'...being a dancer made me think somewhat differently about giving birth.'
Mother of one. Freelance Choreographer, Movement Director, Performer and Host. She is currently Movement director on her 4th season of Kynren- An epic tale of England, performing with Folkdance Remixed and was recently Movement Director for ICC Cricket World Cup opening party,
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
I think it would be having little or no space for any mental and physical preparation, whether that be choreographic ideas, paperwork, emails, going through choreography, stretching and strengthening...
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
I am freelance, so on my biggest job, it was less about the company I was working for at the time, and more about my team who were absolutely fantastic. It was a large scale outdoor show and they would encourage me to sit more in studio rehearsals later on in my pregnancy, wouldn’t let me lift anything-including my suitcase (as we were away from home every weekend) and took up the more physical aspects such as running up the hills on stage to block/speak to cast. On another hosting job at Lilian Baylis they had a chair for me in the wings.
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 in a way, I know my body very well and I think that that made me trust what my body was capable of-how strong yet flexible it was and therefore I felt very secure and confidant. I absolutely loved being pregnant - I’d always suspected I would - and was fascinated by the changes that were going on. Once I had gone past the ‘just feeling and looking out of shape’ part, I enjoyed my bump and boobs, and no longer being able to do certain things the way I could before - like arch my back very on all fours just made me think ‘wow’... but it completely made sense to what was going on physically.
Although interestingly for me, once I’d found out I was pregnant and realised that was the reason I couldn’t do anything very well in training sessions, I just didn’t feel like doing anything physical for the first half of my pregnancy-not gentle stretching or class, swimming, yoga...I just wanted to sleep all the time - it was fascinating. I’d never done so little physically in my life and I didn’t care, and I was usually one of those dancers who did care, and would always go to class, and do the work full out. Recovery was similar, I was in no rush to try and get my ‘pre pregnancy’ body back, I barely left the bedroom for the first 2 weeks, again I trusted that it was all how it should be.
I don’t remember when I started very gentle pelvic floor and stomach engaging exercise’s, but I took it steady feeling tuned in to the fact that if I pushed it to quickly I would do more damage than good.
You don’t ask about birth here [Ed. good point!] - you may have a good reason for that and may not want to hear my thoughts- but I also feel that being a dancer made me think somewhat differently about giving birth.
I was not at all scared of the birth, fortunately for me I had a very healthy and straight forwards pregnancy. During labour and birth I mentally and emotionally went inside my body, listened and talked to it. I used a lot of visualisation and breathing. I was not damaged or unwell. My body was moving and shifting to allow/assist my baby to pass through the birth canal, so rather than consciously acknowledge the pain and tense up, I was able to override that sensation, somewhat disengage from any negative thought of pain to create space for my body to move as it needed. I very much think dance training with its discipline, focus, stamina, continual work to strengthen, lengthen, open, develop, let go..... enabled me to experience the labour and birth my baby and I had, it was drug free and just 4 1⁄2 hours.
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
Having the time to BE pregnant and enjoy/experience what that brings was incredible. I didn’t work right up to my due date-although this was mostly because I had to turn down a couple of projects as they ran too close to or past my due date, and was not offered another for the same reasons. So I had 3 glorious summer months to rest, eat good food, do yoga, swim, walk, watch movies, listen to music and talk to my growing baby each night in the bath about what was gonna be ok and what wasn’t-such as wake up time in the morning was going to be 8am, no earlier, and how the birth was going to be-I did a hypno birthing course which was amazing, so each evening I talked through the ideal birth and what each of our roles would be. What I feel like I gained from that was being as ready as I could be physically, mentally and spiritually for the birth.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
What changed most for you on your return to work?
LOGISTICS! The daily (often night and morning) organisation required to get out of the door when working-organising two people with one who often has a different agenda! I was regularly travelling away to work a few days at a time at that point and my daughter was not at all interested in taking expressed milk from a bottle, so as well as having to find time and a place in my day to express to stop my boobs exploding. I also needed to either pop back to the accommodation or have whom ever was looking after her come to work in breaks to breast feed.
Does parenting help you in your work?
I think it has allowed me to experience the other side of things when it comes to working with kids and families. I had taught/lead many classes and workshops for kids of various ages and families, and although I had discovered or been taught what worked and didn’t work with regards to content, structure and delivery, I only really understood it once I had become a punter with my daughter. I think it has also taught me to look some more at how I approach getting my ideas across
with simple clarity, how to negotiate more confidently and realistically, and to have greater trust in my own knowledge and skills.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
Yes, definitely. I have been so comfortable and confidant in dancing, moving and playing with my daughter as she has learnt to crawl, stand, walk and accomplish physical challenges both at home and in the playground without fear of her failing or falling, knowing that that is how we all learn. It has helped me to be very ok with thinking on my feet and going with what ever may happen in the moment. Teaching and choreographing have enabled me to have the skills to take different approaches in showing her how to manage or negotiate different physical, emotional, intellectual or social situations.
I feel that most of the time I am able to be very patient with her, allowing her time to understand the choices she makes by asking questions about why she did something, or how things feel or explaining why some things are not appropriate so she can discover the world around her.
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
I know of PIPA but not much about them really.
More about Katie
Katie P is a Movement Director, Choreographer, Host, Performer and Teacher and has been working in dance for over 25 years’ both Nationally and Internationally.
Choreographer, Mass Choreographer and Movement director credits include Xanadu (Associate)-Southwark Playhouse, Circolombia’s Urban -World tour, 44th UAE National Day, 1st European games Baku, Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics, London Olympics and Paralympics, Coca- Cola rebranding launch, Stella Artois World Draught Master, Pixie Lott-Mama Do.
She is currently Movement director on the ICC Cricket World Cup opening party, her 4th season of Kynren-An epic tale of Englandand performing with Folkdance Remixed.