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    Turning pointe: the lived experience of embodied occupational identity in professional ballet dancers

    Fitzgerald, Paula Monica (2023) Turning pointe: the lived experience of embodied occupational identity in professional ballet dancers. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Classical ballet is the most physically demanding of the performing arts, where the body is at the centre of the task, and the primary means of expression. Engaged in a silent craft, ballet dancers are driven to train from a young age to embody an occupation where discipline and a vocabulary of movement and patterns are etched into their bodies. They push their bodies beyond normal boundaries, placing them perpetually on the edge of injury. The combination of their passion, a short career span, and a show must-go-on culture, renders ballet dancers vulnerable and their careers fragile. Yet, ballet is poorly understood as ‘work’. This study examines an occupation where the body is crafted for purpose. It identifies three relationships to the body and the tensions between them that underpin ballet dancers’ experience of their embodied occupational identity. Age(ing), a multi layered embodied marker of identity, is addressed in relation to its influence on the lived experience of being a ballet dancer. Focusing on how my individual participants (n=12) experienced their embodied occupational identity, my study takes an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach, a less visited methodology in Organisational Studies (OS). IPA was augmented to include the use of participant-led photography to facilitate the deeper exploration of nuanced individual experiences. My study makes a timely and reflexive contribution to the burgeoning stream of research in OS, exploring the body/identity nexus beyond discourse. Located in a ‘youth venerating’ context, my research makes the case for the temporal nature of age(ing) to be addressed throughout the lifecycle of a career rather than as an event at the nexus of retirement. My data illuminates the lived experience of how professional ballet dancers experience corporeality in an aesthetically normative context. This signposts the need for the un/doing of linear chrononormativity, and the deployment of alternative conceptualisations of age in the process of organising work. My study gives voice and offers valuable insights into a high performing, but understudied, occupation in OS.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2023 10:25
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 16:03


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