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Photo: Urban Ruths

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BEATR​ICE BERNSTEIN
'My doctors believed I would never again be able to live day-to-day life without high levels of pain. Yet I knew my love of dance and my extensive holistic training would give me the strength to overcome my circumstances and that I had the needed knowledge to eventually prove them wrong...' 

Mother of one. Bespoke Mind Body Wellbeing Coach, GYROTONIC® Trainer, Dancer, Teacher, Choreographer, Actor and Founder of The Healthy Young Dancer Project

TW: @THYDP_Beatrice

IG:@thydp_beatrice

FB: @Bespoke.Beatrice

FB Group: @TheHealthyYoungDancerProject

What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?

As a single mother, my greatest challenge is organizing dependable childcare when artistic projects’ schedules change last minute, such as in film work.

 
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?

I had a very traumatic experience at my place of work when I became unexpectedly pregnant mid-season because, unknown to me at the time, it is the law in Germany that all dancers immediately have to stop coming to work from the very first day that the pregnancy becomes known [editors link to more info]. This is not the custom in the USA, where I am from, so I was totally unprepared mentally and physically to be told I must stop performing and could not even participate in company class. 

 

I had been scheduled to perform as the lead in the next new ballet and was one of the featured dancers in West Side Story, and in two of the ballets we were performing at the time. So as happy as I was about the pregnancy, I experienced a period of grief for the loss of these professional opportunities. However, I was very grateful to be fully supported financially by the company during the pregnancy. 

 

Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?

If I had known about Dance Mama at the time, this would have been incredibly helpful because, though my friends in the company were all there for me, I did not feel that I had enough sense of being part of a community where others were having similar life experiences and challenges that I could relate to and turn to for help, guidance, and support. Also, my whole family is in the USA, so because I live abroad, I felt lonely throughout much of my pregnancy and also felt guilty about not feeling ‘better’ in terms of my emotional balance ‘for the sake of my child’, though upon reflection, I know that I did a really great job of nurturing her and connecting with her during the pregnancy as well as after she was born despite the difficulties I was facing.

 

So, having had some affordable counselling from someone who works with dancers, such as Terry Hyde, (Counselling for Dancers) during the pregnancy would have also been very helpful. It would have given me the needed perspective to better understand the confusing combination of grief and joy I was experiencing because I knew I did not want to go back to having the schedule of a full-time ballet dancer while my daughter was young, and since I was already 34, I also knew it would be too late for me to return to that life even when she was older.

 

I had to face that the pregnancy, as much as it was wanted, meant at the same time that my life as a ballerina was over. It was the only life I had ever known for the past two decades and at the time I had not known that life would bless me with such a beautiful post-natal artistic rebirth… 

 

Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?

Yes, because I worked as a professional dancer, I was very worried about how I would be able to continue to support myself financially after becoming a mother. Additionally, since the timing of pregnancy was unexpected (though very much wished for, it had just happened earlier then my husband at the time and I had planned), I had not had the time yet to figure out my Plan B in terms of transitioning to a  career that would suit the expense of family life in London.  Also, because of my injuries from the birth, working as a GYROTONIC® Trainer, was not even possible for me in the first two years postnatally. I also experienced that this needed time for professional transition created unnecessary stress with my then-husband, even though he has a very comfortable set income. I was also totally unprepared for what I had to face in terms of coping with the major neuromuscular injuries I sustained during the birth, or for the challenges of post-natal depression and CPTSD. I was overjoyed by the birth of my daughter and about becoming a mother, but the physical and emotional trauma was incredibly difficult to navigate at the time.

 

That being said, being a dancer turned out to be my saving grace. I was being told by the doctors that I may never recover from the injuries I sustained during the birth, which had left me unable to bend my spine in any direction without extreme pain, severe nerve damage, trauma to my fascia, prolapse, as well as other neuromuscular injuries. My doctors believed I would never again be able to live day-to-day life without high levels of pain. Yet I knew my love of dance and my extensive holistic training would give me the strength to overcome my circumstances and that I had the needed knowledge to eventually prove them wrong. I worked tirelessly on my own self-healing practice, educated myself further through extensive reading, and found the additional holistic healing support that I needed; eventually was even able return to dance and used dance itself as a major part of my recovery successes.

 

From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?

Plan to have a good amount of savings if at all possible and have an emergency plan in place in case of injury during birth to the mother and/or child. For many reasons, dancers are often at risk of having difficult births. Also, be on the lookout for post-natal depression (for both parents) and treat any mental health concerns that becoming a parent may trigger as soon as possible. Dancers are used to coping with the ‘impossible’ so there is the danger that we do not fully realize we need help soon enough.

 

Sleep deprivation is a serious problem, so try to plan to have the support system you need in place for taking turns getting adequate amounts of sleep. Additionally, don’t let your focus on the needs of your baby keep you from eating enough food, drinking enough water, and taking enough needed breaks. As dancers, we tend to push ourselves past our limits even as parents and this can result in burnout and adrenal fatigue, and we are left wondering why we ‘feel so exhausted’ instead of realizing we are trying to ‘pour from an empty cup’. If any restricted eating ‘dancer habits’ resurface, please seek professional support as soon as possible, especially for breastfeeding mothers.  

If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?

I did not expect to return to working for my company in Germany because I had instead planned to join my then husband who had relocated for work to London. However, through my post-natal recovery period, the goal of returning to work as a dancer and choreographer was a great motivator and comfort to me. Though I knew I would not be able to return to work as a company ballet dancer, knowing I could work as a dancer and choreographer in film and TV, and as a contemporary dancer, and choreographer helped me enormously through my lengthy recovery journey. 

 

What changed most for you on your return to work?

I had to discover a completely new sense of worth to my abilities as a dancer and choreographer and had to come to terms with knowing I could never again sustain the high level of intensity and physical stress ballet requires. Refocusing on other areas where I could work as a dancer and choreographer, such as film and TV, has been wonderful, but it was a big change. I also learned a lot more about how dance can be the vehicle for healing. I decided to develop my findings from my own healing journey that I experience while dancing at The Playground at Rambert, [artist-led choreographic exploration group] and from being a loved part of the Playground community, by continuing my research in an MFA in Creative Practice at Trinity Laban. 

 

The biggest change for me, however, is that I no longer dance for outside approval. My intention is to communicate stories to my audiences and to promote healing in the choreographic process for myself and for the dancers I work with. Additionally, my artistic offerings have gained a much deeper meaning and maturity that had not been there before becoming a mother.  

Does parenting help you in your work?

Absolutely, being a parent makes everything have more meaning for me and I also am even more motivated to produce work and to be a positive, successful role model for my daughter. Additionally, my first return to a full-length choreographic offering was brought to life specifically because of being a parent; it was a solo performance for families at Jackson Lane Theater, London, which included my daughter Zoë and two of her friends being incorporated into the piece through improvisation when they were about 13-months, entitled 'In Celebration of...' The piece celebrated Zoë’s birth and many of my experiences of motherhood. I gained a returned belief in myself as a dancer and choreographer; as an artist who once again had something of worth to offer.

 

Does dance help you in your parenting?

Yes! Nothing stops a tantrum as quickly as putting on some happy music and inviting my daughter to dance out her emotions instead. My positive work habits, stamina, and discipline from being a dancer help me in all areas of parenting. Also, my daughter has a natural love of dance and sharing this with her is a wonderful bonding experience for us. 

Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?

NCT, La Leche League, Dance Mama

 

Therapist and Practitioners

The following books:

  • Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Collected by Susan Stiffelman

  • The Whole-Brained Child, The Yes Brain Child, and No-Drama Discipline, all by Dr Tina Payne Bryson and Dr Daniel Siegel

  • Wild Feminine, Wild Creative, and Mothering From Your Center, all by Tami Kent

 

Anything else you think would be worth raising?

I wish to express how grateful I am to Lucy McCrudden for all of her outstanding work and support, and for creating the Dance Mama community! Her Dance Mama tea and talk sessions have been one of my favourite highlights of lockdown. I just love being a part of the Dance Mama Community! 

More about Beatrice

Beatrice is a London based Mind-Body Wellbeing Coach, Dancer, Dance Teacher, Choreographer, and Actor with a career spanning over two decades as well as the proud mother of a young daughter.

 

She has undertaken multidisciplinary training courses that include GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS®, Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness and Life Coaching. Beatrice’s bespoke mind-body wellbeing sessions and gyrotonic/ gyrokinesis sessions take an integrative approach and are conducted in person at Golborne Place, Notting Hill, London, UK and/or over Zoom.

 

Utilising a combination of elements from the numerous holistic healing trainings she has completed over the past 20 years; Beatrice helps her clients attain optimum results. She has witnessed the effects of her multidisciplinary approach on her clients: lasting positive physical and emotional changes and hoped-for mental shifts. She offers support for Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation, Stress Management, Career Support, Career Transition Coaching, Young Person Mentoring, Professional Mentoring, Life Coaching, and Family Support.

 

As a Mentor and Multi-Disciplinary Professional Coach, she guides her clients in clarifying their focus, directing their intensions, and finding self-empowerment to manifest their goals and dreams. Based on her own healing journey experience, Beatrice strongly believes that movement, a positive mindset, and accessing one’s own unlimited life energy has infinite power to heal and to create the life one wishes to experience. She is committed to helping others to nurture a healthy, balanced relationship in body, mind, and spirit. Beatrice is experienced working with clients from diverse backgrounds but has a special passion for helping fellow artists from all disciplines.

 

She is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts and did her BA studies at Saint Mary’s College of California, LEAP Program. Currently, Beatrice is a Leverhulme Arts Scholar in the MFA Creative Practice Programme at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, UK under the mentorship of Dr Naomi Lefebvre Sell.

She has danced for such companies as the Washington Ballet, Orlando Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern, and as a guest artist with the English National Ballet. Since 2018, Beatrice has loved being part of The Playground Community at Rambert as a dancer, choreographer, and mind-body wellbeing practitioner and was honoured to have been part of The Playground’s Rambert Live 2019 (BBC #DancePassions). She is delighted that TWV meets The Playground was created as an innovative virtual environment, allowing this beautiful collaborative concept to expand globally. 

Beatrice also works in film and television. Her favourite recent projects include Goodbye Christopher Robin, as a featured dancer and choreographic assistant to Caroline Pope, Tomb Raider, The Darkest Hour, and as a dancer and choreographer on The Durrells Season 3

Beatrice is the Founder of The Healthy Young Dancer Project (THYDP); a global, inclusive, safe-space community that supports optimal mental and physical health, wellbeing and elite performance for dancers and artistic performers of all ages and genres. THYDP also offers support and networking opportunities for members and their families worldwide via social media. Additionally, Beatrice is proud to be a member of the International Dance Council CID, Equity, IADMS, One Dance UK, and the World Performing Arts Group. Being a mother to her daughter, Zoë, and dancing together with her, are the greatest joys of her life! 

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