Strictly Mum Dancing: Pregnancy, motherhood and professional dance


Professional dance takes a mastery of physicality and form – on top of the business stresses and social demands. So what are dancers to make of motherhood and pregnancy, when their physical form and social availability now comes with dependents?


Professor Angela Pickard of Canterbury Christchurch University discusses the challenges facing the embodiment and identity of dancers becoming mothers, and what the field can do to support dancers before, during and after pregnancy.


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Image Source: Adobe Stock /AlexS





00:00:08 Will Mountford 

Hello. I’m Will. Welcome to Researchpod. 


00:00:11 Will Mountford 

Professional dance takes a mastery of movement, physicality and control of form. That’s on top of the business stresses and social demands associated with precarious employment, where one literal slip up could put you out of commission and out of work for a while. 


00:00:27 Will Mountford 

So what are dancers to make of motherhood and pregnancy when their physical form and social availability now comes with dependents? 


00:00:33 Will Mountford 

Professor Angela Pickard, of Canterbury, Christchurch University, speaks with us today about her research into the challenges facing the embodiment and identity of dancers becoming mothers and what the field can do to support dancers before, during and after pregnancy. 


00:00:52 Will Mountford 

Professor Pickard, hello. 


00:00:53 Prof Angela Pickard 



00:00:54 Will Mountford 

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, the professional and academic side to your lives and a bit about how that comes into what we’re talking about today? 


00:01:01 Prof Angela Pickard 

Yes. So I’m the first professor of dance education in the UK. 


00:01:06 Prof Angela Pickard 

I’ve been a dancer, teacher, advisor and I now work at a university, so Canterbury, Christchurch University and I’m director of the Sidney Dehaan Research Center for Arts and Health. Today we’re going to be talking about one of my research projects and articles, which is professional contemporary dancers becoming mothers, navigating disrupted habitus. 


00:01:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

An identity loss or evolution in a UK context. 


00:01:31 Prof Angela Pickard 

So my research draws on sociology, pedagogy and psychology. 


00:01:36 Prof Angela Pickard 

And it’s focused on bodies and identities. I work with a range of participatory and elite dance organizations, developing dance practices from artist lab, practice based research, participatory workshops to evaluations. 


00:01:51 Prof Angela Pickard 

And I’m particularly examining widening access and opportunities, social determinants of health and well-being and dance, social inequalities and inclusive working practices for dances, I dance through my pregnancy till I was about 7 1/2 months. I didn’t know if it was OK. It was, but. 


00:02:11 Prof Angela Pickard 

Recently I was approached by an organization called Parents and Carers in Performing Arts to investigate some barriers and challenges that might exclude dancers. There were also mothers to continue in the dance profession. 


00:02:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

So dancers often commit to becoming a professional dancer from a young age, and engaging years of training to become a professional dancer. So it is interesting that if they’ve trained for so long, it’s not appropriate just to be able to dance to your sort of, you know, 35 years old and then. 


00:02:46 Prof Angela Pickard 

Have to stop dancing so it was important for me to think about this project quite. 


00:02:52 Prof Angela Pickard 

Obviously, and due to COVID, there’s also been a decline in the dance workforce. So in 2020 we had 21,300 people identifying as dancers or choreographers in the UK. In 2021, that went down to 17,100 in 2022. 


00:03:13 Prof Angela Pickard 

10,400 and the 2023 number is down to 9100, so there seems to be a real talent loss in the. 

00:03:24 Prof Angela Pickard 

Industry, it seems to be the right time in space and history to start thinking what excluding factors might there be, given that the majority of the workforce identity in dance is women and they’re under 34 years old without caring responsibilities. So it implies that dancers you do have caring responsibilities have to leave the profession. 

00:03:45 Prof Angela Pickard 

So this is what started me thinking in this area real. 

00:03:48 Prof Angela Pickard 

At the time when I was pregnant, I was still dancing and teaching, and I had what’s called a portfolio career. So some dancing, some making some, some teaching, some research. I carried on doing all of those things when I was pregnant without anyone sort of questioning or. 

00:04:08 Prof Angela Pickard 

Kind of thinking about that, my midwife just sort of said, yeah, you know, exercise is a really good thing. As I said, I sort of just felt what I thought was appropriate and thought well. 

00:04:20 Prof Angela Pickard 

So as I got kind of bigger, I feel well, I can’t really do anything kind of leaning over to the floor. I wasn’t as flexible as I was, so I couldn’t do some of the choreography, but I carried on. 

00:04:30 Prof Angela Pickard 

Doing what I could. 

00:04:31 Prof Angela Pickard 

Do, but as I say, you know, I mean, everything was great. 

00:04:34 Prof Angela Pickard 

But I didn’t. 

00:04:35 Prof Angela Pickard 

Know if it was. 

00:04:37 Prof Angela Pickard 

It was all just a case of kind of taking care. 

00:04:39 Prof Angela Pickard 

Of myself and just thinking. 

00:04:40 Prof Angela Pickard 

This must be OK 16 years later, we’re still in that position. We don’t have any knowledge across the sector, really, of what’s safe in pregnancy and what’s not. So I think that’s a bit telling really. 

00:04:54 Will Mountford 

That what make. 

00:04:56 Will Mountford 

Being a professional dancer, a career unlike any other, or any similarities that it shares kind of to look at it from an arts sector perspective. And then what past research either identifies as kind of the key features of dancing professions in terms of longevity and health, and then we can get into. 

00:05:16 Will Mountford 

This paper adds to that knowledge. 

00:05:19 Prof Angela Pickard 

Dancers often commit to becoming a professional dancer from a young age. 

00:05:23 Prof Angela Pickard 

And engaging years of training to become a professional dancer. 

00:05:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

And so a professional dancer’s sense of self and their life as a dancer is often intertwined. 

00:05:34 Prof Angela Pickard 

Cultural norms and expectations sort of taken for granted, such as there is a particular shape and size and ability and behaviour of the body. 

00:05:43 Prof Angela Pickard 

That dance sort of expects, and it’s what one becomes inside and outside the profession. 

00:05:48 Prof Angela Pickard 

So this becomes a sort of sense of self, or embodied identity, and also the way that somebody might think in terms of cognition. You think as a dancer you act as a dancer and the identity is deeply embedded within the dancers body and mind. 

00:06:05 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:06:06 Prof Angela Pickard 

Social connections are also often dance related, so dance. 

00:06:12 Prof Angela Pickard 

Globally, but particularly thinking about the UK context, it’s a highly competitive industry. There’s often a surplus of women in comparison to men, and job security is quite precarious. 

00:06:25 Prof Angela Pickard 

Dance places, artistic, physical, technical and psychological demands on dances and dancers often work long hours in the studio and in performance. 

00:06:34 Prof Angela Pickard 

Some of the work that I’ve been doing over some years now is I’ve worked with some adolescent dancers as they’ve been working towards becoming a dancer. So I did a a longitudinal study with young ballet dancers as they were becoming dancers with several elite dance institutions and tracked them over a. 

00:06:55 Prof Angela Pickard 

Three to four years as they went from kind of audition through. 

00:07:00 Prof Angela Pickard 

And through their sort of assessments and through their development and this is where, you know, quite early on, young dancers sort of taught to developers with motion of good pain, bad pain, start to sort of suppress some of the needs to sort of dance through pain and discomfort in order to succeed and and take. 

00:07:20 Prof Angela Pickard 

I’ll send you a bit more seriously. 

00:07:22 Prof Angela Pickard 

So this is part of the sort of identity development really that was some of the early work that I did. And then I’ve sort of continued to think about the wider context of dance. So how inclusive is dance and how exclusive is dance thinking about world leading dance and participatory dance. And so all of those sorts of. 

00:07:41 Prof Angela Pickard 

The works that I’ve done have sort of contributed to this, which is really a wider conversation about equality, diversity and inclusion. 

00:07:49 Will Mountford 

The pain management that you’ve mentioned there from a young age I think leads into a lot of discussions around maternity and pregnancy and managing, you know, perceived expectations and one’s own body as well. So to start off with the physical sense of dancing and pregnancy, what you’ve mentioned as embodiment and habitus. 

00:08:09 Will Mountford 

Four could start off with those terms and then get into what the physical experience of being a dance. 

00:08:16 Will Mountford 


00:08:17 Will Mountford 

Who is also pregnant and kind of the changes that come with that to bring about in a bodily sense before we get to the identity part. 

00:08:24 Prof Angela Pickard 

So I’ve mentioned before how dance is very much an identity. So in body and mind in action, in things and minds. 

00:08:33 Prof Angela Pickard 

So embodiment itself can be defined as the bringing together of body and mind. 

00:08:37 Prof Angela Pickard 

And the mode in which human beings practically and holistically engage with and navigate, interpret social and cultural experiences. 

00:08:47 Prof Angela Pickard 

It is perception, memory, history, culture and identity, and it is through the body, the understanding and meaning of the self and others is developed. So dance has exposed the world somatically. So through the body and build embodied knowledge within a Mystic body. 

00:09:05 Prof Angela Pickard 

So physical lived, experience and identity are intertwined in the body and movement, and there is no separation between body and mind. 

00:09:13 Prof Angela Pickard 

So the mind is the reflection of action of the body. So for the dancer transactions in the world and Technetics Ness to others and narrating through in and with and by the body or somatic knowledge. 

00:09:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

So what is perceived is determined by what we do, and the inquired, embodied knowledge, or habitus, according to the philosopher Pierre Boudier. 

00:09:37 Prof Angela Pickard 

Places dances in a position of power and security within the dance world. 

00:09:42 Prof Angela Pickard 

When I talk about habitus, I’m talking about as dancers engage in dance training, they’re building knowledge, skills, and understanding of dance, and this builds social and physical capital. 

00:09:53 Prof Angela Pickard 

And in doing so, they build their habitus so habitus can be thought of as habits. 

00:10:01 Prof Angela Pickard 

Ingrained habits. So the habitus as a term used by Pierre Bordier to describe how a social world is inscribed on the body. 

00:10:10 Prof Angela Pickard 

As an acquired set of dispositions, beliefs, and habits in things and in mind. 

00:10:15 Prof Angela Pickard 

That cultivate particular behaviours and become ingrained. 

00:10:19 Prof Angela Pickard 

So the habitus shapes a body and a person or players attitudes and actions has bodily bodily belief. 

00:10:26 Prof Angela Pickard 

And in understanding rules of the game and its practice is a sort of logic of practice, thereby producing and reproducing the habitus as taken for granted. Cultural norms, values and expected. 

00:10:38 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:10:39 Prof Angela Pickard 

So the habitus is inseparable from the field in which it happens, so the social arena. 

00:10:44 Prof Angela Pickard 

Which has a structured system of social positions and within the field the players compete for resources and power by drawing on their capital. 

00:10:54 Prof Angela Pickard 

And the body is a core part of the dancers habitus and the way people treat their bodies reveals the deepest dispositions of the habitus. 

00:11:02 Will Mountford 

So in the done sense, that would be employment prospects continuing to tour, that kind of thing. 

00:11:07 Prof Angela Pickard 

Exactly. Yeah. So the dance crew is a precarious career, but that’s accepted as you need to build your capital. 

00:11:15 Prof Angela Pickard 

In order to compete. 

00:11:17 Prof Angela Pickard 

And it’s kind of the fittest survive. 

00:11:18 Prof Angela Pickard 

If you like. 

00:11:20 Will Mountford 

Not everyone goes straight to. 

00:11:21 Will Mountford 

Strictly no. 

00:11:28 Will Mountford 

You mentioned there the embodiment of body and mind, and those two things are things that can change drastically and rapidly over pregnancy, and they are certainly not your own body and can sometimes, from what I’ve seen from my partners, experience not to your own mind. So to pick apart some of the experience and. 

00:11:48 Will Mountford 

A shift internally for any individual dancer. 

00:11:51 Will Mountford 

Is there any anecdotal data from your surveys and investigations that we can kind of bring into the discussion now or should we talk about things in broad strokes before we get to the hard data? 

00:12:01 Prof Angela Pickard 

When adults becomes pregnant because they’ve got this sort of taken for granted, habitus or habits, or expectations of how they look, they feel what they can do. 

00:12:12 Prof Angela Pickard 

Pregnancy can have an impact on adults’s body and mind, so a number of biomechanical harmonial changes occur. 

00:12:22 Prof Angela Pickard 

First of all, they can impact the spine stability, balance, coordination, control, use of the pelvis and abdominals, and posture or gait patterns. 

00:12:32 Prof Angela Pickard 

So this can greatly impact. For example, you might get back pain. 

00:12:37 Prof Angela Pickard 

Decreasing postural control might be changes in center of gravity, range of motion, hip flexion extensions all reduced as well as decreased stride length. It depends on each individual and this is sort of general for all women getting pregnant and being pregnant but for dances because of the increased awareness of the body. 

00:12:59 Prof Angela Pickard 

And what it can do and how it feels, it really impacts on adults identity. 

00:13:04 Prof Angela Pickard 

Because the pregnancy disrupts the habitus or the status quo, if you like, so dances as esthetic athletes are very aware of changes in body and pregnancy and have increased vulnerability to bodily changes and potentially to more serious consequences such as eating disorders. That’s three times higher risk. 

00:13:24 Prof Angela Pickard 

The dancers have eating disorders and non dancers, and so dancers with an eating disorder and pregnancy is obviously a high risk. 

00:13:31 Prof Angela Pickard 

Because dancers hone their bodily shape, strength, and ability, this involves daily practices. So again, there’s a whole change of routine in pregnancy because things have to change for the the changing body, the changing ability, the the changing shape and size, and so on. Dancers may have a felt need to maintain a particular. 

00:13:52 Prof Angela Pickard 

Body weight over periods of years to gain work in the past according to cultural expectations, and that mindset change to realize they need to put on weight can also be a challenge. 

00:14:05 Prof Angela Pickard 

So body changes in pregnancy and post Natal may have physical but also psychological impacts, as dancers can struggle to accept and adapt to bodily changes. 

00:14:16 Will Mountford 

Is that something that in for intended pregnancies? Planned pregnancies, there’s any kind of mental calculus to sit down and decide here is something that is going to fundamentally change my body and course of my life for at least the next nine months, that alone further. 

00:14:34 Prof Angela Pickard 

The decision to become a mother in the dance profession is fraught with professional and personal attention. 

00:14:40 Prof Angela Pickard 

To become pregnant as a self-employed. 

00:14:44 Prof Angela Pickard 

Freelance dancer who has to navigate. 

00:14:48 Prof Angela Pickard 

Between project based working job to job working quite precarious career. 

00:14:54 Prof Angela Pickard 

Means there’s a financial implication as well as the physical and psychological. 

00:14:59 Prof Angela Pickard 

And to become prevalent in the freelance dance industry as a contemporary dancer is still an expectation rather. 

00:15:06 Prof Angela Pickard 

Than a norm. 

00:15:07 Prof Angela Pickard 

So the mental calculus of risk for adults are planning pregnancy is that they would need to be supported to maintain a link with their dance network and have a supportive family network or pay. 

00:15:18 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:15:19 Prof Angela Pickard 

Dancers realize that the industry is not as inclusive as it could be, so they may also choose to leave the profession to. 

00:15:25 Prof Angela Pickard 

Become a mother. 

00:15:26 Prof Angela Pickard 

And perhaps to plan to return later or diversify their career. So the study that I wrote about in this article was around 30 dancers that I interviewed. 

00:15:38 Prof Angela Pickard 

That were all mothers and they had varying ages of children at the time. 

00:15:43 Prof Angela Pickard 

But as I say, the work I did with. 

00:15:45 Prof Angela Pickard 

The 30 dances. 

00:15:47 Prof Angela Pickard 

There were lots of tensions that came through that work where there were challenges for dancers to return to work. Either they returned to. 

00:15:55 Prof Angela Pickard 

Work too early. 

00:15:56 Prof Angela Pickard 

Postpartum or they didn’t feel that they could return to work, and some of them were making decisions to have more time out or to leave the profession professional diversify their career so it can be a very challenging. 

00:16:08 Prof Angela Pickard 

High now that studies developed, now I’ve got over 100 dances in that study now. So there’s a lot more coming through. And. And similarly, dancers are also feeling tension because there are some supportive care office companies industry in the industry. 

00:16:25 Prof Angela Pickard 

But there are also some expectations that if you’re going to be a mother, then you, you know, you leave the profession. 

00:16:32 Prof Angela Pickard 

So that can be that could be a challenge. 

00:16:36 Will Mountford 

But in cases of unintended pregnancy and kind of the possible shock to not just your sense of self, but also all of the financial and physical stuff that comes with that, without having had the time to think it through and come up with a plan, how much does your data reflect some of those circumstances? 

00:16:54 Prof Angela Pickard 

If the balance is unplanned, this can cause more vulnerability and risk for a dancer, because, again, if they’re navigating the industry as a freelancer or self-employed dancer, which the majority of the contemporary dances in the study were then, as I say, short term contracts, their livelihoods depend on their physicality taken for granted. 

00:17:15 Prof Angela Pickard 

Liters of the body. Some dancers may have portfolio careers, so work outside the arts too. 

00:17:21 Prof Angela Pickard 

But the contemporary dance landscape is complex, including sort of large companies, smaller groups, some wholly dependent on public or private financial support. So it can be very challenging for a dancer if they haven’t planned, you know, how they’re going to manage physically, psychologically and. 

00:17:40 Prof Angela Pickard 

Financially, so there would be more implications in terms of vulnerabilities I would suggest. 

00:17:45 Will Mountford 

And you’ve mentioned the identity of the habitus through all of this. 

00:17:49 Will Mountford 

The psyche and selfhood angle. Is there anything equivalent in a dancer’s career or in a dancer’s life that would be on the same level as pregnancy and kind of starting a family to have that same shock? If there’s anything that would like, maybe build up experience or resilience, or some of those networks that you’ve mentioned. 

00:18:09 Will Mountford 

To kind of support people through that change. 

00:18:12 Prof Angela Pickard 

Yes. So when a dancer is pregnant or had a baby and is at home looking after a baby soon after having a baby. So in that postpartum period, they can experience considerable loss of identity as well as the social community because quite often because the dancers world is within dance. 

00:18:33 Prof Angela Pickard 

Inside and outside the studio, usually all their friends are dancers too, or within the dancing industry, or certainly the arts industry. They can feel as though there’s a real severing of a social. 

00:18:44 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:18:45 Prof Angela Pickard 

So this disruption to the known habitus, if you like and consequently the transition is an example of what I’d call fractured identities. And it does have some similarities to the psychological impact of coping with the long term injury, for example, or long term illness or aging or retirement so. 

00:19:06 Prof Angela Pickard 

If a dance is injured again, there’s a fractured identity because they’re not able to do the thing they love. They have to be out for quite a while and it’s similar, you know, to that period of time away from. 

00:19:17 Prof Angela Pickard 

They love. So all of this is not to say that having a baby does not bring positive feelings because, you know, there are lots of positive feelings and and wonderful things about pregnancy and having babies. But in terms of adults and adults, career, there’s a high currency loss for professional self-employed dancer. And I just thought that was sort of a really interesting. 

00:19:38 Prof Angela Pickard 

Made to think about this in the study. 

00:19:41 Will Mountford 

Well, to look at the study in some more detail, you’ve mentioned the initial batch of 30 participants now up to 100. Can we go over some of the scope? 

00:19:51 Prof Angela Pickard 

This research it contributes to existing conversations that use Pierre Bordeaux’s conceptual framework to make greater sense of the social world of dance. It contributes to social determinants of health. 

00:20:04 Prof Angela Pickard 

Health and health inequalities and to a wider conversation about inclusion, diversity, thinking about more inclusive working methods really. So the findings are particularly around body and identity and the physical, psychological and social implications. 

00:20:25 Prof Angela Pickard 

The dancers experience because of this disrupted habitus where that taken for granted, Ness has been. 

00:20:33 Prof Angela Pickard 

Severed if you like. So there are some feelings of failure that are coming out from the data that dancers experience, because after years of being sort of disciplined about their size, shape and ability, and again sort of taking that for granted, having a regular routine of daily class, regular gym sessions and so on. Creative. 

00:20:54 Prof Angela Pickard 

Opportunities, performance, opportunities, all of that is on pause while they transition between being a dancer to being a mum, and that managing of the tension between those two roles. 

00:21:08 Prof Angela Pickard 

And the evolution of that is quite telling. So there’s a quotation from one of the dancers, Anna, which is quite significant here. And I should say that Anna is a pseudonym where she speaks about feeling out of sync like a fish out of water or drowning. So she says none of us know what to expect when you’re pregnant or have a child. 

00:21:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

But I feel it’s a bit harder for dancers. 

00:21:29 Prof Angela Pickard 

We are used to being in complete control of our bodies, but when I was pregnant and a new parent, I felt a complete loss. I lost my body, my ability, my identity as a dancer, my community and sense of belonging. I was like a fish out of water or drowning, and I think that’s quite a telling example where again, it’s quite a holistic loss. 

00:21:49 Prof Angela Pickard 

And similarly Nadia, who is also a dancer mother, she says when the body does not look or feel as it once did, it is hard to get your head around this. And it’s a deep challenge, mentally and Michaela. 



00:22:03 Prof Angela Pickard 

Talks about how she felt a pressure to return to work so soon after having my first baby. I was worried that I did not say if I did not say yes to the job, I would not be asked again by that cargo offer, and it was a well paid job. But I was not fully healed and it did take its toll on me physically and psychologically. 

00:22:23 Prof Angela Pickard 

So what we’ve been finding in the data is that a lot of dancers. 

00:22:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

Feel that they. 

00:22:29 Prof Angela Pickard 

Are worried about the loss of their physical ability being able to return to work or where they were. So snap back if you like after having a baby and then also returning to the industry so they don’t have too much time out so they don’t lose that social community and all of the networks that they’ve made as their freelance dance practitioner. 

00:22:49 Prof Angela Pickard 

Where they rely on those networks to get work, so they were quite important quotations I think. 

00:22:59 Will Mountford 

There must be a coexistence between being a dancer and being a mum, but to change that title to being mum Capital M that that becomes, you know, the name tag that you wear is there attention there that can be resolved or one uplift of the other. 

00:23:09 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:23:19 Prof Angela Pickard 

Yes. So there were some positive data, absolutely. 

00:23:23 Prof Angela Pickard 

Dancers can transition and manage both roles, so it is possible to do that. It does take some support from family or partners or networks, but it is possible and we know as parents. Then you know the children become the most important aspect of life. But it is possible to balance that dance. 

00:23:43 Prof Angela Pickard 

There as well. 

00:23:44 Prof Angela Pickard 

So there is a joy in what bodies can do after having a baby. So there was quite a lot of data that where dancers shared that they. 

00:23:53 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:23:54 Prof Angela Pickard 

Able to express for in their performances because they valued what their body had managed to do in terms of carrying a baby and having a baby, and so that expression. 

00:24:04 Prof Angela Pickard 

On the stage or in the theatre or in the. 

00:24:07 Prof Angela Pickard 

Video, which much more readily available to them, so they talked about a growing confidence in becoming a mother and because of becoming a mother, they also reported the joy that when they did have that time in the studio or working towards a performance or performing, they valued that as their sort of own time. 

00:24:27 Prof Angela Pickard 

Where they could find themselves again and enrich that experience through this new way of Exp. 

00:24:32 Prof Angela Pickard 

Pressing that was really lovely and they talked about that in terms of a sort of evolution of identity or capital gain, if you like. So there really are positives as well as you know those more kind of negative aspects. So the positivity of realizing what the body can do, which is amazing and a new growing capital capital gain. 

00:24:52 Prof Angela Pickard 

If you. 

00:24:53 Will Mountford 

Was there any consensus about what would be the ideal outcome? Post pregnancy post childbirth? 



00:25:01 Will Mountford 

If it. 

00:25:02 Will Mountford 

Not returning to health, things were then a new status quo. As a new mother, as a a mother of a young child. After however long a period of time, if there is any agreement on what comes next, what does that look like? And? 

00:25:14 Will Mountford 

How can people find what they need to get there? 

00:25:17 Prof Angela Pickard 


00:25:18 Prof Angela Pickard 

I think the study has shown that we do need to raise awareness and need much more knowledge in the dance sector of what to expect in pregnancy and knowledge of what movement is safe and appropriate for dances, in pregnancy and postpartum. So during the first year or eighteen months after giving birth, dancers do need support to rehabilitate their body. 

00:25:38 Prof Angela Pickard 

It’s it is OK to do exercise during pregnancy and postpartum and to start doing exercises to begin to rehabilitate the body. But this needs to be done carefully and there needs to be much more knowledge around that. What is safe and what’s appropriate and how you can progress in stages through that. 

00:25:58 Prof Angela Pickard 

First year, there were some great examples of support for dancers in pregnancy and returning to work. 

00:26:05 Prof Angela Pickard 

So that was through particular choreographers and companies that the dancers talked about that were really supportive in terms of offering flexible working methods and encouraging dancers to come back into the studio just to observe initially as they sort of leaned back into the workplace. And I’m working with the organization parents and carers in performing arts or Pippa. 

00:26:26 Prof Angela Pickard 

We’re now working with 32 darts organisations to develop inclusive working practices for parents and carers in dance. There are some particular recommendations that have been based on the research finding. 

00:26:39 Prof Angela Pickard 

So there’s things like this sort of increased awareness, but also resources and support. So to support this sort of championing of opening conversations about parenting and caring responsibilities in dance, and about the barriers and challenges faced by dances, and to work towards normalising pregnancy and caring responsibilities. 

00:26:59 Prof Angela Pickard 

Perhaps with greater visibility of dancers that are pregnant, you know having much more visibility in terms of marketing material, but also maybe on stage as well and creating that sort of sectorial and peer support. 

00:27:13 Prof Angela Pickard 

So perhaps with dance charities networks available resources. So for example, dance Mummo is a good example of that. And then sort of developing workplaces. So thinking about building and sharing knowledge of the physical and psychological changes in pregnancy and those social aspects as well, and keeping people involved in social networks. 

00:27:33 Prof Angela Pickard 

Perhaps when they’re on maternity leave and so on, if they choose to be and then just thinking much more about potential inclusive policies and practices. So at the moment in the UK, a lot of arts funding is very project based. So they’re sort of, you know, a six week time scale to develop research and development for a project. 

00:27:52 Prof Angela Pickard 

For a performance, and that often means kind of long hours in the studio, and that’s quite excluding for anybody with caring responsibilities, because it’s very difficult to one get there early and two to stay late because you know you might have to do nursery or school pick up, you might have you know other. 

00:28:13 Prof Angela Pickard 

Challenges in your home life that you need to attend to, as well as the studio work, so to have more flexible working methods with shorter working days, perhaps over a longer period of time would be really. 

00:28:24 Prof Angela Pickard 

4 and that’s the sort of thing that we’re looking at now with these dance organizations to see what’s possible job shares. Things like this would be really helpful. And then campaigning really for better parental support for freelances, including shared parental and paternity leave. Maybe thinking much more about affordable, flexible childcare options. 

00:28:44 Prof Angela Pickard 

And developing more evidence based guidance. So perhaps working with midwives and so on to really come up with maybe infographics or posters about what’s safe during pregnancy. There is some guidance, but it’s not really for anyone who is serious about sort of, you know, exercising in terms of, you know, dance or other athlete. 

00:29:04 Prof Angela Pickard 

So I think they’re really important implications of the study. 

00:29:08 Will Mountford 

Do you think there is something that could be drawn out and formalized for parenting as a whole, or any wider resources from parenting that could be brought in to what it is that you’re doing? 

00:29:18 Prof Angela Pickard 

Absolutely. So I think in some degree this study does relate to all women becoming mothers. And actually those who are fostering or adopting as well because there isn’t a disrupted identity and a transition happening when one moves from not being a mother to be. 

00:29:33 Prof Angela Pickard 

The mother and this article would also appeal to others working in the creative industries. You know, such as theatre or athletes involved in aesthetic sports such as swimming, skating, gymnastics. There’s a relevance and similarity in this study to that experienced in other countries and areas as well, but we can also learn from other countries. So I’m also working with some other colleagues. 

00:29:55 Prof Angela Pickard 

In Nordic countries, in Portugal, Canada and the US, and we’re just starting to sort of share the guidance that exists for dancers and other arts professionals thinking about what is available in other countries in terms of inclusive working methods, flexible working methods, and just to begin to learn from each other really. 

00:30:05 Will Mountford 


00:30:14 Prof Angela Pickard 

So in some of the Nordic countries, for example, it’s very normalized to have children and babies around in the studio, when dancers dancing and researching, developing work, when choreographers are making practice, it’s very normalized to have families involved in those contexts, whereas in the UK it’s less common and can be very challenging. 

00:30:35 Prof Angela Pickard 

So those sorts of things can be thought through to see what might be learned from those sort of examples. 

00:30:43 Prof Angela Pickard 

But I think, as I’ve said before, any person who is going to be engaging in. 

00:30:49 Prof Angela Pickard 

A parenting role. 

00:30:51 Prof Angela Pickard 

Could just find these quite comforting to realize that there will be a sort of disruption of identity and the disruption of what was the normal you know, as you transition into a new role. So that’s the first thing I think you know that would. 

00:31:04 Prof Angela Pickard 

Be really helpful. 

00:31:05 Prof Angela Pickard 

As mentioned before, I think anyone across the arts sector or any athlete in in development from athletic, sports and so on, but generally the dance sector really from those in training who are planning a career in dance to those in leadership and positions of power. I think everyone needs to know about potential barriers and challenges. 

00:31:26 Prof Angela Pickard 

But also, you know joy and potential. So I think also you know the the capital gain that’s going to be around being a parent or a carer for a young. 

00:31:36 Prof Angela Pickard 

US and as well as perhaps some of these things that need to be navigated or planned. So that’s why I wonder if you know there should be a little bit more discussion around these things for those in training, so that it is a big shock that when they get to an age where they might be starting to think about starting family, they realize that you know it could be much more challenging, but hopefully. 

00:31:57 Prof Angela Pickard 

Things will change in terms of support and flexible working methods by then too, but I think this is part of a wider conversation really as well around diversity, inclusion, sustainability and longevity for dance, for arts to have more status and value in society, and to have more conversations around, you know. 

00:32:17 Prof Angela Pickard 

Steam and the importance of the art sector because just over 2 million people work in the creative industries in the UK, so there is an economic consideration if we have a lot of talent loss when people hit their 30s and we’ve already got a bit of a declining group in dance too. So if we don’t start providing. 

00:32:37 Prof Angela Pickard 

Appropriate working methods for people to stay in the industry beyond their 30s. 

00:32:43 Prof Angela Pickard 

When we’ve worked very hard in dance science, for example, over the last 30 years to give people longevity in the profession, to help them understand their bodies better, to manage industry and injury, to reduce injury, that means that people can continue beyond their 30s because their bodies are able. 

00:33:00 Prof Angela Pickard 

New and the industry is much more focused on safe practice, healthy dances and so on. Now it’s a shame that when people decide to start a family, they then think I can’t continue in the dance industry because there is lots more potential that we could have there. 

00:33:17 Prof Angela Pickard 

To support people. 

00:33:19 Prof Angela Pickard 

So I think we don’t want dancers to have to make the choice. 

00:33:21 Prof Angela Pickard 

To either not have children or leave the profession when they’ve trained for years to do what they love doing. Because I do think there are ways that we can support dancer mothers to continue a career in dance and have longevity in the profession. 

00:33:35 Will Mountford 

And if people want to hear more from you and about this research specifically, is there anywhere online or through specific resources that they can? 

00:33:43 Will Mountford 

Stay in touch. 

00:33:44 Prof Angela Pickard 

Yes. So they could certainly e-mail me. That’s just [email protected]. We have a Twitter account as part of the signature Home Research Center for Arts and Health I lead, which is just at Sidney Dehaan, and that’s Han with HAAN. And the article itself is available. 

00:34:05 Prof Angela Pickard 

On the research and dance Education website as part of the Taylor and Francis Journals, it is available there for people to have a look at. 

00:34:15 Will Mountford 

Well then, all that stuff for me to say for now is Professor Pickard. Thank you so much for your time today. 

00:34:19 Prof Angela Pickard

Thank you.


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