Seattle is home to Pacific Northwest Ballet, one of the country's premiere ballet companies. PNB is known for cultivating beautiful talent on-stage, but they are gaining attention for a special accomplishment that allows their dancers to achieve dreams away from the dance floor.
PNB is gaining a reputation as a company that allows dancers to have children and then return to the stage. Sarah Orza is a soloist with the ballet and says she always knew she wanted a family.
“As much as I've always been devoted to ballet, it was always in my mind that I will have a family,” Orza said.
It was four years ago when she took a break to have her daughter. All along she knew she wanted to come back although, traditionally, the two roles haven't always mixed.
“Historically, it has not been common for women to have babies (and return to a ballet career),” Orza said.
She said much of that has to do with the physical demands and limited length of a dancing career; the other part is what moms like Orza are trying to change.
“I think it comes from an old notion that you can't be a true devoted artist and have these other outside obligations or passions,” she said.
Not long after giving birth, Orza started working on her return.
"Everything took a lot more time than I had anticipated,” she said. “My body did not respond in the way that it had always done.”
She juggled the pressures of being a new mom with the hard work of her career and said support from family, friends, and PNB made a big difference.
“A lot of times, I just wanted to throw in the towel and say this is too hard,” she said.
Even when she returned to the stage, Sarah said it was a while before she felt like her old self. Over time she found her dancing had changed in a surprising way.
“I think having Lola has given me a perspective that has allowed me a freedom to relax into who I've always wanted to be as a person, and I think that's reflected in my dancing," she said.
Orza’s husband, Seth, is a principal dancer with the ballet and says he’s proud of his wife.
“She's excelling right now,” he said. “She's not even just coming back, she's better than she was before."
And she's not the only one. The ballet currently has four women who have had babies and returned to the stage. In past years, they’ve had as many as six.
If you sit in on rehearsal, you'll see some of the ballet babies there once in a while. The Orzas say they’re not concerned if their daughter finds her feet as a premiere dancer. It’s a different lesson they hope she’ll see reflected in the beautiful determination of her mother.
“She could learn from the fact that I had her and then went back to work and was able to continue my career and we could all thrive together,” Sarah said.