Of Grit and Grace: Negotiating Puberty, Surviving, and Succeeding in Professional Ballet

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 University of Bath
  • | 2 University of Exeter Medical School
  • | 3 Victoria University of Wellington
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Experiences of puberty and how individuals adapt to puberty may be integral to success in ballet; however, there is a paucity of current research in this area. This study explores the lived experiences of nine professional ballet dancers to capture the journey of negotiating puberty in a ballet context. An interpretative phenomenological analysis approach was employed with semistructured interviews utilized to gather rich, descriptive accounts from nine professional ballet dancers from the United Kingdom and United States. Lived experiences were characterized by conflict and struggle, coming to terms with physical changes and possessing grit and grace in order to successfully negotiate puberty, and to succeed and survive in professional ballet. Accepting physical and esthetic strengths and weaknesses and learning how to adapt or how to compensate for weaknesses was described as pivotal. Factors such as social support, the timing and extent of pubertal changes, dance teacher behaviors, and the ballet training context influenced the extent to which dancers experienced conflict and struggle and how easily they were able to come to terms with their adult physique. Further research is needed to explore the implications of maturing and developing within the context of ballet training and to develop strategies to better facilitate healthy development in ballet.

Mitchell is with the Child Mental Health Group, University of Exeter Medical School, South Cloisters, Exeter, United Kingdom. Haase is with the Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. Cumming is with the Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom. Research was conducted at the Department for Health, University of Bath.

Mitchell (s.b.mitchell@exeter.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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