I’m in a reflective mood this evening (despite the enthusiastic photo above). Four weeks into putting my full weight of my work capacity into Dance Mama, I found myself on stage at the theatre in Leeds College of Music, interviewing renowned Sport Physiologist, and Director of Supporting Champions, Dr Steve Ingham. I was aiming to recreate a golden conversation we had on the phone some months ago on how he went about successfully training Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill to win a world heptathlon title and Olympic Silver medal after becoming a mother. What a privilege. What a responsibility.
As I keep pulling at the thread that is the topic of motherhood and dancing in the 21st Century, more and more fascinating and alarming issues come to light. Soon after Dr Steve has returned to his seat, Anna Ehnold-Danailov, Co-Founder of Parents In Performing Arts (PIPA) Campaign, shared with our break-out group of 25 professionals from across the industry – ranging from CEO’s of leading dance organisations to community dance artists to programmers to ballerinas – confirmation of the anxieties we all have as dancing parents. Strong statistics on departure as workers from the arts due to financial pressures and parental pressures. Any worrying feelings we had before are now confirmed with the stark reality of the findings from two significant cross-industry studies from PIPA.
But surprisingly, I’m not deterred. Rather egged on. This information is powerful and compelling evidence to get on with the job. At that moment, to be all together in the same space, talking about this large elephant on the dance scene, was hugely valuable. This is just one conversation that it is part of a much bigger movement we add our voices to.
In a workforce that has 40,000 people in it and a vast majority being women, some audience members come to the arresting realisation that it is utterly bonkers we have not talking about this more. I acknowledge the work that has come before and around me, the pioneering work of Vincent Dance Theatre’s report with One Dance UK, their leaflet in turn (which fuelled me to start Dance Mama) and the section of a chapter in Safe Dance Practice (Edel Quin, Sonia Rafferty and Charlotte Tomlinson) and now PIPA. We need to keep the conversation going, generation to generation and doing more. Much more.
In a workforce that has 40,000 people in it and a vast majority being women, some audience members come to the arresting realisation that it is utterly bonkers we have not talking about this more.
So, I complete the line-up, outlining my own Simon Sineck, ‘Why, How, What’ of Dance Mama, and feature a wonderful vlog (click on the picture below to view) that Rambert Dance Mama, Lucy Balfour has recorded for me earlier in the week with her 3-month old baby in the room.
She’s in a Rolls Royce position of being supported to be a Dance Mama. Dancing energetic and performing technical works including Itzik Gallili’s A Linha Curva at 6 months pregnant, she is a source of inspiration for many. The reality is that the majority of the workforce are freelancers and on low incomes with limited or no support. I offered some principles and conversation prompts that can be transposed to freelance working scenarios, but I also offered provocations as there is a large mountain more that we need to be doing. It’s important to acknowledge the issues, but I feel it’s our collective responsibility to use our creativity to come up with solutions to change attitudes, bust myths and circumstances.
I feel it’s our collective responsibility to use our creativity to come up with solutions to change attitudes, bust myths and circumstances.
On a big high all the way back to Guildford, I then found myself on Sunday at another brilliant conversation at Siobhan Davies Dance studio presented by Katye Coe, Torchlight artist – Surrender in Birth, Dancing and the Everyday. Katye curated an afternoon of insightful and stimulating panel discussion with Laura Godfrey-Isaacs - Artist, midwife and birth activist, Michelle Quashie - Birth activist and creator of the Women’s Voices Conference, Sadie Holland - Case-loading midwife at King’s College Hospital and Fiona Putnam - Actor, writer, producer and mother of two children. Focussing intensely on the highly visceral experience of birth and its attendance was rich and emotional, and really thought provoking.
From what at times as a new Dance Mama 6 years ago could feel like a deafening silence on this subject, I feel hugely grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in creating a platform for voices to be heard with industry backing, in person and online. I’ve been happily overwhelmed that in just a 72-hour period there has been intense and complex discussion across the country. I hope I can capture some of its fresh potency as I develop Dance Mama to be of the highest service. To all who took part in person or who have watched it back online – thank you. Now carry on everyone and keep talking!
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