Jane Pirani and Andre Reynaud have been running one of Australia’s oldest dance schools for 38 years. While both have a visual arts background, the couple has found clean divisions between their responsibilities and work spaces is the secret to harmonious balance.
How have you managed to work almost 40 years side-by-side?
A. It’s give and take. You’ve got to understand that when you have different opinions, it’s for a reason. You can’t always put the blame on the other person. It’s a two-way street.
J. Plus our skill base is very, very different.
How do you split tasks between the two of you?
J. Really easily.
A. I can’t dance
J. *Laughs* That’s right. I teach the dance, I create, I choreograph. He does the design, he’s the engineer and, for the school, he does all the accounts and all the management. So our skills I suppose, they merge, but they don’t ever cross. He’s got his expertise and I’ve got mine. Obviously running the school, we have to make management decisions together, but I don’t interfere with how he does up invoices – oh I do actually! *laughs* I don’t interfere with the general running though, and he doesn’t interfere with the way I teach.
Andre, was it difficult for you to slide into the management role, being a creative first and foremost?
A. Yes and no. I’m trained as an engineer, so the organisation and preparatory work was part of my training, especially training in France where I went to school, we did everything, including Accounting. So, it was just a question of learning new words. I can split [the creative work and the logical work] because when it comes to doing something administrative I do it in the office, and, if I need to do some design, I can take a day off from admin.
J. I think another thing about that is you do different things in different places. So Andre wouldn’t do his building here, he builds in a different space. When I do my admin, I work at home, I don’t work in the studio. You don’t try and mix up your spaces.
Is that the same for personal life, too?
J. Yes, when you think about it, we have another space for our personal lives. We don’t often take the school home with us, except when I’m making costumes.
A. I also do a lot of my work in the car. Thinking. If Jane comes up with a challenge, set-wise for example, it’s not something that you go ‘Ok, I’m going to do that now’, that is the worst thing that can happen, you get completely blocked. Instead you go away, and go and get a coffee next door and by the time you get there you go ‘Oh! Yes!’ I always have a sketch book with me.
J. When we are creating we might talk about it a little at home, but not all the time. It doesn’t work like that. Not for us anyway. I’m sure there are some couples who are very, very, very intense all the time, but I think we’re past that point.
Is there anything you butt heads over?
J: All the time
What’s the biggest bug-bear?
A: Not turning lights off
J: We’ve had millions of arguments. Millions! But you do learn after a while, don’t make a big deal out of the stuff that doesn’t even matter.
For more creative couple interviews, click here for our chat with Jodie & Reece from Bespoke Designer Living or here for our chat with musicians Sarah Little & Chris Baker.