Dancers' Scale of Career Success


Scale of Career Success and Professional Satisfaction of Dancers — Results of the Pilot Study

People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life. — Martha Graham, 1991

Dance—the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space—is an art form consisting of sequences of body movements with aesthetic and often symbolic value, either improvised or purposefully selected.

Nowadays dance and the lives of professional dancers feel a new wave of public and scientific attention. This attention to the life and the career of exceptional dancers comes from the curiosity about motivation of being creative and achieving high levels of performance. Live of professional dancers can be difficult. Every year thousands of young dancers all over the world start their dance education and only a few exceptionally talented dancers graduate and gain the professional level.

The fields of classical and contemporary dance are very competitive and challenging. In everyday life, dancers face intensive physical training, often connected with injuries and stressful psychological challenges. Even though, the number of dance graduates is growing. Dancers are highly motivated performers, who contend with the fleetingness of their profession and who perform constantly perfecting each movement on the way to success. For us, scientific curiosity concentrates on the study of the feeling of success and dancers’ professional satisfaction.

Definition of Career Success and Professional Satisfaction

CareerOpens in new window is defined as “the individually-perceived sequence of attitudes and behaviors associated with work-related experiences and activities over the span of a person’s life” (Hall, 1976, p. 4).

The concept of success is not explicitly defined (Kay, 1996). Success can be generally understood as the sum of various successes in certain social roles such as partner, chief, parent, and friend or part-time, as a success that a person achieves in particular field, for example, a career, advancing, being a valued manager (Maxwell, 1994). Success is a highly individual phenomenon, which can be described as “accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and “the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status” (Oxford Dictionaries, online). Success “does not occur in the abstract; it occurs with respect to some set of standards or expectations, whether of oneself or of others” (Grigorenko & Sternberg, 2016).

Speaking about success, people more and more often put a higher attention to the intrinsic factors of success (sense of responsibility, need to achieve something, self-esteem, individual development, joy from the work) than the extrinsic ones (wealth, influence, status, material accomplishment) (Eith, Herald & Claudia, 2011). Theories of professional development show that there are some psychological variables that determine professional success. Among them are:

  • intelligence and abilities,
  • interests and needs,
  • system of value,
  • personality traits and temperament,
  • emotional factors,
  • environmental variables (upbringing and family environment).

Career success is the “accomplishing of desirable work-related outcomes at any point in a person’s work experiences over time” (Arthur et al., 2005, p. 179). Our research was conducted in the frame of the Positive Psychology that states that being successful is defined as “living a life of meaningful achievement, having a positive experience of life and making a positive difference to others” (Jordan, 2013). Career success can be defined as a four-dimensional integrated framework, which includes:

  • external achievements,
  • external feelings,
  • internal achievements,
  • inner feelings (Dries, Pepermans & Carlier, 2008).

At the same time career success is the result of personal experience and the accumulation of real achievements (Meade, 2000), so that career success contains objective career successes and subjective career successes (Hughes, 1958). Subjective career success includes:

  • realization of goals,
  • self-identity,
  • perceived opportunities for promotion (Heslin, 2005).

Personal career success is guided by objective factors, as well as by those less evident and depended upon the subjective interpretation (Shockley et al., 2016).

Professional satisfaction can be defined as positive attitudes and feelings of a person towards the working environment (Staples & Higgins, 1998). Satisfaction depends on:

  • balance between what a person invests and receives back at work,
  • level of individual needs satisfaction at work,
  • level of person’s expectations fulfillment (Czajka & Szumski, 1987).

Career Success and Professional Satisfaction in Dance

Professional dancers spend a huge amount of time focusing on their profession. What is more, everyday life of a young dancer who is working towards a professional dance career also goes around dancing. If someone wants to dance professionally, he or she has to work on it professionally. However, a career in dance can be unpredictable and can include the periods of instability and unemployment. That is why dancers should develop skills in administration, advocacy and marketing, and be ready to take on additional employment (Kogan, 2002).

George Balanchine claimed: “I don’t want dancers who want to dance. I want dancers who need to dance” (Balanchine, online). This “need” creates a strong basis for the future, challenging and precision work of the dancer’s body and technique. Professional dancers have a relatively short time for their dance career development. However, a career in professional dance, especially ballet, is constant dedication and commitment. It requires such a level of “need” and love to the art of dance, that it would be enough to put years of hard, everyday training to throw out all of the days of the dancer’s professional life. In such a situation, beign a successful professional dancer does not normally happen by accident.

Dance is essentially a motivating activity, which gives opportunities for psychological and physical development and self-actualization. Among the intrinsic factors of success in a professional dance career often mentioned are:

  • love of the art of dance,
  • ambition, which motivates a dancer,
  • work ethic, which helps a dancer to achieve his/her goals,
  • self-awareness, which allows a dancer to reach new career levels,
  • knowledge seeking, which makes a dancer open for new experiences.

Among the extrinsic factors of success in professional dance careers, researchers mention the following:

  • full-time employment of a dancer at a national or international dance company,
  • leading role(s) performance,
  • highest ranking of a dancer in a company,
  • finalist or winner at national or international level dance competition,
  • dance talent recognized for by national or international organization (Chua, 2015).

From the practical point of view the components of leading to professional success in art of classical dance are:

  • discipline,
  • musicality,
  • diligence (Tciskaridze, 2014).

Defining dance success, Urena (2004) used such objective indicators of the ballet dancers’ as rank and reputation within the company. Chua (2014) enriched the above definition by adding as addicators of dance success the experience of performing lead roles and the winning of national or international awards.

Methodology of Research

The empirical research was conducted by Maria Aleksandrovich in 2016 – 2017 in Poland, using the Scale of Career Success and Professional Satisfaction of Dancers (SCSPSD).

The study group consists of professional and amateur dancers (40 dancers: 30 females, 10 males; Mean Age = 21,1). The statistical analysis was conducted with help of confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis.

Scale of Career Success and Professional Satisfaction of Dancers

SCSPSD is a questionnaire that can be used to measure professional satisfaction of dance career among ballet dancers, modern dancers, folk dancers, as well as amateur dancers. The scale is based on the characteristic of successful dancer (Nixion, 2012; Chua, 2014), ideas of subjective well-being (Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013), the theoretical approach and statements from the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, 2006), as well as on the own data from the study of personal characteristics of successful ballet dancers (Aleksandrovich, 2004). The pilot theoretical structure of the scale is presented in the Table 1.

The pilot structure on the scale consisted of 51 statements and included an assessment scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The process of validation took place in 2016 – 2017 in Poland on the group of professional and amateur dancers. Below we present the description of the scale’s factors (see Table I).

Table I: The pilot theoretical structure of the SCSPSD
DimensionsExamples of items
Subjective success
  • I feel I have high achievements in dance.
  • I feel I am an example for others in dance.
  • In most ways my dance career is close to my ideal.
Objective success / achievements
  • I am finalist or winner at national or international level dance competition.
  • I have got prizes at the dance competitions.
  • I am the highest-ranking dancer in the company.
Career satisfaction
  • If I was able to start my dance over again, I would change almost nothing.
  • I am satisfied with opportunities of career growth and promotion in my dance company.
  • I am satisfied with my salary and allowances.
Social recognition
  • Other professionals evaluate highly my dance talent.
  • Other people ask me, what to do, to start dancing like me.
  • The other dancers of the company recognized my dance talent.
Family support
  • I am satisfied with the support I get from my family.
  • Members of my family are also connected to dance.
  • Family and children do not disturb my dance career.
Body shape satisfaction
  • In future I would like to have my own dance school.
  • I would like to teach others to dance.
  • In future I would like to be a choreographer.


The analysis of the scale’s reliability, carried out with the use of Cronbach’s α, showed the progressive indices for the scale dimensions (see Table II). On the level of our pilot study we performed reliability analysis of each of the dimensions. Three dimensions have good internal consistency: Subjective success is characterized by α = 0,87; Objective success / achievement and Body shape satisfaction are characterized by α = 0,82. Four dimensions have acceptable internal consistency: Career satisfaction is characterized by α = 0,75; Family support is characterized by α = 0,74 and Social recognition is characterized by α = 0,71.

The Inner cohesion of the scale is characterized by α = 0,94, meaning that internal consistency the SCSPSD is excellent and it measures what we want it to measure. So, the obtained results allowed us to continue further investigations of the SCSPSD’s psychomethrical characteristics.

Table II: Results of the reliability analysis
DimensionsCronbach’s α
Subjective success0,87
Objective success / achievements0,82
Career satisfaction0,75
Social recognition0,71
Family support0,74
Body shape satisfaction0,82
Plans for after dance career0,78
Inner cohesion of the scale0,94


There are no doubts that dance teachers, policy makers and dancers themselves are interested in finding a way for success in professional dance. For us, as researchers, it is fundamentally interesting how dancers themselves evaluate their career development and how deeply they are satisfied with the work they do. Such knowledge suggests there is an implication among the educators and talent mentors, who are looking for the appropriate educational and nurturing strategies to support the development of talented dancers.

The current data obtained at the pilot stage allows one to suppose that SCSPSD is a reliable tool, which encourages one to undertake futher research on a larger populations of dancers and further assess the psychometric properties of the scale.

In the course of further analysis, it will be necessary to lowr the number of dimensions and to evaluate the quantity of statements within specific dimensions for further exploratory factor analysis. What is also planned, is checking the model in confirmatory factor analysis.

Our research shows also a high interest of the participants in our research questions. In combination with the first statistical results, it makes us optimistic to elaborate a reliable instrument to analyze the self-evaluation of professional career development of dancers. Summing up, it is important to underline, that “success is achieved by people who know what success means for themselves” because “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” (Nixon, 2012, p. i).

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  • References
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