Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani, a first artist with the Royal Ballet, talks to Kate Freud about her pregnancy, love of dance and hopes for motherhood
For most women in the third trimester of pregnancy, the thought of hauling their well-cushioned behind from the sofa is effort enough, but for Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani, this couldn’t be further from the case.
Watching the stunning Royal Ballet dancer elegantly posing en pointe for our photographer, the grandeur of Somerset House as our backdrop, it’s easy to forget in fact that she is 29 weeks’ pregnant. Though according to Tara, she’s far from her ballet best. “As dancers, we spend our lives trying to control every single muscle in our bodies into making these perfect lines and precise movements, while making it look effortless,” she says. “But I’ve completely lost control now! It can feel so alien to try and do a step that once came so naturally to me, but I’m learning to let go.”
Tara was born and raised in Canada, but has been based in the UK for more than 15 years, performing as a First Artist everywhere from Covent Garden to the other side of the world. She now also teaches new dancers in the company, though since her pregnancy began, she has had to slow right down.
“It wasn’t easy at the beginning. Tiredness soon turned to nausea, which became terrible morning sickness,” she explains. “In fact, the first day I was physically sick, I was at work, dancing on stage at the Royal Opera House! The entire Royal Ballet company was there, as well as the make-up team, wardrobe department, all the stage crew, ballet staff, full orchestra and even some photographers. I was doing a principal role at the time as well, so I didn’t have anyone to hide behind, nor could I discreetly run off stage. The only good thing was that it was only a dress rehearsal, so luckily there was no audience,” she says. “From then on it only got worse and I haven’t been able to perform since that time. Initially because of the sickness and then later because no costume would fit!”
But Tara is philosophical about the changes to her body and has learnt to go with it. “I lost nearly 5kg in my first trimester so I was very weak, but once I could eat again, my weight has steadily increased, and every week it has become more difficult to dance,” she says. “The reality is there’s nothing I can do about it, but I’ve learned to let it go, and let my body do what it needs to do. I’m now completely fascinated by all the changes that are taking place to accommodate for this little person inside me. I’ve had to slow down the pace of some exercises and limit myself. And obviously, the bump does get in the way with certain movements, so I’ve been modifying a lot.”
But Tara isn’t one to just kick back and relax, and is already looking forward to getting back to proper training post-birth. “I will start with some form of gentle movement as soon as I can I think. I don’t feel myself when I’ve been sitting down all day – I’m active by nature so as soon as the doctor allows, I hope to get into a routine that will safely get me back dancing.”
I ask Tara, now she knows she’s having a little girl, would she love her to dance one day, too? “Only if she also loves it!” she says. “It’s a very tough job – you need to have the drive, the discipline, the passion and very thick skin. I must confess, though, I have already bought a couple of baby tutus, I couldn’t resist!” For now, Tara is just looking forward to Christmas. “Normally I would be performing in the Nutcracker from December to January, including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, so it will be a real treat to be able to fully enjoy the festive season with my family and the new baby. I can’t wait!”
Tara-Brigitte is a First Artist with the Royal Ballet. She also vlogs on her YouTube channel Brigitte Ballet about life as a dancer going through pregnancy.
Photography: Helen Marsden
Styling: Kellie Daggett
Hair & make up: Jess Buckley