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This study investigates the skill acquisition process of ballet dancers from a cross-cultural, expert-performance perspective. The role of deliberate practice activities in the development and maintenance of ballet expertise was examined using self-report measures. The results of this study are consistent with speculation by dance researchers and expertise research in other domains, indicating that at least 10 years of training are required to reach expert levels. The results of this investigation support the idea that there is an unquestionable relationship between ballet training and the ultimate level of dance expertise. Dancers who reached the highest levels tended to begin their performance careers at entry level positions in international companies and then make their first soloist debuts in the same companies before reaching principle status. The significant relationship between accumulated hours of practice by age 17 and acquired level of expertise by age 18 among the male and female professional dancers across all three countries is important because it provides evidence to support the fundamental assumptions of expertise theory, namely that consistent engagement in deliberate practice is necessary for the development of expertise. Furthermore, the unique cross-cultural differences provide additional support for the relationship between training and expertise. The differences in dance skill found in this study can be accounted for by divergence in training rather than by other variables such as innate talent or genetic predispositions. Specifically, long hours of deliberate practice under the direction of qualified instructors, accumulated over an extended period of time is associated with the expert level of performance in dance.
A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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