“For me the guilt of not being the kind of mother who was available all the time had to co-exist with the personal fulfilment of returning to work and the joy I felt at being back on stage – the place where I have spent most of my life.”
This year’s Mother’s Day celebration is a little more unusual for everyone. In the lead up to Sunday, we asked Company dancer Juliette Barton to share with us her juggling act as a mother, wife to ex-Company dancer Lachlan, and her latest film project.
I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember. Well, that’s not entirely true but I started Calisthenics when I was eight years old, and without giving too much away, that makes it a few years shy of 30 years since I first started dancing. Dance has without a doubt been at the forefront of many of my life decisions, directions and pivotal moments. It has taken me around the world and brought me back home again. After completing most of my formal training in Perth, I was 22 when I decided to take the leap of faith into the big pond. I moved to London on a whim and a prayer in search of the kind of inspiring, challenging and rewarding dance career I knew I wanted. I was very fortunate to land a couple of incredible jobs that have informed my dance practice throughout the rest of my career, but it is also where I met Rafael Bonachela. He had recently been appointed Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company when we met and he offered me the opportunity to return home with the enticing promise of a one year contract. 12 years on and I’m still dancing with Raf and Sydney Dance Company.
To speak of pivotal moments, it is also at Sydney Dance Company that I met my now husband, Lachlan. In my second year with the company, a new male dancer joined us and at first, we found excuses to be near each other as much as possible, until it was soon evident that we just wanted to near each other for good. So, we were. As a couple working, living and touring together, it can become a very intense, but in retrospect it was a pretty good test run, because fast forward seven years, we decided to get married and have a baby. Any parents reading this would know there is nothing that can prepare you for the changes that you go through alone and with your partner when becoming a parent for the first time, but having a tried and tested resilient relationship is a good place to start.
Before giving birth, I made the decision to return to work as a dancer after my maternity leave. The very thought of it seemed like an impossible mountain given the way I felt by the end of the pregnancy, but I have always responded well to goals and I knew that if I said I was going to do it, I would find a way to get there, and I did. After my daughter Florence was born, it was about three months before I felt able to go to the gym, for cardio and conditioning, and it was four months before I was game to step back into the Yoga and Pilates studios, but once I did I was hooked. I’d go every day and the hard work (and it was hard work) was pure joy. I don’t know if it was that I’d missed the rigour of professional dance; or if it was because I could feel my body coming back together despite my fears it never would; or if it was because I had a new pain threshold after child birth; or because I craved the work after hours of sitting on the couch breastfeeding; or if it was a combination of all of the above, but the bliss of moving my body had me completely suckered in and I was on track for getting back into the studio.
My husband and I are incredibly lucky in that my mother offered to help out for a year while we both worked full-time. It was ultimately because of her generosity that I was able to return to work as a dancer. Keeping up the full-time hours as a dancer at Sydney Dance Company and trying to still be the best mother I can be is honestly at times absolutely gruelling. A lot of sleepless nights followed by a lot of extremely physically and mentally demanding days. The real challenge for me though, was maintaining my relationship with my daughter. There were times I felt it wavering because I wasn’t home enough and that was hard. I’m sure all working mothers go through something similar. For me the guilt of not being the kind of mother who was available all the time had to co-exist with the personal fulfilment of returning to work and the joy I felt at being back on stage – the place where I have spent most of my life.
Fast forward to now during these times of isolation and we are all home together all of the time, which although we are both still really busy working from home, means we are around a lot more as parents, a definite little silver lining. My creative side has been suffering a little though so when Raf asked Lachlan and me to make a little film together we said yes without hesitation, despite having not danced together for almost seven years.
The inspiration for the film came naturally – the location is one of our favourite places in the neighbourhood. We take Florence for walks there almost every day and it can always be counted on for serenity and natural beauty despite being in the heart of Newtown. It’s actually a cemetery but you won’t see that in the film. It is lush and overgrown, full of native flowers and gets the most beautiful dappled light through the branches of the big ancient trees that inhabit the grounds. For us, it seemed the perfect place to create a film that was an ode to Mother’s Day, since it is such a happy place for us as a family.