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2+1: Q&A with Tara Pilbrow

2+1 is a humorous look at the rollercoaster ride of early parenthood with its highs, lows and moments of total absurdity. We spoke with Tara Pilbrow about the piece and how it is to be a working parent in the world of dance.

Tell us about the inspiration for 2+1.

I’ve always been slightly terrified by the word ‘artist’ plagued by a sense that I’m far too sane, middle class and ordinary to consider myself an artist. I felt like my life lacked the traumatic experiences that shape the work of so many artists. Having my first child was my first great trauma – not so much in the tragic, massive-natural-disaster sense, but more in the from-this-point-forward-life-never-be-the-same kind of a sense. Not only was it a momentous event in my life, but it was one I shared with a large percentage of the population. It occurred to me that it was not only full of dramatic potential, but also ‘relevant’ and therefore hopefully interesting to a huge number of people.

What advice would you give to other parents who juggle a demanding career and family life?

What parenting entails changes so much with time. I know that in the early days I struggled to see how I would ever be able to work again because a small baby is so demanding. Now my children are 2 and 4 and I’m much more able to leave them for extended periods. I also know that, soon enough they will both be in school, and then I will have X number of hours per day in which I can work without the added pressure of knowing that each hour is costing me a small fortune in childcare. I think the best advice I could give (and we’ve all heard it 8 million times) is hang on in there and enjoy it, because the time goes so so fast.

What do you like about your work?

I love the intellectual and creative buzz that I feel when I’m in rehearsal. I will never forget the last few weeks of rehearsal for 2+1. I had two sick children and therefore 0 sleep, I eventually got their bug myself and could only eat bread, rice and jacobs crackers for two days…. but I was still so excited to be getting up and going in to rehearsals, sharing my ideas with a fantastically talented group of artists and watching the piece grow.

I also love the variety, and the flexibility that being a freelance artist gives you. So many mothers have to choose between being at home with their children, and going to work 9-6 in an office every day. I went back to work 6 weeks after my first, just teaching a few classes per week, and as a general rule I still have a couple of days a week with the kids.

What do you dislike about your work?

The maths! On an average rehearsal day, if I’m working with the company I earn £20 less than what I pay in childcare. Obviously it’s a balancing act, and there are some jobs that pay more than others. But I do quite regularly feel plagued with guilt for being determined to keep creating work despite the obvious costs.

You worked as a performer and choreographer in France for a decade before returning to the UK and have previously mentioned the financial support that the French government provides to artists. What role does arts funding have here in the UK?

Interesting that you should ask that question. I am writing these answers from San Francisco where my husband and I are looking for a place to live before we move here in January. Now faced with the prospect of trying to further my career in a country where there is no state funding for the arts, I am doubly aware of the massive role that the arts funding plays in supporting artists, especially emerging artists in the UK. When I returned from France I was massively impressed by how simple and well organised the system of Grants Applications run by the Arts Council was and how much help there was available for artists seeking to obtain funds. Grants for the Arts helps to level the playing field, and to provide opportunities for artists whose ideas show artistic merit regardless of where they come from and how many people they know. I know that Arts Funding in the UK is threatened by ever increasing cuts,and that artists will be forced to become increasingly entrepreneurial in their approach, but it is massively important that we fight for a system which allows artists to defend the artistic quality of their work before they are required to define it as a commercial commodity.

What couldn’t you do without?

My husband – both in the sweet emotional sense, and the purely practical one. I know that there are many artists out there who cope with the costs of bringing up children with an artists salary and I take my hats off to them. I’m not sure how I would keep trying to make dance theatre work if I didn’t know that there was somebody in the background ensuring that my children have clothes on their backs.

Also my mother. I can’t drive and one of the central props in 2+1 is a washing machine. Ode to my mother who has spent many hours driving a washing machine to rehearsal spaces on the other side of London in support of my artistic vision!

What is your dream project?

Difficult, I’m not sure that I feel ready for my dream project yet! If given the choice I would like to be able to start working with more dancers, and stop having to dance myself (not that I don’t love it, but I wish I had a more objective view of things). I would definitely like to be allowed to be able to keep working, and learning and improving over the next 20 years before being given the chance to create my “dream project.”

See 2+1 on Sunday 13 November, 1pm & 4pm >>>

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