Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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What Success Means to Professional Dancers

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posted on 2021-11-12, 02:41 authored by Nixon, Janet

Being successful as a dance professional does not generally happen by accident. Occasionally all the components of success fall into place serendipitously, but success is usually achieved by people who know what success means for themselves, people who have developed the vision and personal qualities required to achieve this. Success is a mental attitude, a mind-set, and the quality of this mental attitude allows people to make the most of their other training and skills. As with many graduates of the arts, students completing tertiary performing arts dance degrees do not have a clearly defined career path mapped out for them, in the way that say lawyers and engineers have. Compounding this situation is that there are many more dance graduates than existing professional dance opportunities. These graduates have to create their own professional futures if they are to succeed in a challenging and highly competitive environment, the dance industry. This research was directed by the questions: what is success for established professional contemporary and cultural dancers in New Zealand; how do they perceive success; and what personal qualities do successful dance professionals possess, apart from talent, that contribute to them being successful? Nine dance professionals, with extensive industry experience, participated in this phenomenological study. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using themes emerging from the data. A clear picture emerged of how these dance professionals view success, and the important role that strong self-awareness plays in achieving this. The study revealed a common set of personal qualities that appear to contribute to being successful. The dance professionals interviewed for this study know who they are, what they want, and where they want to go. They are very focused people, not compromising in their vision and drive. They are principled and connected to their beliefs and values. Their success is supported by the multiple facets of discipline they have developed - they had worked hard to get to where they are now. By understanding the qualities successful dance professionals possess, dance professional practice courses can be informed and illustrated by the findings of this study, and an approach can be developed that acknowledges the importance of the awareness of success in educative processes, and in the student’s professional development path.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Teaching

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Studies


Melchior, Liz