http://www.visiontimes.com/?p=80107

Three Prima Ballerinas and Motherhood: A Balancing Act

Kristin Long at rehearsal with her son, Kai. (Image: Lucy Gray)
Kristin Long at rehearsal with her son, Kai. (Image: Lucy Gray)

Hats off to the three prima ballerinas, who in the pinnacle of their careers became mothers, despite how absolutely taboo it is… and not a single regret.

Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers is a beautiful photo-book by Photographer Lucy Gray.

We experience, through a series of black and white photos, 14 years of these ballerinas’ lives as they journey into motherhood. All the while continuing the demands of a ballet career, and not only delivering on that, but also becoming better dancers in the process.

We follow three principal dancers from the world-class San Francisco Ballet — Kristin Long, Tina LeBlanc, and Katita Waldo — in this stunning series of photos that will open your eyes and warm your heart.

Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers by Lucy Gray, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2015.

Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers by Lucy Gray, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2015.

Prima ballerinas start off dancing at such a young age. They decide they will dance professionally before they hit their teens, and before graduating high-school they are fully immersed.

When you have spent your whole life dedicated to ballet, it becomes your identity.

It’s an art that is expressed physically and visually, so the body becomes incredibly important. It doesn’t take much for the director to just dismiss you like that. It’s a daunting thought, a thought these three ballerinas had the courage to see past, and the results are incredibly bright and worth sharing.

One ballerina used to get stage fright, but after becoming a mother, she got over it and was more relaxed. Another was promoted from soloist to principal dancer on her return from maternity. For some reason, being back on stage after becoming a mother made dancing easier and improved her performance, giving it more flow.

“Having a child just magically created this balance in my life that allowed me to be a better dancer and a better mother at the same time,” said Kristin Long.

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Tina LeBlanc teaching while very pregnant. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Balancing a career and motherhood, and still managing to laugh. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

From L-R: Katita Waldo, Tina LeBlanc, and Kristin Long, and their lovely offspring. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Kristin Long and her son Kai, Prima Ballerina, San Fransisco Ballet 1999-2013. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Growing up behind the scenes of world class ballet, what a unique childhood. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

A kiss for good luck. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Kristin Long, Prima Ballerina, with daughter Hannah West, a new ballerina in the making? (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

The beauty of motherhood. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Tina Leblanc in class while eight months pregnant. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Tina LeBlanc warming up in the studio with her son, Sasha. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Tina LeBlanc, Prima Ballerina, Joffrey 1984-1992, San Francisco 1992-2009. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Katita Waldo playing in the magic of the set design with her son. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Katita Waldo in the dressing room with her son, James, after a performance of ‘The Nutcracker’. (Image: Lucy Gray)

(Photographer: Lucy Gray)

Katita Waldo, San Francisco Ballet 1994-2013, with her son. (Image: Lucy Gray)

Watch the video to hear interviews of all three ballerinas:

I think it’s kind of wonderful that the photographer, Lucy Gray, transformed some negative preconceived notions towards ballerinas after getting to know them and understanding the art better. She began to see a different side, which I guess we all do the more we explore.

Her idea for the project came while she was in the supermarket and saw this astonishing-looking woman. She was glowing, all pale and thin like a ghost, and holding a 3-year-old baby. It stopped her in her tracks. The photographer went home and found out it was Katia Waldo, a prima ballerina from the San Francisco Ballet. She knew she had to photograph her, and that’s how it all begun.

Dance never quite interested this photographer, but the subject of working mothers did. And what an impressive bunch of working mothers to document.

I hope the photo-essay encourages employers to see all the benefits a business may gain by supporting working mothers; it’s a step in the right direction.

You can purchase the book published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2015, here.

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