Mother of one. Freelance dancer, teacher and choreographer, Artistic Director of Dorset Youth Dance Company, Claire's career includes Dancer & Lead Artist for Creative Projects & Participation for Motionhouse.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
There are lots of challenges for any parents returning when to work; the balance of a full time work schedule and fitting in hours with your child will always be hard. I am very lucky that Motionhouse has created a role in which I vary my schedule around teaching and performing. The main challenge is fitness - keeping up my strength and agility to be able to cope with the demands of a show day. If we have a quiet performance period then I would normally have had lots of time to maintain my fitness or go to the theatre to be inspired, whereas now, that time just isn’t available as I want to be with my daughter as much as possible.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
Throughout my pregnancy, I felt supported by Motionhouse in all the decisions I made; I never felt any pressure to continue dancing. Motionhouse has now offered me a new position leading on the education and the participation element of the company. This has helped me balance my new home life commitments and I enjoy nurturing and mentoring the students even more now I’m a mum myself.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
No, not really. It was the first time any dancer had been pregnant whilst working for the company but we all learned as we went along. Risk assessments were a little difficult but we just used common sense. It all went really smoothly and that’s testament to the team at Motionhouse.
Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
I feel that the pressure put on active pregnant women is the fear that other people have for you. They don't appreciate that you are used to that amount of daily exercise and therefore know what your body needs. People always compare the situation to their own 'normal' pregnancy experiences and can't understand why you would want to put yourself and the baby through a tough workout - hanging upside down is normal for me due to the type of dance I perform! My health professionals were very supportive and agreed that I should continue with my daily workouts too.
As for my recovery, I always knew that I would have a short amount of time after the birth before I went back to performing. I was dancing again after four and half months and I went away for ten days to South Korea after five months. It made me really appreciate the time I had before Lola was born and even more importantly, after she was born. I used any opportunity to get some exercise in – she would always have a morning nap so I’d take her out for an hour run in her pushchair, then whilst she played on the matt, I would stretch!
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
I would encourage parents to keep fit for as long as possible. I did take class with the dancers after I had gone on maternity leave, but it got to the point where I ended up stretching at the side so it wasn’t very productive. I swam lots and walked religiously. My labour definitely benefited from this and I was able to push Lola out super quickly because I didn’t fatigue. The old cliché that the time flashes by and in the blink of an eye you miss it… yes its true, every stage goes quickly but try not to panic about it either – being back at work is amazing too and it’s a really exciting and new journey so you don’t have to feel you are missing out on anything.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
I knew I didn’t have long until I had to start performing again but by starting slowly after the birth with short walks and really gentle pelvic floor work, I slowly built my muscles up again. I didn’t push it and I enjoyed being in a different stage of my life. I started teaching again after about six weeks so this also helped me get moving.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
It’s no surprise, as it is for most jobs, that I had to adapt. Now I'm a mum, I will definitely think twice about wanting to jump on the Motionhouse tour bus and jet off for weeks on end. However, I’m at a really exciting, pivotal moment in my career now. Before Lola came along, I couldn't imagine a life without performing and now I can’t wait to start the new chapter of my life, both personally and professionally.
Does parenting help you in your work?
It makes me very organised! You have to be if you want to have any time with your child… but more importantly, it makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have an amazing career and an amazing family. I enjoy life more than ever now and I think that comes across in my day to day approach to work – whatever it is I’m doing that day!
Does dance help you in your parenting?
I love the fact that I am able to handle Lola with confidence and I can be really physical with her even though she is still very young. We do lots of baby lifts and flying and we are always dancing together. She responds well to music and movement and even loves watching the dancers perform. I think it also helps give me lots of energy so I can really make the most of the time we have together.
More about Claire
Claire is based in Dorset and is a dancer, teacher, choreographer and Artistic Director of Dorset Youth Dance Company. Claire's career includes dancing with leading dance theatre company, Motionhouse, teacher of Motionhouse Youth and Motionhouse Junior, weekly education and participation classes for 8 – 19 year olds, and a first time mum.
Originally from Oxford, Claire graduated in 2001 from the London Studio Centre and has been dancing professionally for the past 12 years, performing at prestigious events such as Edinburgh's Fringe Festivals, The Nuremburg Opera House and The British Dance Edition 2006. In January 2014 Claire gave birth to her first child, a baby girl called Lola.