Dance Mama has been really invaluable for me to read- I really don’t know how other women do it.
Mother of one. Rosie formed her own company, Rosie Kay Dance Company, in 2004, and current works include MK-ULTRA, 5 SOLDIERS and she will be choreographing the official handover for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
Amongst extensive theatre credits as a performer and choreographer, she choreographed BAFTA nominated film Sunshine on Leith (2013). Rosie was the first Leverhulme Artist in Residence to the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, 2013-2014, and is currently Research Associate, as well as Associate Artist of DanceXchange, Birmingham.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in dance and being a parent for you?
The most challenging aspect of being a parent and working in dance is probably also the best thing- the irregularity. I never have two days the same, or two weeks or two months, so planning is essential. Its hard to make a routine, and so childcare is difficult, as well as making a stable life for our baby. But it is also the best thing- I am never stuck in an office, and I can bring my baby to work with me. He has been in the studio since he was just a few weeks old, so now he is very used to it.
What support did you feel you had from work when you were pregnant?
Well, it was very hard actually- it took me by surprise. I had waited until I felt my life and my career was as stable as it could be, and then was delighted when we found out I was expecting. Suddenly though my financial situation became very precarious, and I was shocked how vulnerable I was. I wanted to take more time off pre and post baby, but first of all I had to work to earn money, and secondly, my Arts Council grant came in late, so that my planned maternity break got cut short due to a new project timeline. In effect, I had to look after myself really, and that was hard, as I didn’t know how much or how little I could or should do. The best support I got was from my husband helping to cook, shop and look after me, and from my assistant, who could really get up and shout for me in the studio- although I still did a lot of that right up to the last weeks! Looking back now, I wish I had been just a bit kinder to myself and taken more time off and not worried so much about the money and security! You get obsessed with making sure that everything is stable and ready for your new baby, but actually life does continue afterwards!
Was there anything that may not have been in place that you felt could have been useful?
Well, if I had a bigger company, I could have covered my workload more, but in effect, I am my company, so it was important that I worked. The work we do as artists is so specific that you need to be there to be the driving force, whether it is for clients who are paying for your work, or artistic projects that need a passionate advocate. What I have put in place though since the birth is a slightly bigger team around me to support the company work.
Do you think being a dancer made you think differently about your pregnancy/recovery?
I thought it would be easier to be honest! I was really fit and strong before I was expecting, so I expected a return to normal quite quickly- I honestly didn’t believe that it would take about a year to regain my fitness and control! As a dancer I think it can be worse, as you have worked so hard for so many years- it is difficult to see and feel our body so out of control and so different. I had an emergency caesarean, and so it took a few weeks for that to heal before I could start exercising again. I’m not there yet, but I try not to feel so bad about it- I’ve got other priorities now. I have worked consistently after the birth to feel myself again, and going through serious injury in the past helped me stay focused and persistent. You don’t get changes immediately, but I am pleased that my desire to move and to dance is stronger than ever, even if I do feel a bit different.
If you were expected to dance postnatal (either by yourself or your employer) how did you approach your recovery?
I made sure I did a little bit as often as I could. Sometimes that was twice a day, sometimes a lot less. I really got into walking with my baby - going out everyday for an hour or so, which got me outside in the fresh air, got me stronger and I was with my baby. I tried baby yoga and baby Pilates classes, but I preferred my own programme at home, when baby was asleep. I got all my equipment out and had a little corner to do just a little every day to get back into my body. Then I started to pick up the swimming and the gym. I learnt that I couldn’t rush my recovery- it would and still is taking months and months. However, I’m now back choreographing, teaching and dancing, and while I’m not happy with where I am, I do love feeling a bit more like myself again and I love the fact that I’m still desperate to dance!
What changed most for you on your return to work?
Time keeping! I have to be so super organised- to get to work on time, which is hard with a breast feeding baby, having breaks in the day to feed him, or getting home straight afterwards- no more hanging around for a beer and a chat! I also get more tired than I used to, also due to feeding several times through the night still.
Does parenting help you in your work?
Yes- I am much more focussed, and surprisingly I find myself even more driven that before! I know what’s important and at times I can be more direct as I can’t waste time.
Does dance help you in your parenting?
I think it makes me a very dancing, singing parent! G loves to be in the studio and loves to be with dancers- he is very physical, very social and very friendly, which I think comes from being around so many dancers!
Do you know of any resources that already exist for parents who work in dance?
Any other thoughts?
Dance Mama has been really invaluable for me to read- I really don’t know how other women do it- as it’s such an important part of your life, but quite private and secret in the arts. We are all juggling so much, with such varied and quite frankly, insecure jobs. I wanted to speak honestly to share my experience with other women as it is a difficult time. Having said that, It’s also the best thing ever, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been!
More about Rosie
Rosie Kay trained at London Contemporary Dance School, and formed Rosie Kay Dance Company in 2004. Kay has created award-winning works that include; Sluts of Possession (2013) in collaboration with the Pitt Rivers Museum, There is Hope (2012) exploring religion, 5 SOLDIERS - The Body Is The Frontline (2010-2015), which is touring in the UK and Internationally, and Double Points: K (2008) in collaboration with Emio Greco| PC. Site-specific works include Haining Dreaming (2013), The Great Train Dance (2011) on the Severn Valley Railway, and Ballet on the Buses (2007). Kay creates installation and dance films: 5 SOLDIERS - the film, was exhibited at The Herbert Gallery Coventry, Stadtmuseum Dresden and is in the film collection of la Médiathèque du Centre National de la Danse, Paris. Feature Film credits include choreographer for Sunshine on Leith (2013). Kay was the first Leverhulme Artist in Residence to the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, 2013-2014, and is currently Research Associate, with the first paper published in Medical Humanities. Kay is Associate Artist of danceXchange, Birmingham.