For high-performance elite dancers and athletes alike, the transition from being at the peak of their careers into the next chapter of their lives can approach quickly and, sometimes, by surprise.
The Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC) in collaboration with the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) initiated LEAP (Leading Edge After Performance), a three-year project that began in 2015, to alleviate the stress of career transition in the lives of dancers and athletes. Since last year, LEAP has focused on bringing the two communities together to further educate everyone involved about the issues experienced around transitions.
The conference, held in Toronto November 11-12, featured panels of professionals from both communities who were encouraged to ignite discussions by giving their opinions on critical issues concerning career and life transitions. Professionals included dance artist Peggy Baker and Olympian Mark Tewksbury, who were both guest speakers, sharing their personal stories of life beyond the “big stage.”
One reoccurring concern throughout the inaugural event was that the top-down approach, which tends to place the focus on elite performers primarily, carries negative repercussions. Dancers and athletes who are forced out of their performance careers early, due to injury or inability to make an elite team, are given minimal guidance to develop a career beyond their practice. Lack of identity and absence of purpose are common. Mavis Staines of Canada’s National Ballet School and Olympic synchronized swimming medalist Claire Carver-Dias were among the professionals who raised the importance of initiating dual-tracking (taking interest in other possible careers) at a younger age, as well as stressing more education around transferable skills.
By the end of its third and final year, they hope LEAP will have ignited the conversation to carry on past 2017.
“Transition does not happen occasionally in our life,” says Staines. “It is ephemeral.”
In other words, if these aspiring individuals can develop the mindset to embrace change, it will leave performers with an impassioned sense of purpose, while enhancing their careers wherever they end up performing.