Under a new law passed by the Italian parliament in July, which takes effect in 2008, the minimum retirement age was raised to 65 across the board because, according to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, "people are living longer, they should work longer."
Ballet dancers were exempt from previous increases in the retirement age: Women were allowed to retire at 45, and men at 52. But the new law makes no exception for them.
Both left- and right-wing politicians have been trying to amend the law to allow ballet dancers to retire in their 40s. The Parliamentary Budget Commission, however, has ruled that dancers must work, like everyone else, into their 60s.
The law affects around 300 dancers, a quarter of which dance in the ballet company of La Scala in Milan. Roberto Bolle, one of those dancers, told the Times, "A dancer's skills are based on physical strength and the flexibility of his or her limbs; qualities which are only found in younger bodies."
The change in retirement age only applies to ballet dancers; professional disco dancers and television variety-show dancers can still retire at 45 and 52 under the old exemption.