On New Year’s Eve 2016, I set a goal of getting back into the studio on a regular basis, and ultimately back on stage. I got to work, taking ballet and modern classes, making connections with local dance companies, and reviving a duet for a performance in March 2017.
Little did I know that two months later, I would be sitting in the OBGYN office, watching my son “dance” with his tiny little arm stubs on the ultrasound machine for the first time.
Life is funny like that.
For reasons that had I’m fairly certain had nothing to do with getting pregnant, and everything to do with getting old, finding my way “back into shape” as a dancer had not been very easy. This was especially true when it came to ballet. Things that had been natural just a year or two earlier suddenly felt super difficult. My balance had changed, my core had weakened, my muscles didn’t fire quite as quickly as they used to, I couldn’t remember choreography as easily. And my darned legs just seemed to refuse to lift higher than 90 degrees. It was rather miserable, and I cursed myself for getting so out of shape in the first place. I was impatient and not super nice to myself as I fought through the process.
I was just starting to feeling proud about almost “getting my arabesque back” when I also started feeling nauseous for no apparent reason. I was making plans to choreograph and perform with Movement Source Dance Company in the fall when I started having terrible aversions to odors – even to the smell of my beloved coffee. I was getting ready to start a maternity leave sub position when I had to email the director and let her know that I, too, would likely need some accommodations for my own budding pregnancy.
I stopped taking class shortly after that ultrasound appointment. I was just too darn tired, and something in my busy schedule had to go. I did continue to teach through my pregnancy, and I taught a lot, especially in the first 6 months. I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how to move my newly bulging belly and swollen joints as I guided my students through class, and I think ultimately it was good for the baby. (Not to brag, but he’s super strong and has above average coordination – I like to think it’s because I incorporate so much Bartenieff work into my classes, so he was exposed to good body organization from the start!) I started to really enjoy moving again once the pressure to be good at it was off.
I wasn’t really planning on dancing much in the first year after his birth, either, but as indicated above sometimes the universe has other plans. I got connected with Ballet Rincon, a dance academy in here in Tucson. (Oh, did I mention I also moved to a new city just 6 weeks after giving birth? Fun stuff!) I found out some of the faculty meet for an informal ballet class weekly, and even work on some choreography together for different projects. I wasn’t sure about starting back into my movement journey so soon, but, desperate to get out of the house and do something for “me” for a few hours a week, I took my in-laws up on their offer to babysit and began the process of getting “back into shape” – again.
This time, however, the process has felt totally different. The pressure to be good has remained off. I have a completely new respect for my body – after all, IT GAVE LIFE TO A HUMAN. So I’ll give it permission if it takes a little longer to remember how to arabesque. I understand that everything in my life – including my body – has changed. I’m learning to be patient and gracious with myself in and out of the studio.
In the process, I’m realizing new things about my body and my technique. I can’t really pirouette to save my life, but I’m discovering new ways to transition efficiently, to support myself from the core, to find true alignment and balance. My dancing is evolving, and I’m learning to celebrate, not mourn, that process.
There is a good chance my legs will not see higher than 90 degrees for a long time, but spine has never felt so fluid.
My turnout is no where close to where it once was, but I’m standing taller and more aligned.
I’m not the dancer I once was, and thanks be to God for that!
How can YOU celebrate YOUR evolution as a dancer this week? How can you help your students learn how to move with the maturity you’ve discovered in your own technique?