“Dance gave me an endurance that is unique”

We are delighted to welcome Simone Muller Lotz to the role of Interim Dancer Support and Programmes Officer at DCD, a role dedicated to supporting independent dancers in beginning and navigating career transition.

As a former professional dancer, Simone brings a huge wealth of experience, knowledge and empathy to her work at DCD.

Simone shares how DCD brings so many elements of her personal and professional life together.

Tell us about your early years as a dancer

I was born in South Africa and left home at 14 to train in the UK. I began at Elmhurst Ballet School, and went to the Royal Ballet Upper School at 16. I then joined Ballet Central and on graduating joined Northern Ballet.
I had a serious ankle injury and returned to South Africa to have an operation, which fortunately allowed me to continue.
I joined Cape Town City Ballet and was with the company for 5 years and performed in a wide repertoire. I then moved into contemporary dance and worked with the Cape Dance Company, before returning to the UK in 2012. In London I worked with Shobana Jeyasingh and Hubert Essakow.
Simone performing in 2013 with Mbulelo Ndabeni
Could you share a few insights from your own career transition?
 
In my dance training I had 2 very serious injuries and both had meant being off dancing for a year. As it happened I didn’t get injured much in the rest of my career, but those early experiences of the very real possibility of not being able to continue always stayed with me.
When I was off after my ankle operation, I decided to do a Psychology degree and also trained as a Pilates instructor. When my ankle healed I got a contract with Cape Town City Ballet but continued my degree via distance learning. It took about 8 years as I couldn’t do the full amount of courses each semester with working full time, but I eventually got a postgraduate Honours degree. I also taught Pilates in the evenings after rehearsals so managed to keep a foot in the Pilates world.
I think I am at my most happiest when I am doing many different things. I thrived when I was growing not only in the studio, but also outside it, and that has definitely helped in the numerous transitions I have taken. I think that in leaving home so young to train, I learned how to push through discomfort, and keep working until I could do what I needed to. In many ways I find this true in all the other things I’ve done outside the studio too. 
When I had my first child I was very ready to make a new life. I had found the instability of being an independent dancer tough, and craved some stability and consistency in my professional life. I was entirely immersed in motherhood and quite quickly made the transition into focusing on pre and post natal Pilates. I took further training before I had my daughter and since then have specialised in postnatal rehabilitation, which has been incredibly rewarding. I knew I didn’t want to dance any more after having children, but in still working with my body, it allowed me to stay grounded in something I have known for most of my life.
When I first thought about transition, I had an idea that I would need to forget about doing anything physical, and that felt incredibly daunting. Although I had studied and taught, my real place of familiarity was in a studio and on a stage. Entirely removing myself from everything I had known filled me with fear.
Saying that, as time has gone by I now quite enjoy doing things where I can draw on my mind rather than my physicality. I can see that in following what my heart was telling me about where I was in terms of pushing that boundary of comfort and challenge was really important. Things that felt too far a stretch when I started my transition now feel quite comfortable, which has clearly shown me what a process it is. In uncovering my path, I’ve needed to be patient with myself. Dance gave me an endurance that is very unique, and in time I’ve been able to push for more and more new possibilities.
 
You are managing a portfolio career of teaching, combined with your role at DCD and parenthood, how do you find this?
 
Throw in a pandemic with kids at home, add a yoga teacher training and then you can truly experience a juggling act!
There are times when it has been really tricky to divide myself into so many roles, but it has also been incredible to feel challenged. Being a mum has changed my professional life dramatically, but I would say for the better.
I think dance gives you a very useful skill of keeping at it, and getting the job done. 
 
What do you enjoy about your role at DCD?
 
I love how resilient dancers are, and I love seeing eyes light up in conversations about new possibilities. I am also really enjoying how many aspects of my life; my dance career both as a company and independent dancer, my psychology degree and teaching experience have somehow come together in this role in quite a seamless way.
I am now able to help dancers in a formal capacity and it feels incredibly special to be able to do that. 

The role of Dancer Support and Programmes Officer for the independent sector is kindly supported by The Linbury Trust.