Few topics in the dance world are more fraught than motherhood. No, we’re not talking about the dragon mothers on “Dance Moms,” but the challenges of balancing pregnancy and parenting with the physical demands of dance. Not only do artists struggle when pregnancy changes their dancer bodies, but the stress and schedule of performing and touring aren’t always compatible with parenthood.
In her recent autobiography, Agony and Ecstasy: My Life in Dance, English National Ballet principal Daria Klimentova describes the pressures she faced as a pregnant member of the company, when artistic director Derek Deane asked her if she was going to keep the baby. Although she had to give up the part of Aurora in a production of Sleeping Beauty, Klimentova has no regrets over her decision to become a mother.
While motherhood may make it more difficult for dancers to dedicate themselves to their art, many find great fulfillment in a well-rounded life. In a way, parenthood can also extend a dancer’s longevity in the ballet world: Mother/daughter dance careers, such as those highlighted by Kate Lydon in “Like Mother, Like Daughter,” beget a form of dance inheritance. Daughters benefit from their mothers’ guidance, and mothers in turn get to experience the pleasure of seeing their daughters onstage. As former American Ballet Theatre ballerina Cheryl Yeager told Lydon of seeing her daughter Hannah Marshall perform, “When you’re a dancer, it affects your life forever. It has been my life since I can remember, and now it’s her life, too.”