Powerful Photos Of Pro Ballerinas & Their Babies

Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
Balancing work and career is difficult for any new mother, but there's a special challenge for women who have physically demanding careers. And what job requires more discipline or strength than a prima ballerina's?

In her book, Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers, photographer Lucy Gray gives readers an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at just what it takes to be among the world's best dancers, while caring for young children at the same time.
In the introduction, Gray admits that, prior to the project, she didn't hold ballerinas in high esteem. "I viewed them as self-centered and self-destructive — chain smokers who drove themselves to maintain the skinny bodies of little girls."

Her perceptions began to change after a chance encounter with Katita Waldo, a professional ballerina with the San Francisco Ballet, and her infant son, James. Gray asked Waldo if she would be willing to work together on a long-term photography project to capture Waldo's experience as a mother and a dancer. That led to Gray then meeting Tina LeBlanc and Kristin Long, fellow ballerinas, also at the San Francisco Ballet, and new mothers.
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That project turned into Gray's book, Balancing Acts, which follows the three women over 14 years. Thanks to support from the San Francisco Ballet, these women were able to find ways to incorporate their new roles as mothers into their professional lives, resulting in some of the most stunning images of the book.

Gray also documented something she acknowledges no one involved expected. "All three ballerinas improved as dancers after they had children," she writes, "They were no longer dancing just for themselves." Similarly, the women found that time away from their children at work made them enjoy motherhood more.

That tension, between the physical and emotional demands and rewards of motherhood and career, is captured beautifully in the book's black-and-white images. Click through to see a selection of the images, accompanied by Gray's original captions.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Lorena Feijoo had long dreamed of having a child. Less than a week before she has her baby, she gives a private lesson."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Kristin rehearses as Kai looks on."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Before she performs, Kristin is brave enough to sneak me into her dressing room at the Palais Garnier, where no photographers are allowed. Julie Diana, with whom she shares a dressing room, does not complain. Kai hits his red balloon to his aunt, Gloria Terrell."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Kristin has received the 10-minute warning before her performance, so she pumps milk in her dressing room."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Kristin gets back in shape with Martin and 6-week-old Hannah."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Tina and Kristin show their children the orchestra pit at the War Memorial Opera House."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Tina feeds 6-week-old Sasha [in the rehearsal studio at the San Francisco Ballet]."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"James and Katita backstage after a performance of Nutcracker Ballet."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"In her dressing room after a performance of Nutcracker Ballet, Katita clowns with James."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lucy Gray.
"Katita and James after the curtain has come down on the night she is retiring as a dancer at the San Francisco Ballet. The flowers in the foreground were thrown onstage from the audience when she took her final bow."
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