• Dance Mama

Dance Mama / Producer Mama

Going hand-in-hand with the uploading of interviews with two dance #producermamas in the past week, Grace Okereke and Emma Jones, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on portfolio working after my own recent experience of expanding my producing skills to outdoor festivals with Greenwich Dance.



Before that I want to explain ‘portfolio working’ to my understanding. Most of you who are converts and have a good sense of this already, but for those of you who are new to this, the concept has been kicking about for a few decades now. It basically means, you can be more than one work thing, at the same time – e.g. being a human being, not a human doing. Coined by Charles Handy back in the late 80s, being a Portfolio Professional ‘is a way of describing how the different bits of work in our life fit together to form a balanced whole.’


Oh no, not blessed balance again! That which seems an elusive chalice we keep chasing in manner of Indiana Jones. BUT it does neatly describe how we can add the parenting slice into our ‘working in the arts’ pie – imagery I use in mentoring sessions (and who doesn’t love pie? Savory or sweet). I believe balance is something we can shift in and out of, and the game is not about finding eternal, perfect balance (as I actually think that’s not possible) but more about recognising what both out of balance feels like and what alignment feels like, and using this as your barometer for more staying in the balance zone more often.



I recently led a workshop at Greenwich Dance on ‘Building Your Portfolio Career’ which was open to anyone, not just dancing parents. Drawing on the book Building A Portfolio Career (McCrudden, Bourne and Lyons), the methodology is consistent across all groups (and one I assume most consultants use) which is fundamentally; What do you want to do? Where are you know? What are the realistic steps to achieving this? The realism, for me, depends on how much belief you have (and that’s a whole other blog!).


To be frank (and when am I not?) parenting is a 24/7 production so the transferable skills are pretty straightforward.

The underlying foundation to all this is working out and writing down your values. Again, this is something I wrote out for myself back in 2011 (the last time I went self-employed) and have found myself revisiting and redefining at this stage in life. Brene Brown is en vogue right now because she’s awesome, and among many other amazing insights and research, has identified some 30 values in Dare to Lead that are pretty useful to help you pinpoint which ones resonate with you.



When you get clear of what this is then you can then crack on with formulating your recipe for your portfolio pie. For me at the moment this is; Dance Mama, Cultural Project Manager, Holistic Practitioner/Seeker, Mother/Wife/Friend/Daughter/Sister.



I have full respect to all the parents, Grace, Emma and beyond who have the weight of production as a large slice of their pie. To be frank (and when am I not?) parenting is a 24/7 production so the transferable skills are pretty straightforward. There are clear objectives (a show has to happen / a school run has to happen), schedules (both usually involve getting up at the crack of dawn and working long hours), costume, set and props (a gazebo here, a school uniform there) all juggled into a melange of activity, creativity, emotion, and the heat of external and internal pressure.


It is full on.


Early start? This is a lie-in!

What I do note about both women is that they have a really clear understanding of their values, what’s right for them and their family and how they display tenacity in the face of so many variables.


#producermamas, I salute you!

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Images: Pari Naderi, Pierre Tappon, Ben Broomfield

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