'...although having children and juggling a physical career is hard, it’s still the best thing I have ever done.'
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
The most challenging part for me was the tiredness! After performances and tours I would just want to sleep but I also wanted to spend time with my family. My husband would desperately need a break from being on his own and have work to catch up on. So it always felt like we were playing catch up.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
At the time, my employer didn’t really know what to do with me! I had incredibly bad
morning sickness that lasted for 8 months so I wasn’t much use to anyone.
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
An alternative work placement or work experience opportunity. I actually made this for myself during my second pregnancy and asked to help out the company manager.
Do you think being a dancer/ working in the dance industry made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
There was a lot more focus on the recovery than I feel most new mums have. I knew that if my body didn’t recover well then that could potentially end my career and loose me my income.
From your experience, what advice would you give to an expectant parent regarding leave?
Take the full years leave. Don’t rush back, however much you love your job and dance. You will never get that time back with your precious new baby.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
The first time, I rushed back and ended up injured. Second time I learnt from the first time and took things slower. Listening to my own body more than anyone else.
What changed most for you on your return to work?
Nothing really changed. I wish it did! I still performed all the roles that I had
danced pre-pregnancy and my work load stacked up pretty quickly.
Does parenting help you in your work?
It helps you to be more understanding and also if you have a role that involves dramatic acting or any kind of emotion you can really go for it! It's like being a parent made me forget my inhibitions and feel emotions I'd never felt.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
It keeps you fit so that you can keep up with your children! Also I think you pass on the ability to be disciplined but also know how to have fun and enjoy life.
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
I didn’t while I was dancing. Now obviously Dance Mama and PIPA are doing great things to support dancers. I wish dance companies had a closer relationship with them.
Anything else you think would be worth raising?
I would like to reassure other dancers that although having children and juggling a physical career is hard, it’s still the best thing I have ever done. We are however living in a world where unfortunately working mothers can be treated unfairly. Its not just in the arts, it’s across all professions. Women are being forced to choose between their careers and starting a family. This is slowly changing as more of us make this the norm in the arts.
I hope that ballet companies become the leaders in showing other organisations that women can be mothers and still get to the top of their field and should be appreciated for the amazing dedication, work and undeniable determination they possess. Go girls!
I have found Pregnant Then Screwed (Founding Director, Joeli Brearly) very helpful with free advice.
Diary keeping for two children with various hobbies is quite a task and the one thing I haven’t managed to fit into our busy lives is ballet classes for them! I''m so aware that parents like me send their children to clubs and after school activities purely because it fits into family life.
This is when I realised I shouldn’t have to choose teachers and classes purely based on their location and time. I want to give parents the opportunity to give children the access to professional classes created by professional dancers, when and where works for them.
I thought long and hard about what I want as a parent and what I want to pass on to future dancers.
I contacted Steven Monteith, former soloist with BRB who has his RAD teacher training and between us we came up with the Online Ballet Syllabus. It’s set ballet classes for various levels that are all online. It’s been created specifically so that dancers can participate at home in pretty much any space.
Once the dancers feel confident with their chosen class and have worked their way through the extra tips and pointers (no pun intended) they can book an online assessment.
The assessment will be judged by a professional Dancer. They will receive invaluable feedback and I believe it will be a wonderful experience.
More about Laura
Laura was formerly a soloist ballerina at Birmingham Royal Ballet. After having her children, life as a ballet dancer became more and more of a challenge. As much as she loved her job and ballet, the constant performances and touring schedule was taking its toll. So, after 20 years of hard work and dedication, Laura felt it was time to retire and re-train. She qualified as a postural stability coach, trapeze yoga instructor and Hatha Raja yoga teacher. Alongside this she continued her love of ballet by coaching talented young dancers and co-founding the Online Ballet Syllabus.
See Laura in action in the only documentary short known-to-Dance-Mama about being a parent in dance, Balance, on Amazon Prime.