Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts


Arts Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Rachel Shane


Despite the rich cultural and artistic contributions of dancers, there exists a pressing need to comprehensively address the challenges and complexities surrounding the sustainability of careers in dance due to underemployment, underpayment, data undercounting and physical strain. This dissertation research aims to understand occupational trajectories that build a sustainable career for dancers. Through a historical examination of the professionalization of dance and an investigation of current career opportunities, this study investigates the growing support systems for dancers, the influence of occupational identity, and the workplace environments needed to sustain a dance career.

Occupational identity theory, motivation-hygiene theory, and transaction cost theory are utilized to examine a dancer’s reasoning for selecting a career in dance and the skills and support systems needed to sustain this profession. A convergent mixed methods design was utilized combining qualitative research through a national dance sector survey, and qualitative research through document analysis of equitable contracting documents created by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), Creating New Futures, and Dance/USA. By accessing data from multiple sources, this mixed methods approach illuminates the evolution of the dance industry, how dancers identify themselves, the reasoning behind their career choices, and the effects on the sustainability of a dancer's career.

Achieving sustainability in a dance career requires a multi-hyphenate approach that extends beyond traditional performance roles. The survey results emphasize the prevalence of dancers engaging in hyphenated careers, with a majority holding multiple occupations inside and outside of the dance sector. While dance performer (dancer) remains the primary identity for many dancers, pursuing secondary incomes, particularly in dance education, is suggested to be crucial for financial stability. The evolving terrain of contracting practices, influenced by national working groups for equitable contracts, demonstrate increased transparency and fair compensation for all labor performed throughout the creative process. Beyond financial considerations, this research found that holistic sustainability necessitates supportive work environments, ongoing education, and resources prioritizing a dancer’s well-being.

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Dance Commons