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-centred 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.
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.