Antecedents of burnout among elite dancers: A longitudinal test of basic needs theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Objectives: Little is known regarding the social-psychological predictors of burnout in the dance domain. Drawing from basic needs theory, a sub-theory in the self-determination theory framework (Deci & Ryan, 2000), this study examined whether changes in vocational dancers’ autonomy, competence and relatedness satisfaction mediated the relationships between changes in the dancers’ perceived autonomy support and burnout over a school year. Method: Dancers (N = 219) enrolled in vocational dance training, completed a questionnaire package tapping the variables of interest at three time points over a 36-week period. Results: SEM indicated that the observed decreases in the dancers’ perceptions of autonomy support positively predicted observed changes in reported basic need satisfaction that occurred over the school year. In turn, increases in the dancers’ global burnout were negatively predicted by changes in satisfaction of the three needs. The three basic needs fully mediated the ‘autonomy supporteglobal burnout’ relationship. When the sub-dimensions of burnout were examined independently, there were inconsistencies in the salience of each basic need. The increases in emotional and physical exhaustion experienced by the dancers over the school year were unrelated to changes in autonomy, competence and relatedness satisfaction. Changes in competence need satisfaction negatively predicted reduced accomplishment. Increases in the dancers’ dance devaluation were negatively predicted by changes in satisfaction of the three needs. Conclusions: Overall, the tenets of self-determination theory are supported. Findings point to the relevance of promoting and sustaining autonomy supportive training environments if burnout is to be avoided in elite dance settings.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • Burnout, Dance, Basic needs, Autonomy support