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Talent development - Learning environment

In general, talent development is a wide field with many important components. Whilst no model can guarantee success, literature in this review has shown, there are still certain aspects which will further positive development vs negative aspects which can hamper the unfolding of talent. Also, certain cultural pre-conceptions and narratives are still upheld by gatekeepers and can influence the environment the identities of the people in them.


Talent development environment

The hazardous trademark of the elite performance culture, where the pre-professional and professional performers seem to continuously push their physical and mental boundaries to enhance performance, are likely an unsustainable pathway in the long run. Research shows that aspiring performers in talent development programs are not merely passively socialized but need to display active attempts in fitting and negotiating the talent environments and cultures (Haraldsen et al., 2021).

Belonging in these elite cultures means to be part of an in-group of like-minded peers and professionals which share the same goals, interests, experiences and identity categories (Haraldsen et al., 2021). Cultural narratives, which circulate in these performance cultures and direct young talents’ interpretation and existence in them, are mostly presented by a figure of authority such as teachers, coaches, gifted peers or the media (Haraldsen et al., 2021; Pickard, 2012; Chua, 2014). These «gatekeepers» have been mostly reported to be authoritative, while other students experienced their teacher/coach as more authoritarian (Haraldsen et al., 2020; Pickard 2012).

The specific cultures harvest unique elite cultures that encourages a storyline of preferred identities (i.e., the 24/7 single-minded elite performer), expected behaviors (i.e., passionate, enduring, and mentally tough), and expected developmental paths (i.e., a linear and steady road to success) for the performers (Haraldsen et al., 2021). This description of «talent factories» is, in other words, at odds with the holistic, student-centered perspectives on talent development (Haraldsen et al, 2021; Chua, 2016; Walker et al., 2010).

Given the important role teachers have to play in the development of dance talent, it is important to be aware of the pressure and exposed situations vulnerable young performers in talent development environments might face (Haraldsen et al., 2021; Chua 2016; 2014).

Furthermore, it is crucial that teachers and coaches become aware of the potential impact and consequences of their created learning conditions (Haraldsen et al., 2021; Walker et al., 2010; Chua, 2014; 2016). Therefore, teachers/coaches are advised to «hear» their students and adapt their feedback to their process and identity development (Haraldsen et al., 2021; Chua, 2014; 2015; Walker et al., 2010).

Deliberate practice

The role and impact of deliberate practice is a well discussed factor within talent development (Walker et al., 2010; Chua, 2014; Hutchinson et al., 2013). As one study shows, any differences associated with starting ages were not significant (Hutchinson et al., 2013). However, while highlighted as crucial for attaining expertise by some dancers, other studies highlight that deliberate practice tends to focus too much on quantity rather than quality. This differs in certain cultural backgrounds and ages and interplays with other aspects of the individual and environment (Hutchinson et al., 2013; Chua 2014; Walker et al., 2010).

Other aspects, such as dancers focusing on their individual self by means of curious inquiry, reflective practice, goal setting and receiving support from significant people such as peers, teachers and choreographers reveal iself as important aspects of successfully deliberate practice (Chua, 2014; Hutchinson et al., 2013; Walker et al., 2010).


Support from a variety of sources, such as teachers, mentors, parents, peers, and financial resources have shown to be a key element in talent development (Chua, 2015; 2014; Walker et al., 2010; 2011). These significant others did not only provide socio-emotional support but also inspired aspiring dancers’ careers, offered them opportunities and acted, in some cases, as a «surrogate family» (Chua, 2014; Walker at al., 2010). In addition to parental support and positive peer relationships, a task-involving motivational climate has been shown to enhance enjoyment, well-being, and adherence in dance (Walker et al., 2010).

However, the young dancers’ socioeconomic status and environment can be a limiting factor and must be, alongside other factors, such as teacher behavior and expertise, taken into consideration by talent development programs (Chua 2014; Walker 2010; Sanchez et al., 2013).

Consequently, it is recommended that talent development programs implement a variety of support mechanisms and are aware that talent identification and development are influenced by physical, psychological, practice-related and social factors (Walker et al., 2010).


Cairns, C. J. 2010. “In Pursuit of Excellence: Uncovering the Knowledge, Philosophies, and Expert Practice of the Classical Ballet Master.” PhD diss., University of Canterbury.

Chua, J. (2014). Dance talent development across the lifespan: A review of current research. Research in Dance Education, 15(1), 23-53.

Chua, J. (2015). The role of social support in dance talent development. Journal for the Educationof the Gifted, 38(2), 169-195.

Chua, J. (2016). The influences of an exemplary ballet teacher on students’ motivation: ‘The Finnish Way’. Research in Dance Education, 18(1), 3-2

Haraldsen, H. M., Halvari, H., Solstad, B. E., Abrahamsen, F. E., & Nordin-Bates, S. M. (2019). The role of perfectionism and controlling conditions in Norwegian elite jun- ior performers’ motivational processes. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1366.

Haraldsen, H. M., Nordin-Bates, S. M., Abrahamsen, F. E., & Halvari, H. (2020). Thriving, Striving, or Just Surviving? TD Learning Conditions, Motivational Pro- cesses and Well-Being Among Norwegian Elite Performers in Music, Ballet, and Sport. Roeper Review, 42(2), 109-125. Haraldsen, H. M., Solstad, B. E., Ivarsson, A., Halvari, H., & Abrahamsen, F. E. (2020). Change in basic need frustration in rela- tion to perfectionism, anxiety, and performance in elite junior performers. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 30(4), 754-765

Haraldsen, H. M., Abrahamsen, F. E., Sol- stad, B. E., & Halvari, H. (2021). Narrative Tensions in Strained Junior Elite Performers’ Experiences of Becoming Elite Per- formers. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 1767.

Hutchinson, C. U., Sachs-Ericsson, N. J., & Ericsson, K. A. (2013). Generalizable aspects of the development of expertise in ballet across countries and cultures: A perspective from the expert-performance approach. High Ability Studies, 24(1), 21-47.

Pickard, A. (2013). Ballet body belief: Perceptions of an ideal ballet body from young ballet dancers. Research in Dance Education, 14(1), 3-1.

Sanchez, E. N., Aujla, I. J., & Nordin-Bates, S. (2013). Cultural background variables in dance talent development: findings from the UK centres for advanced training. Re- search in Dance Education, 14(3), 260-27

Walker, I. J., Nordin‐Bates, S. M., & Redding, E. (2010). Talent identification and development in dance: A review of the literature. Research in Dance Education, 11(3), 167-191

Walker, I. J., Nordin-Bates, S. M., & Red- ding, E. (2011). Characteristics of talented dancers and age group differences: findings from the UK Centres for Advanced Training. High Ability Studies, 22(1), 43- 60.


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