A Profile of the Demographics and Training Characteristics of Professional Modern Dancers

In Research

J Dance Med Sci. 2008;12(2):41-6.


Weiss DS1, Shah S, Burchette RJ.


Modern dancers are a unique group of artists, performing a diverse repertoire in dance companies of various sizes. In this study, 184 professional modern dancers in the United States (males N=49, females N=135), including members of large and small companies as well as freelance dancers, were surveyed regarding their demographics and training characteristics. The mean age of the dancers was 30.1 +/- 7.3 years, and they had danced professionally for 8.9 +/- 7.2 years. The average Body Mass Index (BMI) was 23.6 +/- 2.4 for males and 20.5 +/- 1.7 for females. Females had started taking dance class earlier (age 6.5 +/- 4.2 years) as compared to males (age 15.6 +/- 6.2 years). Females were more likely to have begun their training in ballet, while males more often began with modern classes (55% and 51% respectively, p < 0.0001). The professional modern dancers surveyed spent 8.3 +/- 6.0 hours in class and 17.2 +/- 12.6 hours in rehearsal each week. Eighty percent took modern technique class and 67% reported that they took ballet technique class. The dancers who specified what modern technique they studied (N=84) reported between two and four different techniques. The dancers also participated in a multitude of additional exercise regimens for a total of 8.2 +/- 6.6 hours per week, with the most common types being Pilates, yoga, and upper body weightlifting. The dancers wore many different types of footwear, depending on the style of dance being performed. For modern dance alone, dancers wore 12 different types of footwear. Reflecting the diversity of the dancers and companies surveyed, females reported performing for 23.3 +/- 14.0 weeks (range: 2-52 weeks) per year; males reported performing 20.4 +/- 13.9 weeks (range: 1-40) per year. Only 18% of the dancers did not have any health insurance, with 54% having some type of insurance provided by their employer. However, 23% of the dancers purchased their own insurance, and 22% had insurance provided by their families. Only 16% of dancers reported that they had Workers’ Compensation coverage, despite the fact that they were all professionals, including many employed by major modern dance companies across the United States. It is concluded that understanding the training profile of the professional modern dancer should assist healthcare providers in supplying appropriate medical care for these performers.