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Male ballet dancers in short supply!

Male ballet dancers in short supply! Tell us something new…

The UK government recently published a list of shortage skills. This is important as if
your occupation is on the list then the likelihood of being allowed to work in the UK is
greatly increased.

Ballet dancers and choreographers were on the list, which also gave an average hourly
pay rate.

The full report entitled Skilled, Shortage, Sensible can be found online, but here are a
few highlights from section 5.10 about dancers found on page 153.

On British dance schools supply of dancers:

“Britain is a leader in relation to world-class dance and choreography, but [...] our dance
schools do not supply enough world-class performers to meet requirements. We were
told that dance companies must have access to the global talent pool in order to remain

“With regard to training and up-skilling the domestic workforce, we saw that ballet
companies work closely with ballet schools which train new entrants.”

So what is it that stops Britain’s schools supplying enough dancers? Is it that Britain is a
small country? But what about Cuba, which is even smaller? Is it something to do with
the training, or is it something to do with student and parental attitudes to the hard work
needed to reach the required standards. After all, the report also says:

“We were told that in both ballet and contemporary dance, there are only a few dancers
worldwide that meet the rigorous standards of leading companies and only a few have
jobs for them.”

The Coliseum, home to English National Ballet
 On male ballet dancers:

“In respect of ballet, we were told that there is a shortage of male dancers at every level
and that there is a shortage of skilled and professionally trained classical ballet dancers,
regardless of gender.”

Boysdoballet and the many other sites now trying to provide support may help change
this, but what else could be done? A lot is to do with attitudes, and these are changing,
if slowly. But there is also, we believe, a lack of dance schools with the expertise to train
and encourage boys. (Click here for our article on choosing ballet schools for boys.) To encourage more take up of dance by boys, we believe the dance teacher training schools really need to provide more courses that address this issue.

Dancers from English National Ballet
On pay:

“In terms of earnings we were told that although pay may be low this is rarely something
that prevents skilled dancers from applying to work with UK companies. The sector
argued that working with leading UK dance companies will advance a dancer’s profile
and career and compensates for low pay. The sector claimed that although demand
for high quality dancers exceeds supply, increasing salary will not increase the pool of skilled labour, which is, in any case, a global pool. This may be true in the short-term,
but in the longer term it seems likely to us that substantially higher pay would play a
role in attracting new talent into almost any occupation. The sector should reflect on this

Young dancers given a chance to take class on stage with The Australian Ballet

So, dancers should accept lower pay for the prestige of dancing for one of the leading
companies… maybe we should suggest this to the footballers of Manchester United!
Maybe Rio Ferdinand, who travelled to the Central School of Ballet four days a week
may have stayed dancing if the wages and attractions of football did not take over.

The table below gives some examples of pay and occupations on the list.

OccupationAverage hourly salary (£)
Social workers16.78
Secondary school teachers21.90

Therefore, the good news for overseas dancers is that Britain needs you and needs
male dancers in particular.

The bad news for Britain is that not enough boys in particular are reaching the required
standards. What can we do, what more can be done to solve this problem?

This article was written by our resident Dancing Dad, Tim.

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