that we as performers can do. We have an incredible set of transferable skills. I decided not to pursue medicine, and listened to my heart and I continued performing. I had a panto contract but decided not to do it, I was burnt out. I got a temp job at Jo Loves for the Christmas season. I worked the shop floor and had lots of fun and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. After 2 weeks I met Jo Malone. She offered me an assistant manager job, which I took. I was still auditioning, it has been a long process. Within 6 months I became events manager and then they created the role of Global Head of Education and Customer Experience. I could never have imagined in a million years that I would have ended up working for a perfume brand, something so different to the world of theatre. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I have a very strong work ethic which comes from being a performer, and I’m still ambitious. But I’m happy with my lot, I’m content. Your life will change, but you take the skills with you. Embrace that.”



Zenaida – “I spent 23 years at the Royal Ballet, and the time went so fast. I experienced so many wonderful and also tough creative moments. I decided to leave the company but continue with dance projects until I was ready to stop. I felt very confused about my decision and my identity. When I retired from performing, I was ready to stop. I spent a year asking myself why I wanted to retire, and what I would miss the most. I was lucky to have my husband’s support to take time out. I mattered in the dance world – but would I matter in the world outside? It took a while for the anxieties to dissipate and feel content with my choices. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, but I feel calm and excited for the future and all its possibilities.”

When did you last step out of your comfort zone, and what did you learn about yourself?

Sign up to our next EVOLVE workshop in Edinburgh on 22 March 2020 and find out…



Photos taken by DCD supported dancer and photographer Amber Hunt

Planting the seed

DCD’s support for dancers begins from the earliest stages of vocational training, throughout their performance career and through retirement.

Research shows that early preparation for career transition can help avoid the challenges some dancers face when they retire from professional performance and even lead to a more fulfilling and successful post-performance career.

DCD’s Schools and Conservatoires programme, kindly supported by the Linbury Trust, works with students in their final 3 years of professional dance training. The first programme of its kind in the UK, this unique programme is a hugely important part of our work supporting dancers.

I learnt how versatile and adaptable performers actually are”. “[The workshop] opened my mind to what else I could do”.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance student workshop participants

This past year DCD has delivered workshops at The Royal Ballet School, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and Elmhurst Ballet School and we have an ongoing relationship with Rambert School, English National Ballet School and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The programme continues to expand its reach as we are working with schools from across the dance sector, from ballet to contemporary and Musical Theatre, across the UK.

As a result of the programme, professional dancers who originally came into contact with DCD through the Schools and Conservatories workshops are now taking part in DCD support programmes from early in their professional careers, better equipping them to deal with the transition beyond a performance career.

To find out more or to join the Schools and Conservatoires Programme go to:

EVOLVE your skills set

This Autumn DCD are excited to be introducing a brand new feature to our EVOLVE workshops, practical sessions on how to identify your strengths and transferable skills.

A common term, a transferable skill is an ability or skill you have developed in one part of your career or life, that could be used in another part, whether that’s skills developed from parenting experience for example, or working as a performance artist.

A professional dance career results in hugely valuable skills, that can at times be taken for granted by dance artists.

Skills such as resilience, self-discipline, self-motivation and commitment are critical to success in any field of work, whether you are moving on from a performance career to work for an employer or to run your own business.

Most careers will need the attributes of hard work, willingness to learn and take feedback, an artistic eye or creativity, the art of collaboration etc.

These are skills dancers inherently possess. Where you might feel there are gaps in your skills set for a particular future career path, there are a myriad of ways you could potentially develop these while you’re still dancing – from volunteering on a team, to offering to coordinate a project to develop the skill of collaborating or project managing, for example.

So what are YOUR transferable skills? At DCD’s EVOLVE workshop, we will take you through exercises to help you identify these for yourself, practically enabling you to highlight these skills on a CV or in job interviews in the future.

Register now!

Supporting BBC Young Dancer 2019’s Finalists

DCD works in partnership with many of the UK’s leading brands and organisations within and outside of the dance industry. We are proud to count the BBC as one of these prestigious collaborations, working together as part of the BBC Young Dancer series.

Since 2015 DCD has provided confidential, bespoke career transition support to the finalists of this exciting competition, and we continue this work with the 2019 cohort of finalists.


The [DCD] session was hugely beneficial and rewarding for everyone involved. What it highlighted for me was the need for young dancers to have guidance and support in dealing with being thrown into the limelight at such a young age, managing the pressures of turning professional and coping with the emotional strains involved with being a performer…” Previous BBC Young Dancer finalist


The competition celebrates and showcases the exceptional talent of young South Asian, Contemporary, Ballet and Street Dance dancers in the UK.

Through a bespoke programme of high-quality and meaningful support, including individual coaching sessions and group workshops, DCD is working to help equip the finalists to help them in their dance careers and beyond.

We are also delighted that this year’s mentors include several DCD supported dancers mentoring the finalists, including Mbulelo Ndabeni, Avatăra Ayuso, Urja Desai Thakore, Begońa Cao, Iain Mackay, Bethany Kingsley-Garner and judges Seeta Patel, Ben Wright, Zenaida Yanowsky, as well as David Bintley, Director of DCD Partner Company Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Work began in March in Manchester, where DCD delivered workshops to each group of category finalists. We we look forward to the workshops planned for the upcoming year, covering areas such as career navigation, resilience, self-esteem as well as networking and handling social media. The finalists will have the opportunity to share their experiences of taking part in the competition and also hear first hand from established artists and former competition finalists.


Make sure to catch BBC Young Dancer 2019 on BBC Four from 19 April:


Celebrating the life and legacy of Brenda Naylor

DCD last month celebrated the legacy of eminent sculptor and dance artist, Brenda Naylor, on the anniversary of her death. We celebrate her extraordinary career and pay tribute to the kindness and generosity she showed in leaving a legacy to benefit dancers in their lives beyond performance.

Brenda Naylor (5 July 1926 – 11 March 2016) was an artist and sculptor for whom dancers inspired a prolific legacy of work. She was known for her bronze sculptures, for the inimitable and intimate style of her studio, rehearsal and performance sketches and for her vibrant, determined character.

Brenda left instructions that her art created over many years should benefit charity after her death, and particularly help dancers move on to second careers following their lives on stage. 75% of the sale price of artworks purchased via Brenda’s website is donated directly to DCD, and there are unique pieces still available to purchase here.

Speaking of her decision to support DCD, David and Annie Lade, Brenda’s nephew and niece-in-law explained:

“Brenda was an artist, but she was also a very practical person. Brenda knew that DCD is an organisation offering very practical help to dancers coming to the end of their stage careers. She took up sculpting in her fifties, and knew better than most that we can have more than one career. She greatly admired the incredible hard work and dedication of the dancers she encountered, and cared very much about them and their future lives.”


Top Left: The late Brenda Naylor, 5th July 1926 – 11th March 2016; Right: Mark Morris Dancers, studio sketch by Brenda Naylor; Bottom Left: Bronze of Marion Tait in “Confessional” by Brenda Naylor


Brenda trained at St Martin’s as a fashion sketch artist before being selected in 1943 by the royal dressmaker Norman Hartnell to be his sketch artist and later assistant. Brenda had a longstanding artistic interest in movement, gained initially from a passion for drawing horses and later skaters, which developed into an interest in ballet and deep appreciation for dance and dancers.

In the 1980s, she received permission to sketch and photograph dancers of the Royal Ballet. From these she made sculptures, an art form for which she was entirely self-taught, capturing the beauty in movement of those dancers she most admired. As she gained recognition for her ability to capture movement, many of her sculptures went on to be exhibited in London galleries and theatres and came to be sought after by collectors.

To date, the sale of Brenda’s artworks have raised over £40,000 for DCD. There are still a number of beautiful artworks remaining, which can be viewed and purchased via or please contact Clare Davis at, to arrange a private viewing of the remaining collection.