Patter of tiny feet: dancers on leaping into motherhood

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Guardian

Lyndsey Winship | 03 March 2021

Juggling babies and a job is always difficult – what are the particular pressures for performers and how is the industry taking steps to improve?Followers of Royal Ballet principal Lauren Cuthbertson cheer ardently for her Juliet, Manon and Sugar Plum Fairy, but are in raptures about her latest role, as mum to baby Peggy, born in December and already the toast of Instagram. Cuthbertson is one of a flurry of dancers at the Royal who are about to give or have recently given birth, in a serendipitously timed lockdown baby boom.

It’s a long way from the early days of the company, when founder Ninette de Valois set the tone. “‘You’re pregnant darling, goodbye!’ That’s how it was,” says Jeanetta Laurence, a dancer in its touring company in the 1960s and 70s. Even now, she says: “It’s hard to think of another industry where having a baby is so intrusive to the work. I’m in awe and wonder at how they manage it.”

Juggling work and parenting is hard in any career, but the demanding hours, unpredictable working patterns and often poor pay, on top of the physical impact, mean dancing parents have challenges. Alongside all the happy baby news at the Royal, five female dancers took voluntary redundancy, almost all of them mothers to young children. “Read into that what you like,” laughs Elizabeth Harrod, former soloist and mother of three, and one of those who left.

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