Mother of two. Dancer, Dance Artist, Dance Teacher & Choreographer. Freelance dance artist including teaching at Trinity Laban CAT at time of interview.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
As a freelance dance artist you’re always weighing up the job against the pay, not because you want to, but because you have to, if you want to pay the rent at the end of the month. The most challenging part of being a mum and a freelancer has been juggling this ever challenging money-job issue and now taking in to consideration, childcare. Expensive childcare. On top of that I felt my priorities changed and some jobs were not as important for me anymore than spending time with my daughter, and therefore learning to say ‘no’ to jobs I would normally say yes to. I am also aware I am a very lucky mummy as my husband is a freelancer too and we’ve been able to juggle the freelance jobs and looking after our daughter between us without having to fork out for expensive childcare. Yet….
What support did you feel you had from work when you (your partner was) were pregnant?
With my first pregnancy I was working five different jobs and felt supported by all five. The dance community, schools and companies I worked with were all quite kid friendly and pregnancy aware so I felt I had good support all around on the dance-work floor. Adapting what I could and could not do or felt comfortable with and being flexible by giving me options and having cover in place.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
Being pregnant for the first time I don’t think anybody can tell you, or could tell you, what and how you and your body is going to react and how that may influence your work. So eventhough I felt like I wanted more information on what was going to happen next as I was growing bigger. In hindsight I don’t think anybody could’ve done that for me. Every body is different and so is every person.
Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
Yes I think so. First of all if you are a dancing, working, pregnant dancer you have to deal with the shape, size, weight change directly and every day. You are confronted with all the small changes in your body and the fact that you will have to adapt. It’s such an amazing thing to carry a whole new little person inside you, it made me feel even more proud of what my body could do as a dancer.
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
Take your time and take as much as you can. I remember saying to people before I had Abigail, “I’d be so happy to be going back to work again”. And in my head I had an ideal of going back to work as soon as my Maternity Leave was over. In reality, recovering from an emergency c-section was a long and sour process. And in the end it took me a lot longer then I wanted to slowly get back into work and even then I still had to make changes to my normal working schedule to make sure my body was okay with it.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
Because I took a lot longer to recover from the emergency Ceasarean I had to have with my daughter. Luckily I was given the time by some of the employers and had good conversations with other about me not feeling up for taking the work on. I had to say goodbye to some of the freelance jobs I was planning on going back to but that was a combination of things time, pay, recovery etc. and I still have a great relationship with all those I didn’t return to.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
Looking after my body, looking after myself, looking after others. A massive sense of responsibility comes with becoming a mum and I think I take part of that with me in my work. Also your time gets a lot more precious, time spend away from my daughter. But on the other side also having the time away from her, in my eyes and for me personally just as important. If I’m happy my children are happy, you need to find a balance that works for you.
Does parenting help you in your work?
Hmmm, not sure. In the beginning definitely not. Sleep deprived and out of shape and routine I would say parenting was making it very clear returning to work wasn’t going to be a doddle. But teaching the young talents at Triniy Laban CAT I sure do feel more responsible, sympathetic and involved with my student then I perhaps did before. I spend precious time and energy teaching the next generation and in return they make me proud.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
Yes, I don’t shy away from a boogy in the park or public playground. Imaginary (crazy) play is not a problem for me. Creativity and movement is vital creating a playful relationship with my daughter, especially since she’s now a precocious little toddler that never sits still or stops playing and acting. Abi loves to sing and dance and has been on the move from a very early age. I took her to Waddle&Jam when she was just over a year and she loved it.
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
Sharing non judgemental thoughts and sharing experiences between mums and my dancer colleagues that have now become dancing mums has really helped me. To perhaps take a step back and look at how I want my career and family life balance to work out. Sort out priorities, needs and necessities.
More about Sarah
Sarah lives in The Netherlands. After finishing her highschool education at the Havo Voor Muziek en Dans Sarah graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Dance at the Codarts Dance Academy in Rotterdam.
Whilst there she gained an apprenticeship with Club Guy&Roni were she later became part of the company touring throughout Europe with Guy&Roni’s production, Language of Walls. From 2004 she worked as a freelance dancer in Amsterdam with several choreographers including Leine&Roebana where she danced in productions as Ditto, Eye in All, Terts, Sporen, Ballads. In 2006 Sarah moved to the UK to join the Henri Oguike Dance Company in London as a company member. Performing old and new repetoire with the company including; Front Line, Tiger Dancing, White Space, Second Signal, Finale, Little Red, Green in Blue and Touching All/All Around. Touring in the UK, China, Israel, US (Jacobs Pillow festival), Portugal, Italy, Switzerland (Steps Festival) and Germany. In May 2009 she danced in the Roundhouse production Underdrome, choreographed by Darren Johnston. Spring 2010 Sarah made a guest appearance as dancer in Henri Oguike’s new triple bill Butterfly Dreaming, performing in the piece Toccato on cello suites by Bach at The Royal Opera House.
Sarah was the educational facilitator of the Henri Oguike Dance Company and still is a freelance contemporary teacher at several schools throughout the UK including Laban, The Place, London Studio Centre and Swindon Dance. She also teaches the young talents at Trinity Laban’s Centre for Advanced Training Scheme. And next to creating her own work and dance films she choreographs for youth, semi professional and community dance projects.