Mother of two. Programme Leader BSc/MSci Dance Science, Senior Lecturer in Dance, University of Chichester, and co-author of Safe Dance Practice: An Applied Dance Science Perspective.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
Time management. The nature of my work means that there is no clear delineation between the working day and home/family life. Shows in the evenings, marking of student work, e-mails, tutorials, admin, etc. all bleed across 24 hours rather than sit neatly within a nine to five working day. While this can have its benefits, such as getting admin done when the kids are in bed because you have been able to go see their Christmas concert in the middle of the day, it also requires strict time management. And even if I was good at being strict with my time management (which I am not!) it is hard for a 7 month old, or a 4 year old to understand, and therefore play along with, such time constraints.
What support did you feel you had from work when you (your partner was) were pregnant?
Both my pregnancies were (thankfully) not complicated. I was healthy and able to continue with work until I chose to go on maternity leave about 4 weeks prior to due date. My organisation had a HR liaison person that made sure the company and I were following legal requirements. Of course, friends and colleagues, in particular other parents, were extremely understanding and sympathetic on days when I felt less than my usual energetic self!
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery
Yes. I think being body aware made the whole thing less daunting, for me at least! Also, being fit and active was definitely helpful for the pregnancy, the birth and the recovery phase. I was less fit and active in the lead up to my second child being born and I do think I noticed the difference.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
I took 9 months off with my first born, although I did author a dance textbook during that time. I slowly returned to action in a steady fashion. I was not over planned about it, I just went with what felt right at each stage. With my second ( I am just 7 months in now and I have not yet returned to full-time teaching) I am finding it harder, mainly due to time demands.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
I think I just had/have a different sense of priority and perspective. Although I also had/have irreconcilable conflicts of interest, at times, between my work desires and my family’s needs.
Does parenting help you in your work?
I think it helps me as a person, so I guess indirectly it helps me in my work.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
Yes. It is great to dance, move, wiggle, be physically active with my kids. I love to introduce them to all kinds of dance, theatre, etc. It also helps me to think a bit more creatively when there are some challenging stand offs with my headstrong and very independent four year old boy! I joked once that being a parent requires the most use of all of my creative skills than anything else in life.
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
No. I know of resources for pregnant dancers, but not for parents who work in dance.
[Editor's note: This includes Safe Dance Practice: An Applied Dance Science Perspective which Edel co-authored, and has a chapter on the pregnant dancer].
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
Recently, a dance company (forgive me, I can not remember who it was now – baby brain!) advertised a showing of their work at The Place that was scheduled for the middle of the day and was for parents (i.e. parents could bring small babies, but this this was still an ‘adult’ show, not a show for kids) and I thought ‘YES, THIS – We need more of this’. I have seen less live dance since having kids and I miss it!
Childcare. Childcare is an issue. A costly issue. A prohibitive issue. We have no family in the country. We both work – full time. It is a very delicate (and expensive) house of cards. If one of the four of us become sick the whole house of cards will teeter and risk collapse. If it collapses then it takes epic amounts of time and energy to re-establish it, but we are all already exhausted.
Attitudes towards children at work. In some establishments where I have worked there has been a ‘children at Work Policy’ where the policy is basically ‘no children at work’. I think this is short-sighted and prohibitive to the organisation, to the employee and to the employee’s family. Surely no one wants to bring their child to work with them unless they have to, or unless it may be appropriate to do so. I think in the dance world children in the workplace should be actively encouraged, where appropriate.
More about Edel
Edel has over a decade of experience as a dance teacher, lecturer, researcher and dance scientist, specialising in the application of dance science theory and research to the teaching and practice of dance, across styles, ages and settings. Her co-authored book, Safe Dance Practice: An Applied Dance Science Perspective was published in 2015 by Human Kinetics and has been adopted as a key text on dance courses around the world. Edel has also published numerous papers and frequently presents her applied research at national and international conferences. She is on the editorial panels for peer-reviewed journals such as Frontiers in Psychology and Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.
Edel has extensive international dance teaching and lecturing experience. In 2017 she was nominated for a National Award for Inspirational Lecturer at a College, University or Conservatoire. Prior to coming to the University of Chichester, Edel was the Programme Leader of the MSc and MFA in Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (London), where she also delivered on the MA/MFA programmes, the BA Contemporary Dance and BA Musical Theatre Performance programmes and the Dance Diploma Courses. In recent years she has also taught at institutions such the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (Hong Kong), University of Wyoming (USA), University of Bern (Switzerland), Beijing Dance Academy (China) and University of Limerick (Ireland).
Edel is an active representative for many international organisations, supporting the promotion of dance science education to the global dance sector. She is a long-standing member of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS), where she founded the Student Committee. She currently serves on the IADMS Dance Educators Committee, in the role of co-editor of the Dancers and Teachers Bulletin. She is also an Associate of Safe in Dance International (SiDI), where she is a registered Course Provider and Quality Reviewer for the Healthy Dance Practice Certificates. Additionally, Edel is one of three people in the UK that has competed the Empowering DanceTM tutor training prorgramme.
Edel is a trained Irish and Contemporary dancer. Her professional performance experience includes touring full-time with ‘Riverdance the show’ (1996-2001) as a lead dancer. Other performance experience includes a year with Henri Oguike’s sister dance company H20, a season in the West End production of The Shaughraun (2006), and performing at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics (Dublin, 2003). Edel is a member of Dance Mama's Research Advisory Group.