Mother of two. Founder of Energetix - self-employed schools dance specialist and dance practitioner. Now Engagement Manager, Dance Woking.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
I absolutely love working as a dance practitioner whilst being a parent, as the flexibility allows me to work around my family and their commitments. However, the most challenging aspect is securing affordable and reliable childcare. Every week my working hours are different and there are few or no childcare providers that allow ad hoc hours. This has meant turning down a lot of opportunities over the years and having to work less than ideally I would like.
What support did you feel you had from work when you (your partner was) were pregnant?
I would not say that I had any specific support whilst pregnant, however during my first pregnancy I was working as rehearsal director and project co-ordinator for Jean Abreu Dance and the part time role worked well along with being able to work on the administration from home. I felt that the company and manager Donna Medeiedierks who I later worked with on other projects, were extremely supportive of my working hours during this time and thereafter working from home with flexible hours around my baby.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
I was asked to perform a duet whilst pregnant and I turned down the opportunity. Basically I did not feel that physically I was as able as before. However, perhaps some guidance and additional training could have enabled me to find the confidence to perform with a changing body.
Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery
I was definitely very active during both pregnancies but found the recovery back to full fitness very slow. I had an emergency c-section followed by a planned c-section the second time and I have struggled to re-find my previous athleticism. This is where I would have loved to have some sort of post-natal support and training programme.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
I chose not to due to lack of post-natal dance support and training.
Does parenting help you in your work?
Absolutely. After having my daughter I started to explore dance with babies, pre-schoolers and toddlers, an area I had not worked in previously. It has taken time to develop classes that stimulate and engage this age group, with trial and error along the way! Having small children and tuning in to their development, interests, responses has meant I am now confident leading an age group that previously I may have found challenging.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
I think a dance background results in you naturally being an active parent. Walking (galloping, skipping) on a daily basis. I I join in with play and activities and encourage music and creativity at home. I also value the openness of creative dance and am keen to encourage activities that allow exploration, play and expression as opposed to learning exactly how to do things. I often have props or ideas out around the house ready for future workshops and the children love to get involved and make their own ideas.
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
I don’t but would be interested to know of any.
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
My biggest point about working in the arts as a free-lance parent is that there are such little options for childcare in order to get back in to the work scene. I often have to ask friends for favours. I do not have the luxury of family nearby to help out and sometimes by the time I have paid for travel and expensive childcare, it’s not worth doing financially. An ad hoc childcare system would be helpful but also for self-employed contracts to include additional expenses for parents. Often I will get offered £25-£30 to teach a class but for a parent it means having to cover three hours of childcare in order to do it. It’s definitely an issue that, given more support, would encourage more part-time mothers in the arts to get back in to work more quickly.
More about Eleanor
After training at The Laban Centre and Transitions Dance Company, Eleanor toured and performed with UK dance companies nationally and internationally, including Jean Abreu Dance, PunchDrunk, Vincent Dance Theatre, LamatDance and WNO. Eleanor then moved on to dance in education, delivering projects for many dance organisations and working as Education Officer for The Place and JAD. Eleanor currently visits schools and dance companies as an external dance specialist. She runs her own company Enerjetix’which delivers dance CPD and workshops in schools and is also currently External Early Years Specialist for Rambert.