BELINDA LEE CHAPMAN
Mother of two. Producer, Movement Director and Performer. Freelance, currently working for New Adventures community projects and Theatre 503
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
Things are much easier now that my children are a bit older as I have more free time with them being at school during the day, but I think the most challenging time was when they were very young, when I was breast feeding and not getting much sleep. It seemed at that time, the children and my job were both drawing on the same emotional sources and things sometimes felt impossible! However, things DO get easier!
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
I didn’t feel particularly supported when I was pregnant, I was one of the first of my peer group and friends to have children and it felt like a very lonely time, it was a relief to talk to people that did have children and gain some insight to the world that was approaching.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
I think it would have been really helpful to have had a group of mothers / parents carers that had been through pregnancy to have met with and to share experiences, some kind of peer support group to meet with before and after. Also physically it would have been really helpful to have had a Pilates or stability / strengthening class to prepare me for pregnancy and to help get my physical / professional /dance body back after having the baby. I felt like there was a real void of professional classes for mothers who were dancers.
Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
Yes, I felt like my body / professional tool was not being catered for. Going to normal pilates classes with other mums didn’t really cut it and I really wanted to be around other mums that understood that getting fit wasn’t just getting fit, it was about re-engaging with my career and getting ready to work!
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
I would prioritise your own fitness and really allow time and finances to support this. It is so easy after you have a baby (especially your first) to put everyone else first apart from yourself. There are often challenges around child care if there is no family support, and this in turn can become expensive just to find the time and space to get your fitness and body / work tool ready. Also I found that I felt guilty about doing things for myself, but in the long run it is really worth prioritising yourself too, as its not only you that benefit, but the whole family also benefits if you are happy!
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
It took me quite a while to recover from pregnancy as I had pubis synthesis, a loosening of ligaments around the pubic bone. I did perform when my first child was about 1 year old, and remember having to do a pirouette (which felt like I was leaving half my pelvis behind as the other half turned and it was extremely painful!) I felt embarrassed to say anything at the time as nobody else in the room had been through childbirth, so I tried to adapt the choreography and manage as best as I could. I did mention it to the choreographer at a later date!
What changed most for you on your return to work?
I felt quite different dancing after pregnancy, I can’t put my finger on it, but my body had changed and I didn’t really feel like I had had the space to find out what It had changed in to. I didn’t really know how I moved any more.
It would have been nice to have had more time to explore my moment and not feel like I had to dance / perform pre pregnancy.
As I get older, I feel this more and more. We have so much training to prepare to be a dancer, sculpting our bodies, perfecting class and movements but with such changes to the female bodies, as we move through life,
Does parenting help you in your work?
I think parenting has helped me hugely in my work as a moment director, managing people, having more in-depth knowledge and experience of holding people and supporting them through their journeys and helping them to find their creativity.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
I think my children are interested in what I do and are happy when I am happy and also thrive off of my creativity.
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
Mothers who Make / PIPA Campaign.
I’m not directly aware of resources for parent in dance (other than Dance Mama) however I think there are a lot more conversations happening in more recent time and hopefully more resources will spring up…
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
I think it would be really helpful for leading dance companies and organisations to recognise the needs of parents (but particularly mothers and our future mothers of dance) to provide pre / postnatal advice / information / classes for pregnant dancers that enable their changing bodies to prepare / nurture them. Also post natal support so that they can re-emerge and continue with their careers without it being such a struggle and strain on their bodies and their new lifestyle caring for a child. I think we loose too many female dancers to Motherhood and with support I do not think this is necessary.
More about Belinda
Belinda started dancing at the age of 3 years old and went on to train at English National Ballet school. After exploring various fields of dance i.e. Musical theatre, TV, and commercial projects, she worked with New Adventures for over 7 years performing in many of their productions world-wide. Belinda then went on to form her own company and won a Fellowship from the Arts Foundation as a creator of Theatre for young People. Over the past few years I have been working as a Movement Director and leading workshops and community dance groups for New Adventures.