Mums and babies audition in Leeds for multi-generational Rapunzel | Dance

It’s Friday afternoon and there’s casting for a new show at the Leeds Playhouse. Dancers are asked to do the usual light choreography and improvisation tasks, but unlike most auditions, there are regular breaks for diaper changing and breastfeeding.

Contemporary dance company balletLORENT encouraged parents and their children – aged between three weeks and four years old – to experience their new multi-generational production of Rapunzel, which will run across two dates in April. The show is looking to recruit three paid professional dancers to perform alongside their little ones.

For Meg Forgan, a mother of two from York who attended the casting with her three-week-old son, Malakai, the project marks a vital step forward in the performance industry.

“A lot of people just give up dancing as soon as they have a child because there’s no support,” she said. “It’s like you’ve reached your expiration date in a way, but that shouldn’t be the case.”

Forgan, who is 25, has been dancing for 12 years and was initially worried that having children would affect her ability to perform professionally.

Shelley Watson with her three-year-old son Benhamin. Photography: Joel Goodman/The Guardian

“Obviously, I’m a very young mother, so I want to continue with my career. Yeah, that might be a pit stop, but if I can still do stuff like that while I have little kids, that’s great,” she said. “It’s important to be seen not only as a mother, but also as a dancer and artist as well.”

“Historically, the dance rehearsal room hasn’t been very inclusive,” said Geoff Hopson, who co-led Friday’s session alongside fellow dancer Gavin Coward. “Traditionally, after they have babies, dancer moms are pushed away a little bit.”

He sees the program as a way for new parents to take back their skills and share them with their children. “This is where we can make a change,” he said. “But most of all, it’s beautiful when they go on stage. You can’t get any cuter than this.

The program also allows parents to find a community of like-minded people in the area and provides space for children to interact with others within and beyond their age group.

“Sometimes I feel so isolated, not necessarily being a mother, but being a dancer mother,” said Zoe Katsilerou, who attended the workshop with her three-month-old daughter, Ioli. “A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is on the body to not only give birth, but carry a baby all day, every day.”

As a new mother, Katsilerou feels she is no longer able to tour professionally, so she described the prospect of a short but rewarding dance engagement with her son as “amazing”.

“It’s really nice to be in a space where people understand, whatever happens. A baby threw up, for example, so we just went to help. It was amazing. And Ioli is going to sleep so well now!”

Gavin Coward and Geoff Hopson of the LORENT ballet
Gavin Coward and Geoff Hopson of the LORENT ballet. Photography: Joel Goodman/The Guardian

The show is a family-friendly retelling of Carol Ann Duffy’s classic fairy tale, with themes of fertility and feminism. The successful parents and children will appear in two scenes in the show; although choreography is taught at rehearsals, parents are also encouraged to follow their children’s example on stage.

balletLORENT was created by dancer and choreographer Liv Lorent in 1993. The company started casting parents and children in 2012.

Rapunzel races at the Leeds Playhouse on April 5th and 6th.

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