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Concerns raised over female dancers returning to work too soon after giving birth, risking physical exhaustion and injury.

A female dancer leaping through the air


Financial pressures and fear of losing essential work connections drive new mothers to return to work in dance before they are fully recovered, a study has found.

Research about mothers in the dance sector conducted by charity Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) and Canterbury Christ Church University found 75% of mothers questioned returned to work within six months after giving birth, risking physical exhaustion and injury. 

Researchers found 71% of mothers reported extensive deliberation before starting a family, fearing repercussions on their careers. 


A report based on the findings says some women concealed pregnancies and caring responsibilities due to fear of compromising their reputation in the industry. 

It adds that the absence of visible role models perpetuates a lack of awareness and understanding of pregnancy and parenthood in dance, leading to identity crisis and talent drain.

The research, based on interviews with interviews with 40 freelance dancers and dance artists, also found two-thirds of mothers reported struggling with work-life balance, leading to occupational stress, and forcing mothers to turn down auditions, projects and performances.
One in five focus group participants are considering leaving the dance sector altogether.

The report concluded that invisible struggles, particularly faced by mothers in balancing their careers with caring responsibilities, are reaching a "critical point".

Risk of talent loss

Professor Angela Pickard, who conducted the research said freelance dancers and dance artists who are mothers can be impacted physically, psychologically, socially and financially during pregnancy, on becoming a mother, and in balancing caring responsibilities with a career in dance. 

"This risks talent loss in the dance industry as dancers/dance artists who are mothers struggle to continue in the profession," she said. 

"This important work contributes to wider conversations within the contemporary dance sector around diversity, inclusion, sustainability and retention for longevity in the profession."

Anna Ehnold-Danailov, Co-CEO and Creative Director at Parents and Carers in Performing Arts who led the research team, said her organisation is aware of great examples of inclusive practices being in place but that more work is required to normalise pregnancy and parenthood in dance.

"PiPA is committed to support the sector by sharing our resources and learning, working with employers to find innovative and sustainable solutions."

Andrew Hurst, Chief Executive, One Dance UK said the research will enable the dance sector to understand the issues better and work towards overcoming the challenges. 

"We must always be aware that there is still work to do to make the dance sector more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable to the broadest range of talent," he said.

The research was funded by the Dance Professionals Fund.