Urgent Call to Address Challenges Faced by Freelance Parents in the Dance Profession 


Latest research by PiPA reveals risk of injury and exhaustion as new mothers feel pressures to return to work too soon


Funded by Dance Professionals Fund and conducted by Professor Angela Pickard, Canterbury Christ Church University, this qualitative study was based on focus groups and interviews with 40 freelance dancers and dance artists from different backgrounds and styles within the contemporary dance sector, working for established as well as smaller scale dance companies.  

The report highlights the key findings of the PiPA study and builds on existing initiatives. It examines the physical and psychological challenges, particularly faced by freelance dance professionals who are mothers, affecting their career development, their sense of identity, and personal well-being.

Key findings include:  

  • Fear of Discrimination: 71% of mothers reported extensive deliberation before starting a family, fearing repercussions on their careers. Women conceal pregnancies and caring responsibilities due to fear of compromising their reputation in the dance industry. 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. 
  • Returning to Work Too Soon: 75% of mothers in the study returned to work within six months after giving birth, risking physical exhaustion and injury. Financial pressures and fear of losing essential work connections drive new mothers to return to work before they are fully recovered.
  • Work & Life Conflict: Two-thirds of mothers reported struggling with work-life balance, leading to occupational stress, and forcing mothers to turn down auditions, projects, and performances. 
  • Talent Haemorrhage: One in five focus group participants are considering leaving the dance sector altogether. 




Clemmie Cowl, Executive Director of Dance Professionals Fund, who funded the research, comments: 

We have been involved in this journey with PiPA since the start of the Dance Best Practice Research Project 2020.  We are so pleased to see an important milestone being reached through the publication of this report.  Although in some ways difficult reading, it is essential that the lived experience of dancers is given voice, in order that barriers to a dance career are removed. 


Report Recommendations:

The report signposts clear recommendations for Dance industry stakeholders which include:


  Increase Awareness, Resources and Support   

  • Champion open conversations about parenting and caring responsibilities in dance, and the barriers and challenges faced by dancers/dance artists.  

  • Work towards normalising pregnancy and caring responsibilities in the dance sector through greater visibility of freelance dancers/dance artists who have caring responsibilities.  

  • Create sectoral and peer support for freelance dancers/dance artists with caring responsibilities and increase visibility of existing support from dance charities, networks, and available resources.   


Develop Workplaces  

  • Build and share knowledge of impact of physical and psychological changes in pregnancy and post-partum, as well as of rehabilitation needs and safe dance practices around these.  

  • Establish, review and embed inclusive policies and practices to attract and retain freelance dancers who are parents and carers, in particular mothers.  

  • Promote cross-organisational learning and sharing of dance-specific resources and best practice examples to further support freelance parents and carers.  



  • For better parental support for freelancers, including shared parental and paternity leave. 
  • For affordable and flexible childcare options. 
  • For evidence-based guidance for health professionals pertaining to the rehabilitation of the pre-and post-natal body in dance. 


How can PiPA Help? 

PiPA is inviting dance organisations of all scales and sizes to join our Charter Programme and work in partnership to find effective strategies to address the challenges faced by many dance professionals with caring commitments.

Anna Ehnold-Danailov, our Co-CEO and Creative Directorwho led the research team comments: 

Through our work with dance organisations, we are aware that there are already great examples of inclusive practices in place.

 Our research confirms this, however , it also highlights that more work is required to normalise pregnancy and parenthood in dance, and enable career continuation, especially for mothers. PiPA is committed to supporting the sector by sharing our resources and learning, working with employers to find innovative and sustainable solutions.

 We want to thank the dance practitioners who came forward to share their experiences, as well as the dance organisations working with us to make this sector more inclusive and accessible to parents and carers.” 

To find out more about the research we do, or to enquire about our Charter Programme, email programmes@pipacampaign.com.