Mother of one. Movement director (Associate Movement Director on the National Theatre's acclaimed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time), choreographer and former-dancer for Sasha Waltz and Guests and self employed project work.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
I’d like to start this answer by expressing how much I enjoy and feel fortunate as a working/dancing mum. I was employed by a large scale company at the time Roman, my son, was born, and they supported me in my choice of having a little person with me during creation periods and the touring. But this leads me to the only real obstacle or difficulty I would raise - travelling with a very young child is fairly straightforward and easy, they get on with life on the road and at least my son thrived with the adventures I was taking him on. But eventually, I felt I wanted him to socialise with children his age (from about 20 months). I started to feel like the traveling would either have to happen without him or would take him away from his little friends he was making at the nursery. Children love routine and as much as you can keep a routine for them on tour, you cannot take everyone with you in your suitcase!
I therefore felt when Roman was 22 months old, I would either suffer going on tour without him or that I had to rethink how I wanted to dance and live generally. I have now reduced my travelling to a minimum for a little while to give the chance for my son to have a regular nursery and be together as a family in one place.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
I was still performing until I was 6 months pregnant; the work I had created before the pregnancy. The work was adapted and just letting your peers know about what you are willing to do/can do and what is simply too much or unsafe helped me to enjoy performing with my new body and rediscover these works in a new light every time I would go on stage.
As a self employed dancer I did not have financial support during the pregnancy but as I felt really strong almost until I gave birth I found projects I could be a part of of until the end. It was an incredible learning curve for me to adapt to a new body shape and size and I can say today that it changed me as a performer. Ironically this new physical parameter helped me to find and explore a whole new range of qualities and states. It also helped me create distance to my work as I knew it would become very useful once Roman was here. There was space for work and new life, rather than feeling like I would have to choose between being a mum or being a dancer.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
I think if I hadn’t felt very strong and inspired to work until the end of my pregnancy it would have been a terrible strain on me financially and psychologically and I would be interested to find out what support, if any, is out there for women who simply have to stop their work because of a difficult pregnancy whilst self employed.
Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
Absolutely. I read a lot about the anatomical side of things. Where is this baby growing and where he is going to go to come out. How can I, with my physical awareness, help this process... I followed the Hypnobirthning technique which I can imagine is a lot easier for dancers to connect to.
The same applied with the recovery. Training with pilates as a dancer, I learnt about the different stages a women should follow to rebuild her abdominal wall and when to start and how mindful you have to be with your body at that moment.
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
I would like to remind women out there that as much as all babies are different, mothers are all very different in how they feel about combining being a mum and being a professional dancer/teacher/choreographer. And there is little we can do to plan ahead for that. The birth might be difficult and you might need to take months before you can start to move, the arrival of this little baby might change you forever, you might find that working and child care means that you earn close to zero... You just have to wait and see how you feel and what you need, and remember that what you need is as important as what your baby needs. They feed of us and they are happy when we, Mums and Dads are happy. The governments around the world set very different lengths for maternity leave, but it’s not a question of nationality, it’s a very personal decision that you should all feel proud of taking, regardless of what the other women around you are doing.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
I chose to go back slowly from 7 weeks onwards. I prepared myself with pilates work and games with Roman at home on my physio ball. I started back very slowly and progressively. I kept breastfeeding Roman until he was 8 months. It took organisation but nothing is impossible, we were very happy together playing and feeding in different hotel rooms and theatres!
What changed most for you on your return to work?
My approach to my work. My fresh outlook on what made a ‘good’ dancer...If you are passionate about what you do, it can take over your life and you can fall into a habit of giving it almost too much importance. Having a child reminded me about all the other things in life I used to say were important but never gave them time and space in my life. Again, on a technical and performative level, I became a very different dancer in the way I approached movement and performance.
Does parenting help you in your work?
Absolutely. Empathy, patience, generosity, play....all good things to bring into the work place.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
Yes, in a way dance gives me energy and in turn I give it back to my family who is happy to see me empowered by what I do. I also felt that it helped me in the early stages with my son. I found myself naturally using massage techniques or sacro-cranial therapy to help him out with different things like sleep, digestion.
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
I would just like to urge British Contemporary Dance Companies that have the resources to support their female dancers into this important phase of their lives and accommodate the work for them. I think mature women and mothers feed the work in a very unique way, through their experiences. The company I was with was based in Germany and so my experience might be very different to the one lived in the UK. I observe that there are very few mature female dancers in the major dance companies in the UK and that might be reason? Are British based dancers able to go on tour with their babies and is there the financial support for this to happen?It would be incredibly unfair and such a pity to see talent go to waste because a women wanted a child...
More about Delphine
Delphine Gaborit is French. Her early education at The Conservatoire National de Regionde Nantes preceded a BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre from Laban, London. Carol Brown, Ben Wright, New Art Club, Lost Dog, Frantic Assembly, Jasmin Vardimon, Rafael Bonachella and Hofesh Schecter are amongst the choreographers she has worked with in the UK. Delphine featured in There will be something later, the winning entry of the Dance Film Academy directed by Lucy Cash and Magalie Charrier and Work No 1020 by the artist Martin Creed as well as featuring in the Show Studio piece, Make up your mind shot by Nick Knight. Delphine has been a regular Guest of Sasha Waltz and Guests in Berlin for the past 5 years and has performed in Dialogue 09, Continu , Metamorphoses, Impromptus, Matsukaze and Sacre. She recently joined Adam Linder in his latest production, Parade, the show premiered at the Hau am Hebbel Ufer in Berlin last October.
Delphine has been teaching along side her performing career for the past 13 years. She teaches a range of classes for professional dancers and companies across Europe as well as workshops in schools and is part of Frantic Assembly's team of trained practitioners for whom she delivers workshops all over the UK and internationally. Delphine is currently shooting a series of Conversations with artists, dancers and dance makers. She was Guest Host of the Sofa Interviews and was the presenter for all the official highlights and interviews at Move It 2014.