Mother of two. Self-employed Pilates Teacher and Massage Therapist at www.hannaquiggin.co.uk
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
My husband works 9-6 in a full time position so childcare has always been the biggest challenge for me since having children; this has absolutely influenced the choices I have made work wise since becoming a parent.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
II was self-employed when I was pregnant which meant I just didn’t take on any dance projects. I did continue teaching Pilates again on a freelance basis and this worked well as I just did less demonstrating of exercises as I got bigger.
I continued taking dance classes both at The Place and Ballet classes at Pineapple Studios mostly with teachers who already knew me well; they were incredibly supportive in helping me to continue dancing whilst pregnant and to keep active. Not only did this feel vital for my body but also my mental health as doing class was always just part of my daily routine.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
When I was pregnant I wasn't really sure of any resources that were available to help or support me, however I think this is really changing. I think companies such as Dance Mama, Mothers Who Make, PIPA Campaign and arts organisations are changing things and supporting parents to continue working in the arts. I'm so glad these companies exist and continue to support parents and artists.
Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
Being a dancer and Pilates teacher really helped me in both during my pregnancy and in my post birth recovery, it felt so important to keep moving as this is what I had always done. I felt really free dancing while being pregnant as I wasn’t as focussed on technique or staying in shape for auditions so I really fell back in love with moving for movement’s sake. It actually felt really liberating.
Being so aware of my body through my training and dancing meant I felt very connected to my body during pregnancy and the changes it was going through. It especially helped during the labour where the ability to breathe through pain, be connected to my body and be in the moment helped the birth move along quickly.
Postnatally my Pilates knowledge and previous experiences of having to rehabilitate myself from injuries within my dance career really aided my recovery. I felt I could be patient with my body and its recovery and knew how to build things up gradually, I would often lie on the floor with my son while he was playing doing some gentle Pilates exercises for myself.
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
To really try and enjoy and cherish the time you have. To be present and try and be in the moment, especially if you have the opportunity to have time off work, it all moves so quickly and the cliché is true that they grow up so fast and that you blink and you miss it. We moved to a different city while I was pregnant and moving out of London kind of eased the pressure of getting back to work as I didn’t have any teaching work to return to, this was both nice as it gave me lots of time to spend with my baby but it was also something that played on my mind that I should be networking and trying to find work for the future.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
Due to our move I gave up teaching my Pilates Clients and classes when I was about 7 months pregnant and became project manager on our house renovation instead, so I had no pressure on getting back to work by a specific date.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
When my son was about a year old I started to feel like I needed to do something for myself and looked into teaching Pilates classes again but as the hours were so sporadic arranging nursery for a half/whole days when I would only be teaching a few classes wasn’t financially viable so going back to working on the same freelance basis as I had done previously didn’t seem possible. I love the body and just think it is incredible and knew I wanted to continue working with it somehow and this lead me to decide to do a part-time massage course. The course worked really well for me as all of the lectures were on the weekends when my husband was at home and looked after our son which was lovely as they spent some quality time together just the two of them. It did mean that during the week whenever my son had a nap I was busy trying to write essays and study which was sometimes a challenge but just what I needed for my own mind.
I did have to try and let the perfectionist in me go, when I studied for my dance degree and MA I would give myself lots of time for assignments and usually felt really happy with the work I produced and handed in. With my massage course I just didn’t have the time to spend hours on essays getting them to high exacting standards I placed on myself and I had to learn to be ok with this which was a challenge at times.
The biggest challenge for me was moving out of London as I didn’t have any contacts in my new home, I had also thought there would be more opportunities locally than there were. I was used to looking at audition adverts or speaking to people in class to find out about projects, however in Bristol it felt more that I needed to create opportunities for me and I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to do this while being a full time parent as well.
The physicality and challenge of dancing was something I really missed even when I had gone back to Pilates teaching, I did go to dance classes and found a lovely intermediate Ballet class run by a professional dancer which gave me a little bit of that feeling that I really missed. But then we moved to Devon and professional classes were over an hour’s drive away and it just wasn’t possible to get there in time after school drop off. But then I tried an Aerial Hoop class at a new very local studio which had just opened and absolutely loved it, I really enjoyed having a new physical challenge which I had really missed.
Does parenting help you in your work?
My work as a massage therapist often involves being a good listener and I think being a parent helps me be more empathetic, I also think it helps me be more focused and organised as I don’t have the luxury of time like a I used to
Does dance help you in your parenting?
I think being a dancer has helped to make me a playful parent, in our house there is a lot of music, impromptu dance and improvisation round the kitchen. I love playing dressing up and role play with the kids and there are lots of shows, performances, singing and general silliness. I think dance has helped me be a parent who doesn’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable being silly and I think this has given my children confidence in themselves and their abilities. They both enjoy performing and aren’t shy at school when they have to stand up in assembly, they are also both confident in their physical abilities and aren’t frightened to try something new.
I recently had a conversation with some friends who are also mothers and we were talking about if you get embarrassed and trying not to pass this on to our children. When they asked me if I got embarrassed easily I realised that I really don’t and that I will put myself out there and won’t shy away from things which might appear embarrassing. I am sure this is comes from my dance training, improvisation classes, choreography task and numerous auditions. I also think it comes from going into a studio for a job with a new group of people and very quickly learning to work together, to problem solve and to trust them both on a mental and physical level, these are things which transfer to the world outside the studio and are useful life skills and something I try to give to my kids through my parenting.
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
I know a bit about PIPA Campaign and also Mothers Who Make. The main issue for me is that the nearest Mothers Who Make meetings are about an hour’s drive away so I haven’t made it to any meetings yet, but now with COVID and more things moving online I might be able to make and online meet up.
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
For me there has been a real shift between the pre-children me and the new identity I feel I now have as a parent and that has at times been challenging. Sometimes I really miss the old ‘me’ that was busy dancing and performing, but I also know that I would never have given up the time I have spent with my kids when they were little as it is something I truly treasure. The work I do now as a teacher and massage therapist is both interesting and challenging however nothing can give me the same feelings I had as a performer before, during and after a performance. I am not sure that anything will ever give me that feeling again and that is something that over time I am getting used to and it feels ok because I am so grateful that I had the chance to have a career in something I really loved before I became a parent.
There were times after my son was born when I felt quite lonely. Despite having lots of new mum friends none of them had known me before I had my baby. I felt that none of them knew the real/old me or that identity that I had before. Lots of the people I had met were all on maternity off from an office job and so my freelance dance career was quite different to that. I think they were surprised when watching video footage of what I had done previously, but were actually really keen to go to the theatre with me and watch dance performances. Even now my friends always ask me to be their dance cultural guide and we love going to see performances.
More about Hanna
Hanna Quiggin (previously Hanna Tatham) trained at London Contemporary Dance School where she gained not only a BA (Hons) but also an MA in Dance specialising in Dance Performance as part of the Postgraduate Dance Company EDge.
Hanna went on to have a professional career as a freelance dancer for 11 years, working for choreographers Rashpal Singh Bansal, Frauke Requard, Martin Lawrence, Javier de Frutos, Bound to be Theatre, English National Opera and Royal Opera House, she also created her own work with Nadine Maclean for their company Red-i.Hanna was introduced to Pilates during her dance training she went on to train as a Pilates Matwork teacher with Pilates Training Solutions. She has since gone on to take further course in Prenatal and Postnatal Pilates and Pilates Stability Ball with Body Control.
Hanna taught extensively throughout London in a number of Gyms, Private Studios and private classes. Hanna also taught several Private Clients many of whom were recovering from injuries such as hip replacement surgery or 'herniated discs and arthritis. She also built a strong working relationship with a Chiropractor on Harley Street who referred clients to her. One of her biggest interests is working with clients who are recovering from an injury and trying to aid them in their rehabilitation.
Hanna practiced pilates throughout both her pregnancies and experienced how beneficial it was on her own body and aided her recovery in the postnatal period. This has led her to work primarily with pregnant and postnatal women.
Hanna wanted to continue working with the body in a holistic way which lead her to train as a Clinical Soft Tissue Therapy in 2013 gaining a BTEC Professional Diploma (Level 5) with the Massage Training School which is accredited by the Institute of Sports and Remedial Massage (IRSM). This has given her an even greater understanding of the body and how it functions and has fed her interest in how massage and exercise can ease pain. She strongly feels that the combination of Remedial Massage and Pilates work to complement each other completely.